47. Hog Wild (1930)

Following ‘Below Zero‘, ‘Hog Wild‘ is a return to the gag-packed comedy format that merrily bounces along to a jaunty soundtrack, and I would say, is arguably one of Laurel and Hardy’s best short subjects.

HogwildtitlecardIt’s such a simple plot – Ollie has to fix a radio aerial onto his roof, oh yes…and to handicap him, he has Stan to ‘help’. It couldn’t be simpler and it couldn’t be funnier.

As H.M. Walker‘s opening gag title card appears, (Amnesia! Mr. Hardy was beginning to forget things, but Mr. Laurel had no fear of losing his memory –  As a matter of fact, Mr. Laurel never had a memory to lose -), we are treated to one of my very favourite pieces of ‘Laurel and Hardy music’. The track is entitled “Smile When the Raindrops Fall” and, somewhat surprisingly,  wasn’t composed by either Leroy Shield or Marvin Hatley, as so much of the boys’ background music was, but by Alice K. Howlett and Will L. Livernash. There’s a fascinating essay on this particular piece of music, written by Laurel and Hardy historian, Randy Skretvedt and published in John Tefteller‘s ‘Laurel & Hardy: On the Radio and On the Phone‘. The book also includes two audio CDs, one of which contains two different versions of the track, one with song lyrics.

The first scene/gag is a little disappointing. Ollie’s wife, played by Fay Holdernessand maid (clearly a far cry from his status in the last film), are clearing the dishes from the dining table, when Ollie enters and demands his wife tell him where his hat is. The joke is that it’s clearly on his head and this goes on for some minutes, until he spots his reflection in a mirror. He quickly swipes the hat from off his head and hides it, pretending to find it seconds later, under the bed.

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Radio lover, Mrs. Hardy, played by Fay Holderness. “She wants to get Japan!”

The gag itself is pretty childish and isn’t really of the quality that we have come to expect, although Babe’s excellent performance sells it well enough. What is interesting, or confusing even, is that Ollie is initially very aggressive towards his wife, and, as Fay Holderness is no shrinking violet, they lock horns during the hat discussion quite fiercely.

Ollie is uncharacteristically aggressive, especially towards a member of the opposite sex, quite against his usual southern genteel manner. This continues for some time, even to the point where he tells his wife that if he doesn’t find it, she should “have a care!”. But then, once the hat is found and Ollie is getting ready to leave, his wife questions him as to where he is going and follows by not allowing him out. Ollie then instantaneously reverts to the usual hen-pecked, under-the-thumb, too scared to say ‘boo to a goose’, type of husband and submits to her wishes with a whimper. Two completely different personalities in just a few short minutes…I find that a bit odd. 

But, I’m nit-picking here, and you have to in order to find fault with this film, as from here on in, it is gold.

From the moment Stan appears at the house, Ollie’s life is in danger. In an attempt to get onto his roof, Ollie has begun to climb a ladder, that is balanced on top of a flimsy looking table – well you would, wouldn’t you?! To get his attention, Stan blows his car horn, causing Ollie’s table to collapse and he falls onto his back with a typical yell.

The first interchange between the two men is sublime, played perfectly by both actors and sums up the relationship between them.

Stan: “I thought you were going to meet me?!”                                                                            Ollie: “I was…but I’ve gotta put the aerial up!…Mrs. Hardy wants to get Japan!!”                  Stan: “Gee! I’d like to hear Japan too. D’ya mind if I help ya?”                                                      Ollie: “I don’t mind…that is, if you’ll help me!”

IMG-1108Despite Ollie’s obvious instincts, he allows his best friend to help, and immediately Mr. Laurel causes a kind of Batmobile-style flame to leap from the back of his Model T and set fire to Mr. Hardy’s bottom. Stan runs to fill a small pail of water, from the nearby garden pond, to extinguish the fire, and Ollie sticks his smoking bum out as the target. Stan throws the water and hilariously throws more in Ollie’s face than where it’s most needed. Babe’s resulting camera looks and dainty attempts to flick the water from his eyes are pure class.

In quick succession, there follows two broken windows, and two blows to Ollie’s head, one from Stan and one from his wife. This is quick-fire stuff, but the pacing is superb. Just enough time for one laugh to begin to fade as the next one arrives.

