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Roughest Africa Not one, but two epic documentaries about the wilds of Africa were released in 1923 (Hunting Big Game in Africa and Trailing African Wilds). It had been some months since Stan Laurel had made any parodies -- something he was famous for before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy -- and a safari seemed like a good subject to spoof. The two-reel Roughest Africa turned out to be a winner, with Laurel playing Stanislaus Laurello, an adventuresome professor, and James Finlayson as Hans Downe, Laurello's cameraman and sidekick. There's not much plot to speak of, and much of the action revolves around Stan chasing or being chased by a variety of wild animals, from lions to an ostrich to a porcupine. Laurello proves to be less than capable in the wild. He has a hard time shooting and hitting an elephant, even after drawing a target on the beast's head. Some sources falsely claim that future famed director George Stevens was the cinematographer on Roughest Africa; the credit actually goes to Frank Young. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi
The Lucky Dog In this two-reeler, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appear together for the very first time. However, they're a long way from their famous Laurel and Hardy characters (that pairing wasn't to come until 1927). Laurel, after an up-and-down career in Vaudeville, had just begun acting in films, while Hardy was heavily established in movies already (both literally and figuratively). Laurel is the lead in this film, nevertheless, as an unfortunate who, after being evicted, winds up befriending a stray dog. He stuffs the dog in a decrepit suitcase, but it sticks its legs through the bag's holes and runs away. While Laurel is chasing after the suitcase, he bumps into a hold-up man (Hardy). A chase leaves the big man behind when he gets stuck trying to crawl through a hole in a fence. Hardy also appears later on in the film. Laurel and his dog have made the acquaintance of a pretty girl and her poodle, and her jealous boyfriend enlists Hardy's help to get rid of Laurel. But the dog saves the day by chasing the villains off with a stick of dynamite that was originally meant for Laurel. The film was made in 1919 but not released until 1922. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi
Stick Around Diminutive Bobby Ray and portly Oliver Hardy play employees of the Blatz and Blatz Interior Design company, hired to wallpaper Dr. Brown's sanatarium. When an inmate accidentally drops alcohol into the hospital's water supply, the two drunken wallpaperers go at their work with a vengeance. A now-forgotten comic, Ray looked enough like Stan Laurel for this inexpensive two-reel comedy to be advertised as a Laurel and Hardy offering when released to the home movie market in the early '60s. Hardy himself later acknowledged that his character in this film resembled the Ollie of later fame, with a condescending attitude toward his less-brainy partner, dainty hand gestures and all. Produced by comedian Billy West and released as a "Mirthquake comedy," Stick Around also featured Hazel Newman as a nurse and Harry McCoy as the owner of the sanitarium. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi
Hustling for Health This was the last comedy Stan Laurel made for Hal Roach's Rolin studios (he would return to Roach five years later and eventually team up with Oliver Hardy there). Stan misses the train that's supposed to take him on a vacation, so his friend (Frank Terry) offers to put him up for some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, the friend's wife (Marie Mosquini) is a hardcore suffragette and she gives her husband an angry dressing down for bringing Stan home. A health inspector (Noah Young) orders the friend to clean up his backyard, and Stan is put to work at the chore. He empties the yard by tossing all the junk into the neighbor's yard, and when the wife refuses to make him lunch, he also steals the neighbor's food. The neighbor (Bud Jamison) comes over for lunch, and is none too pleased to discover that he is eating his own food. Stan beats a hasty retreat, but not before flirting with the neighbor's daughter. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi
The Soilers This two-reel travesty of Rex Beach's oft-filmed story The Spoilers was not appreciated in its day -- several critics noted that it was one of Stan Laurel's weaker films for Hal Roach. Modern-day audiences find it funnier, perhaps because a later sound version of The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Randolph Scott is more accessible than some of the other silent pictures he lampooned. In any case, Laurel plays the Roy Glennister character as Bob Canister. Canister has a gold mine that is wanted by his rival, I. Smacknamara (James Finlayson as a comic version of Alex McNamara). Things come to a head when Canister blows up Smacknamara's mine. Finally, in a climatic ending, the two men come to blows. In The Spoilers, this was a show-stopping moment, and all action in the town halts as everyone watches the two men brutally duke it out. In The Soilers, nobody cares -- the guys beat each other to a pulp and the townsfolk are completely oblivious...except for one particular cowboy. When Canister emerges victorious, the cowboy sighs effeminately and announces that Bob is his hero. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi