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Blotto (1930) starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Anita Garvin

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Synopsis of Laurel and Hardy’s short film, Blotto

Title card for Blotto, one of Laurel and Hardy's best short films from the Hal Roach StudiosDuring the prohibition period in the United States, Laurel and Hardy make plans to spend a wild night out at the Rainbow club. Phoning Stan at home, Ollie suggests a plan to henpecked Stan on how to get out of the house. Stan offers to bring a bottle of liquor which his wife has hidden in the house. Mrs Laurel, eavesdropping on another line, immediately launches a scheme of her own: she replaces the alcohol with a non-alcoholic mixture. Stan and Ollie proceed to get “drunk” at the nightclub, having a wonderful time, until an angry Mrs Laurel turns up armed with a shotgun, reveals that their “liquor” is merely cold tea, chases them into the street, and demolishes their cab with one well-aimed shot.

Blotto begins with a henpecked Stan Laurel at home with his controlling wife (played very well by Anita Garvin), who isn’t letting him leave the house.  Upset, Stan sits down to read the newspaper—which, oddly enough, is printed in Hebrew.  Stan gets irritated and crumples up the paper, only to be in trouble for that.  He sullenly tries to read a book, while his friend, Oliver Hardy, calls him at home, A very funny interaction occurs, as Ollie asks, “Is that you, Stan?” Stan whispers, “Yes.” and hangs up.  Ollie, exasperated, now has to look up the number and call back, only to have the fearful Stan say that it’s a wrong number, and hang up again.  Ollie calls back again, very upset, and the boys have a slapstick fight over the telephone that has to be seen to be appreciated.  Irritated with the nonsense on Stan’s end, Mrs. Laurel takes the phone, talks to Ollie, and gives the phone back to Stan.  “Why didn’t you tell me it was Mr. Laurel?  I don’t care to listen in on your conversation.”—as she dashes to the kitchen to listen in on the telephone in that room.
Stan Laurel, Oliver HardyOliver gives Stan the idea of sending himself a telegram so that he’s called away on urgent business, so that Stan can sneak out and have the wild time together that they were planning on.  Stan agrees, adding that “She’s so dumb she’ll never know the difference.” Mrs. Hardy does a wonderful take, and plans to interrupt their fun at the Rainbow Club – where they plan to take along a bottle of alcohol that she’s been saving since prohibition.

While Stan sends himself a telegram, Mrs. Hardy pours out the alcohol, and fills the bottle with cold tea – plus pepper and any other nasty tasting thing that she can find in the kitchen. Stan receives his ‘telegram’, and plans to go out on his ‘important business’, and steals the bottle of ‘alcohol’.  As Stan leaves, Mrs. Hardy says goodbye to Stanley—and to Mr. Hardy, who’s hiding behind some bushes.  “Is she wise?” asks Ollie—“No, she doesn’t suspect a thing.” assures Stanley.

In a very funny non-talking scene at the Rainbow club, Stan tries to ‘nonchalantly’ uncork the bottle of ‘alcohol’ that he has snuck into the club, which leads into the boys’ usual antics – a very funny scene, indeed, especially with the genteel Mr. Hardy adding ice cubes and seltzer to his drink.  After drinking the vile concoction, and with some funny mugging for the camera, Ollie tells Stanley, “You can certainly tell good liquor when you taste it!” Stan then proceeds to drink his, only to share his reaction with the camera.  While a dancing act goes on at the Rainbow Club, Stan and Ollie proceed to get ‘drunk’ on the non-alcoholic contents of the bottle.  (For those who don’t know, ‘blotto’ is a term for being drunk, hence the title of the movie) Mrs. Hardy is using the time to purchase a shotgun!  Stan and Ollie, both acting drunk, listen to a male singer at the club, reacting to his sad song – a very comic bit.  The power of suggestion is too strong, and the boys proceed to be extremely drunk, to the point of Stan putting an ice bucket on his head and insulting a waiter—as Mrs. Hardy walks in, and sits down behind the boys.

Stan starts laughing uncontrollably at the thought that if his wife ever finds out, she’ll kill him!  Ollie starts laughing along as well, only to see Mrs. Hardy seated behind them.  This makes them both laugh louder and more uncontrollably, finally showing the empty bottle of ‘liquor’ to Mrs. Hardy, who informs them that it was just cold tea.  The boys immediately ‘sober up’ at the realization that they weren’t drunk—as Mrs. Hardy reveals her brand new shotgun.  A short, but funny, chase ensues as the boys dash out of the club and into a nearby taxi cab; as they are driving away, Mrs. Hardy takes one shot at the cab, and it collapses.

In all, Blotto is a very funny Laurel and Hardy short film, and I strongly recommend it – I rate it 4 clowns out of 5.

Trivia for Blotto starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

  • The number Oliver Hardy calls to reach Stan Laurel (OXford-0614) was Laurel’s real phone number.
  • This is the only Laurel and Hardy film in which Stan Laurel’s character is married and Oliver Hardy’s is not.
  • This film was simultaneously produced in a Spanish language version, La Vida nocturna (1930) and a French language version, Une nuit extravagante (1930) with the actors speaking their own lines. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy read their lines from cue cards on which the appropriate language was printed phonetically. At the time of early talkies, dubbing was not yet practical.
Originally published at Clown Ministry