The boys ascend to the dizzy heights of the roof, by standing the feet of the ladder onto a board that’s placed in Stan’s car – and up they go.

IMG-1103
“Why don’t you be c..c..c..careful?!”

From here, this could have very easily become a re-hash of their 1929 silent short ‘Liberty‘ with the thrills and spills of the boys working at height, but its a credit to all involved, that it never once harks back to their earlier film. Okay, so the building is only one storey high, nowhere near the lofty skyscraper setting, but it’s certainly high enough to cause drama and nervous excitement.

Ollie orders Stan to fix one of the two radio poles at one end of the roof. So, leaving a pole behind, Stan wobbles across, like a tight-rope walker, to the end of the roof, leaving Ollie to step on the remaining pole and slide head first off the roof and drop straight into the garden pond with an almighty splash.

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Just when you think it’s safe – beware that last brick!

This of course doesn’t just happen once. Within seconds of re-joining Stan on the roof he’s literally flirted off again, and then for a third time, but this time he takes not only Stan with him, but the entire chimney stack as well – all ending up in the pond.

The next time, Ollie sensibly climbs to the roof alone, instructing Stan to affix the wire to the radio receiver. Mr. Laurel clearly touches the wire to the wrong place, however, as there’s a flash and a loud electrical bang. Up on the roof, poor old Ollie is holding the other end of the wire and gets a massive shock, as evidenced by some animated electrical cartoons, IMG-1101throwing him backwards and he falls into the hole left by the missing chimney stack. He ends up joining his wife and Stan in the sitting room, as he drops into the fireplace, almost frightening his wife to death.

Typical of the spirit of Laurel and Hardy, Ollie refuses to be beaten by an inanimate object and, although he’s been knocked down time after time and despite his wife telling him to forget it, he picks himself up again, dusts off the soot and declares, “I’ll get that thing working, if it’s the last thing I do!!”.

The film’s finale is quite spectacular. The boys return to the car and Ollie begins to ascend the ladder, with Stan holding the bottom, to keep his friend safe. Unwittingly, Stan-Laurel--Oliver-Hardy-in-Hog-Wild-Laurel--Hardy-Premium-Photograph-and-Poster-1024362__69092.1432433353.1280.1280however, Stan starts the car and the two drive off, with Ollie holding on for dear life, at the very top of the ladder.

The car careers through the busy Culver City streets, narrowly missing other cars and scraping under bridges. The stunts and camera work are fantastic and the whole thing succeeds in being both funny and exciting at the same time. The mixture of distance and close-up shots of Babe are done so well that its easy to believe it’s Ollie up there.

Soon, the car and ladder combo, pull up alongside an open-topped, double-decker bus and Ollie finds himself at the same height as the top deck. Typical of Ollie, he manages to politely tip his hat to the amazed bus passengers as he sails past them.  As the car reaches the front of the bus, the ladder finally tips over and dumps Ollie onto the road – and then the bus nearly runs over him!

Mrs. Hardy appears, sobbing into her handkerchief, “Oh Oliver, darling, this is terrible!” she cries. Ollie, looking very pleased that his wife is so moved by the mortal danger he’s been in, reassures her that he’s unhurt. “I’m not crying over you“, she returns, “The man came and took the radio away!”

The film could fade to black right here and I’m sure we’d all feel satisfied that we’d been served up a smashing helping of Laurel & Hardy at their best – but wait, there’s more!

IMG-1112Ollie and his wife clamber into Stan’s car ready to be taken home. Stan has tidily parked up right behind a stationary streetcar and as they are trying to get the car started, another streetcar hurtles up behind them and the camera cuts away. The reaction of on-lookers tells us what has taken place and the next time we see the car it has been squashed, in bizarre concertina-style.

The streetcar conductor barks at them to get their car out of the way, and miraculously it still functions and Stan drives them away and out of shot – The End…

Peter Squarini, writing in The Laurel & Hardy Magazine in 1989, reported that:

“…this and other adapted Model Ts were created by one Dale Schrum, who for $500 per day would rent them to the Hal Roach studio with the proviso that he drove them personally, concealed within a special compartment.

