Pardon Us (1931)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Satire  |   Release Date - Aug 15, 1931 (USA)  |   Run Time - 55 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Janiss Garza

Laurel and Hardy's first feature-length comedy was apparently meant to be a two-reeler, and was only expanded because of a dispute between producer Hal Roach and MGM. Roach wanted to use the actual set from The Big House for his parody and the studio agreed -- if Laurel and Hardy would do a film for them. Roach refused this condition (odd, since the duo had been loaned out before), and proceeded to build his own prison set. The extra cost this ensued made it necessary to draw the film out to feature length. While Pardon Us is a very funny film, it is clear that it is based on a two-reel idea. The fact that it works as well as it does is due to the strength of the gags (the raspberry sound made by Laurel's loose tooth never grows old), and some very entertaining, though extraneous scenes. The schoolroom scene featuring James Finlayson appears out of nowhere, but it's still hilarious, and the part of the film featuring Laurel and Hardy as prison escapees in blackface could have been drawn out even longer, there's so much richness to it (in fact, there was actually more to these scenes that was edited out). The duo's little act, where Ollie sings and Stan does one of his light-footed, eccentric dances, is charming; they're one of the few comic acts of their era that could pull off a song and dance number without driving interest to a grinding halt in the eyes of today's audiences. While Pardon Us began life as a parody, it's not at all necessary to have seen The Big House to appreciate it fully. Laurel and Hardy would make many better feature films, but that says more about the overall high quality of their work than about any lacks this picture may have.