Madame Mystery (1926)

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1910s screen vamp Theda Bara ended her film career at Hal Roach studios. Originally she had been signed to do a number of comedies, but after making this two-reeler, Bara's husband, director Charles J. Brabin, asked her to quit. Bara looks good in this film, and she plays up the comedy for all it's worth (and then some -- she was never known for her subtlety). The government hires Madame Mystery (Bara) to go on a mission in which she delivers a newly discovered explosive, helium nitrate, to New York. On the ship taking her across the Atlantic, secret service agents from an enemy country watch her closely. Two starving artists get tangled up in the plot, and they wind up with the little package that has been entrusted to Madame Mystery. One of them hides it in his mouth and accidentally swallows it. The helium causes him to expand like a balloon and he floats away, his pal clinging to his leg. A pelican pecks at the unfortunate man, who explodes.Oliver Hardy has a small role as a ship's captain (and was directed by his future partner, Stan Laurel). Incidentally, Bara got paid 15,000 dollars for her efforts.