The film was once again made in multiple languages, as ‘Pele-Mele’ in French and ‘Radio-Mania’ in Spanish. One reason why the film works so well across continents, is because it’s not reliant upon dialogue. Stan and Ollie can work their pantomimic magic and any audience, in any country can appreciate them and laugh along with the gags. Sadly, none of the foreign versions are known to exist, so comparisons cannot be made between the verbal jokes.

It wasn’t only in foreign language countries where the film was re-titled. In the UK, where audiences may not have been familiar with the expression ‘hog wild’, the title was changed to ‘Aerial Antics’, which does at least describe the film’s action. Although, as Randy Skretvedt points out, this may not have been necessary, as the picture was originally going to be called ‘Hay Wire‘. It was only at the very last minute that it was changed to ‘Hog Wild‘ due to another film already having that title.

Then, as now, ‘Hog Wild‘ was popular with cinema goers and pundits alike, as this typical contemporary review from ‘Variety‘ (4th June 1930) illustrates:

Hog Wild review variety-1930-06_04
‘Variety’ 4th June 1930

Let me know your thoughts on ‘Hog Wild’ and indeed on this blog. I love to hear from you. You can fill in the comments section below, or visit my social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – just search for ‘The Laurel & Hardy Blog’.

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on “47. Hog Wild (1930)

  1. Pingback: Filmography/Posts
  2. I enjoyed reading your blog on Hog Wild but disagree with you on the opening gag with the hat on his head. I rather enjoy Ollie’s bluster. It is as if his “strong wife” is letting him bluster knowing she has the upper hand anyway. I also really enjoy Babe’s performance here and agree with you that he makes the scene.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Lynette. I do also enjoy Ollie’s bluster – his performance his wonderful, as usual and for that I can forgive a weaker than normal gag. It’s a very subjective, I know, but makes for good discussion. Thanks for visiting the blog and sharing your thoughts.

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  3. I agree about the dubiously scripted opening give and take between Fay and Babe, but the thread is tenuously continued by Ms. Holderness’ early reactions to Hardy’s catastrophes. This film signals a new rhythm to the sound shorts and is a definite indication of a golden age when, with only a few hiccups, Stan and Babe were untouchable for the next five years.

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  4. I have a question about the films. I notice that sometimes Stan and Ollie refer to their wives as “Mama”. Stan called his wife Mama in Chickens Come Home, Ollie did it in Our Relations. It’s been done in a couple of other movies. Was there a reason for this or was it just a term of endearment?

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    1. I think you’re right that it was just a term of endearment. You still hear it from time to time even today. It could have been a ploy to strengthen their images of being oversized children, but it is a term of endearment that some use.

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    2. I actually have read some letters that Ollie wrote to his second wife while she was institutionalized for her alcoholism where he referred to her and himself as Daddy and Mama. So it seems that was something personal from his life. I did not see that in Stan’s writings. Ollie tried valiantly to see Myrtle through her disease but after many years he gave up and in the divorce proceeding which were public he actually cried in court. I believe it was the reason he didn’t have children because he was so spent on that relationship. In the letters they spoke of children when she got “better”. Finally when he married Lucille he was so happy and contented at home that he actually stopped playing golf so much and spent time at home raising animals and crops to help with the war effort

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      1. Great comments Lynette, thanks. Yes, you’re right, I remember reading those sorts of letters, although it felt a little wrong to be reading them, as they were so personal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 👍🏻

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  5. I agree it did feel a little intrusive to read. I felt choked up tp think of Oliver crying in public. I know he had self esteem issues stemming from both his weight and lack of education and he tried to make up for his lack of knowledge by reading newspapers and magazines to keep up with political discussions on the golf course. There is an interview with Lucille where she said he “hated being fat” and then you see him in interviews discussing the size of his waist. Heart breaking.

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    1. Yes, intrusive – that was the word I was searching for. You’re right about Babe, in fact I think I covered some of what you move mentioned in one of my earlier blogs. I also really feel for a Babe, he seemed like such a lovely, sensitive fellow.

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  6. I also felt bad for Babe when I see him on screen with children and also in Stan’s home movies with Lois. He seems so charming with children. I even saw a photo of him with one of the Our Gang girls standing on his shoulders. So I feel a lose that he did not have children so we could actually celebrate his descendants like we celebrate Cassidy Cook who is Stan’s great granddaughter and she runs his estate. But then again that seems selfish on my part

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