Well, this is it! Laurel & Hardy’s farewell to silent pictures. The end of an era, the last of a dying breed. If you’ve joined us on the Blog’s journey so far, or independently actually sat and watched each film in order (the order that they were made, not released), I hope you’ve gotten as much enjoyment, but also as much interest out of it as I have.
The scale of Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy’s progress as actors and also the birth and development of the ‘Stan & Ollie’ characters from 1921 through to 1929 is remarkable. It’s fabulous and frankly amazing to be able to witness the boys go from jobbing character actors to a fully-fledged and hilarious comedy team with well-rounded and identifiable characters – the majority of this transformation coming during the twelve months of 1927.
‘Angora Love’ was filmed between March 8th and March 14th 1929 and as I sit here writing this on 10th March 2019, it’s funny to think that I’m writing and celebrating the work of a group of people that was taking place exactly ninety years ago.
I like ‘Angora Love’. It’s a cute picture and contains a number of funny if very familiar gags. The main plot of the film was remade into ‘Laughing Gravy’ in 1931, but rather than a dog as the main cause of the boys’ problems, ‘Angora Love’ centres around Penelope the goat, who escapes from a pet store in the very first scene. She then meets the boys who have just walked out of a confectioner’s store, having bought some doughnuts.
When Stan sees the goat standing by his side, he gives her some of his doughnut and the comedy duo become a threesome for the rest of the movie. Stan’s interaction with Penelope is perfectly childlike and lovely and he’s clearly delighted that the goat seems to like him. Ollie is none too pleased, especially when a passing child accuses the boys of stealing the goat and runs off to tell the police.
The boys run off down the street attempting to escape from Penelope, only for Ollie to fall into one of those numerous water-filled, five-foot kerbside holes in the road. Later Stan Laurel, (as cited in Glenn Mitchell’s Encyclopedia, 2008), remembered there were to have been a number of scenes where the boys try to outwit and outrun the goat (see image), but these sequences were evidently scrapped from the final film. This is a shame as the film cuts very quickly from Ollie underwater in the roadside puddle to two nights later and the boys and Penelope trudging into the room of their boarding house. It feels to me to be a sudden jump in time and I think the film would have benefited from some more gags with the boys trying to lose the goat.
The title cards tell us that the boarding house is owned by ‘a killer‘ and so the goat must remain hidden. The ‘killer’ is Mr. Slow-burn himself, Edgar Kennedy. As in ‘Laughing Gravy’ the boys’ bedroom is directly above that of their landlord, and you just know there’s no chance of them a) keeping quiet and b) keeping the goat a secret.
If the plot of ‘Angora Love’ was the inspiration for ‘Laughing Gravy’ and as Stan Laurel himself later recalled also ‘The Chimp’ (1932), it also had a couple of gags directly lifted and re-used in later talkies too. The sequence where Ollie is trying to hang his clothes on the back of the closet door only to find Stan keeps beating him to it, item by item was re-used more famously in ‘Be Big’ (1931). Almost immediately following this scene the boys are sitting side by side in the bed and Ollie, whose feet are ‘killing him’, lifts his leg up across his other leg, removes the shoe and sock and then starts to massage his foot. Somehow, he doesn’t realise that he’s actually lifted Stan’s leg up and he’s massaging Stan’s foot, much to Stan’s bemusement at first and then to his pleasure. This gag, of course, is re-used exactly in another film from 1931, ‘Beau Hunks’.
One lovely little gag is when Stan attempts to do his bedtime exercises, using some stretching apparatus that he’s attached to the door. Stan, however, makes too much noise (and, unbeknown to the boys, has woken the sleeping killer Kennedy below) and so Ollie takes over to demonstrate how to do it quietly. He stretches away from the door and then quickly and silently skips back towards it on his toes. This is a perfect illustration of how graceful and light on his feet Babe Hardy was, especially for a ‘larger gent’. Whilst he’s busy performing for Stan’s benefit, Kennedy enters the room behind them and is ready to show his displeasure.
The night carries on in this vein with a couple more visits from the angry landlord. Penelope is finally secreted away under the boys’ bed, until a strange odour emanating from underneath them, forces them to give the goat a bath. This sequence is again used almost exactly in ‘Laughing Gravy’, with Stan moving the tin bath to one side, just as Ollie is pouring water in it, soaking the floor instead. The water then begins to drip through onto Kennedy’s sleeping face in the room below.
As the boys are bathing Penelope, there comes a knock at their door. In a panic, the boys hide the goat and Ollie pushes Stan’s head under the water to make out, he’s washing his hair. The door opens and in walks neighbour Charlie Hall, not the landlord. Charlie apologises for knocking at the wrong room and disappears. (Interestingly, it is Charlie Hall who takes up the role of the boys’ landlord two years later in ‘Laughing Gravy‘).
Eventually, Kennedy enters the room and Stan is the first to see him. Even though the goat is clearly visible, Stan grabs Ollie’s head and forces it under the water, in his naive, child-like mentality that this worked once before, surely it will work again.
The finale, that Randy Skretvedt states was actually improvised on the set, employs a tried and tested formula. Ollie attempts to throw the bathwater over Stan but misses and soaks Kennedy. Kennedy grabs a bucket of water and aims at Ollie, but hits Stan, Charlie Hall appears and gets a soaking by mistake, he throws water over Kennedy, who attempts to return the favour, but instead blindly soaks a cop (played once again by Harry Bernard) who just happens to appear in the doorway.
The cop spies the ‘missing’ goat, assumes that Kennedy is the thief and marches him and the goat away, leaving Stan and Ollie alone….until three baby goats appear from under the bed!
‘Angora Love’ is a great little comedy, sadly overshadowed today by it’s talking successor, but what do you think?
Is it one of your favourites, or does it simply get your goat? Let us know your thoughts by using the comment box below or on Facebook.