Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Two-reel comedy favorites Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made their feature-film debut (excluding their guest appearances in Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Rogue Song) in the prison comedy Pardon Us. A spoof of MGM's The Big House, the story begins when erstwhile bootleggers Laurel and Hardy sell a bottle of beer to a Prohibition agent. Shipped off to the pen, our heroes are escorted to the cell occupied by "The Tiger" (Walter Long), the toughest con in the joint. The Tiger immediately becomes the boys' best friend when he mistakes Laurel's loose-tooth "buzz" as an act of defiance! Swept up in one of The Tiger's escape attempts, Laurel and Hardy disguise themselves in blackface and lose themselves among the cotton-pickers in the Deep South, but Stan's buzzing tooth gives the game away when the warden's (Wilfred Lucas) car breaks down near the cotton fields. Carted back to jail, Stan and Ollie become heroes when they inadvertently foul up The Tiger's next prison break. Pardon Us was previewed in late 1930 in a 70-minute version titled The Rap, which included several sequences (including an elaborate prison fire) which never made it to the final, 56-minute release version. More recently, the film has been reissued to TV in the 65-minute print prepared for Great Britain; the "new" footage includes a handful of previously discarded gag punchlines and several outtakes. In its 56-minute state, Pardon Us is not bad for a first feature-length attempt, even though the best Laurel & Hardy features were still to come. Highlights include an "Our Gang"-style schoolroom routine with perennial Laurel & Hardy foil James Finlayson as the teacher (incidentally, June Marlowe, who played Miss Crabtree in the real Our Gang comedies, shows up as the warden's daughter), a pleasant song-and-dance number in blackface, and a hilarious dentist-office routine "borrowed" from the team's 1928 silent comedy Leave 'Em Laughing. Pardon Us was simultaneously filmed in several foreign languages -- one of which, the Spanish-language De Bote en Bote, has popped up from time to time on American cable television.
bootlegging, captive, captor, escape, friendship, prison, warden