Laurel and Hardy: Early Silent Classics, Vol. 1 [DVD]

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Yes, Yes, Nanette
This two-reel Hal Roach comedy was not one of James Finlayson's best starring efforts, but it's notable because it's the first film in which Stan Laurel directed his future comic partner, Oliver Hardy. Hardy just has a bit part, and according to Rob Stone's excellent book, Laurel or Hardy, he only received 12.50 for a day's work -- an extra's pay -- instead of his usual 250 dollars per week. Nanette (Lyle Tayo) informs her family that she has married the perfect man, but when she arrives home with hubby Hillory (Finlayson), no one is terribly impressed. In fact, Nanette's family does everything they can to make the wimpy Hillory miserable, especially when it comes to his cheap toupee. Even Nanette's former suitor (Hardy) comes around to give the hapless new husband a hard time -- until Hillory finally rounds up enough courage to get rid of the ex-boyfriend and assert himself. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Hop the Bellhop
Laurel and Hardy fans sometimes get this two-reel comedy confused with The Bellhop and Hop to It, all of which featured Oliver Hardy before he teamed up with Stan Laurel. But other than Hardy's presence, these three films have little in common -- The Bellhop starred Larry Semon, Hop to It teamed Hardy up with minor silent comic Bobby Ray and this comedy, made for L-KO, was directed by Charles Parrott (who would later star in front of the camera as Charley Chase). Hardy plays Solomon Soop, the same character he portrayed in a previous film, (The Freckled Fish) (apparently, the studio was thinking of making Soop a running character, but this didn't work out). The story revolves around the hefty Tiny Toodles, whose father runs a hotel. She puts an ad in the paper for a husband, offering half interest in the hotel and a five hundred dollar bonus as a dowry. Soop applies and on the train over, the nefariously named Jerry Jippem discovers the purpose of his trip. Jippem decides to impersonate Soop and collect the dough. At first Jippem mistakes the pretty cashier for Tiny, but his blunder doesn't deter him from his lust for money. Soop, however, shows up before the crook can swindle Tiny's parents. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Kid Speed
White-faced comedian Larry Semon produced, co-directed, and starred in this two-reel farce, filmed at breakneck speed at the Charles Ray studios and the Santa Monica Auto Race Course. Avery DuPays (Frank "Fatty" Alexander), the city's wealthiest man, has promised his daughter Lou's hand in marriage to whomever wins the Big Auto Race. Both Dangerous Dan McGrew (Oliver Hardy) and The Speed Kid (Semon) love Lou (Dorothy Dwan), but she seems to prefer the latter. Avery, of course, favors the richer McGrew, who, unbeknownst to the Kid and his mechanic (Spencer Bell), removes the brakes from Larry's race car. Despite this handicap -- or perhaps because of it -- the Kid wins both the race and the girl. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, 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

The Sawmill
Comedians Larry Semon and Oliver Hardy battle over Kathleen O'Connor, the belle of the logging camp, in this 2-reel farce co-directed by Semon and Norman Taurog. The always extravagant Semon went too far making this film on location at Sequoia National Forest, where he made the Vitagraph Company build a permanent logging camp. According to the company's owner, Albert J. Smith, the film could just as easily have been produced at the studio back lot in Los Angeles. As a result, Semon's new contract made him his own producer and he was henceforth obliged to pay the cast, crew, and various other production expenses out of his own pocket. Years before he found world wide fame opposite Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy honed his comedic skills playing a menace opposite the white-faced Semon. They worked well together and remained personal friends until Semon's early death from pneumonia in 1928. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The plot to many of the films Jimmy Aubrey made are interchangeable, with Aubrey constantly getting on the nerves of Oliver Hardy (who, years before teaming up with Stan Laurel, was already receiving kudos for his comedic talents). Here, Hardy is a millionaire and Aubrey is a decorator who has been hired to redo the house. Jimmy proves to be so troublesome that Hardy throws him out, but then after he goes out on some errands, Jimmy returns, bent on doing his job. The millionaire's rival stops by and tries to convince the cook (Kathleen Myers) to quit her job. Jimmy, thinking that the cook is actually the millionaire's wife, misunderstands the situation. When the rival tries to force the cook into leaving, Jimmy comes to her rescue. The grateful girl is giving Jimmy a big kiss when the millionaire returns, so it's a relief when he discovers she's merely the cook. But soon enough, Jimmy invokes the millionaire's fury once again -- just as soon as he reveals the results of his redecorating. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

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