Filmed during the Spring of 1928, the opening scene of ‘Should Married Men Go Home?’ is one in contrast to reality. Here we see a picture of domestic bliss, as Ollie and his wife (played by Kay Deslys, returning for the second film in a row) sit cuddling on the sofa, yet behind closed doors, Oliver’s actual marriage with wife Myrtle was far from blissful. Myrtle suffered from alcoholism and, despite the genuine love and affection that the two had for each other, her addiction took a heavy toll on the couple, eventually ending in divorce in 1937.
I continually find it incredible that despite all the heartache (Stan’s love-life was also turbulent for many years), Stan and Oliver were able to put their private lives to one-side, on something of a daily basis, and create arguably the most natural-looking and funniest comedy the world has ever seen. But, that is what they did.
Despite the title, marriage is not the driving theme of ‘Should Married Men Go Home?’, that honour is bestowed upon another of the real-life loves of Oliver Hardy – golf. Oliver was a mad-keen golfer and would spend much of his spare time on the golf course, whilst Stan stayed at the studio, editing, writing, creating and developing the team’s comedy.
In his affectionate biography ‘Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy’, author John McCabe explains how Hardy suggested a golf-themed comedy to the boys’ Supervising Director, Leo McCarey and, in agreement, the Roach Studio’s team set to work creating one.
‘Should Married Men Go Home?’ is a fun little comedy, with some great individual gags, but possibly under-uses the golf theme. As mentioned above, the stage is set with the Hardys enjoying a cosy afternoon in, until Stan is seen walking down the street, in full golfing attire, heading for the Hardy home. A good number of gags follow, where Ollie and his wife pretend not to be home, whilst Stan keeps knocking at the door until Ollie mistakenly gives the game away and the three find themselves peering at each other face-to-face through the window (Stan’s expression just floors me here!).
Stan is allowed to enter the house and the Hardy’s become far from blissful, incredibly quickly. There is a deliciously prolonged and awkward silence, where the three sit in complete silence, until Stan, finally lights up a cigarette and nearly sets fire to the room. In the short few moments that follow Stan, unwittingly, tears down one of the window blinds and puts his foot through the seat of a chair and then begins to approach Ollie’s phonograph. In typical Laurel & Hardy style, Ollie steps in with the old “I’ll do it, you might break it” routine and proceeds to destroy the machine himself.
This is the final straw for Mrs. Hardy, who tells them both to get out and go to the golf course. Ollie immediately peels off his dressing gown/smoking jacket to reveal he’s already fully dressed, plus-fours and all!
At the golf club, we learn that it’s ‘Foursomes Day’ and so the boys’ team up with a couple of young ladies, played by Edna Marion and Viola Richard, who prior to filming, according to Randy Skretvedt’s: Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies, ‘Ultimate Edition’, had just been informed that their contracts with the Roach Studios were being terminated.
Before beginning their round of golf, the girls decide the boys should treat them to a drink in the cafe. However, in a forerunner of the fan-favourite scene in ‘Men O’War’ (1929), the boys only have fifteen cents – which will only afford the four of them three drinks, or so they think! Charlie Hall plays the part of the ‘soda jerk’, but you’d be forgiven for missing him as he’s barely noticeable – unlike the later and much-enhanced reboot of the scene, where James Finalyson gives a typically hilarious performance as Hall’s counterpart. In addition, the inclusion of spoken dialogue in ‘Men O’ War’ gives the gags here the fullness they deserve.
The action on the golf course is littered with funny moments, including some great scenes with the toupee wearing Edgar Kennedy.
The film concludes with a trademark messy ending, as the foursome, Kennedy and every other golfer within striking distance get drawn into a scene of mud-slinging carnage. For some reason, there is an enormous muddy trench, filled with water, into which all the combatants inevitably fall or get thrown – including Stan who is lifted in by a gigantic golfer played by actor John Aasen, who was notable for his role as a giant in Harold Lloyd’s ‘Why Worry?’ (1923).
So, overall ‘Should Married Men Go Home? is an enjoyable outing for the boys. It doesn’t have a major plot to follow, it’s basically just the boys messing around on the golf course – and I, for one, am certainly not complaining about that!
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