Pardon Us (1931) starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy – the first Laurel and Hardy feature length movie
Pardon Us is Laurel and Hardy‘s first feature length film. Sent in the middle of Prohibition in the United States, the movie begins with a funny scene where Stan (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy) are crossing the street, and having a car zoom by behind them, almost hitting them; as they turn around to express their anger, a car goes the other way, again almost hitting them. Finally crossing the street safely, Laurel and Hardy begin shopping for the various items that they need to make their own beer – which was legal during Prohibition. What wasn’t legal, however, was to sell any to somebody else – which is exactly what Ollie and Stan are planning to do. Stan, not being a criminal mastermind, makes the mistake of trying to sell a bottle of beer to a policeman, and the boys are off to prison.
Once in prison, Laurel and Hardy have their prison photographs taken (“If they turn out good, can I have one?”), take a bath (where Stan absent-mindedly leaves a cake of soap on the floor for Oliver to slip on and fall back into the tub — only to throw a water-soaked towel at Stan in retaliation, but hit a prison guard instead), and meet the prison warden. At first, the warden seems firm but kind, until he misinterprets the sound that Stan’s loose tooth makes as giving him a “raspberry” – which infuriates the warden so much that he has them put in cell 13, with “The Tiger,” the meanest inmate in the prison.
The Tiger (played by Walter Long) also misinterprets Stan’s “raspberry” sound, and respects Stan as the only person in the prison who’s been willing to stand up to the Tiger. Shortly afterward, Stan, Ollie, the Tiger and the other inmates all attend mandatory prison class led by long-suffering Laurel and Hardy foil, James Finlayson. It’s a very funny scene, with Stan and Ollie driving the teacher to the point of distraction, ending with Laurel and Hardy being put into solitary confinement. “How long do we have to stay here?” “Two months.” “That’s a month apiece.” No sooner are Stan and Ollie release from solitary when the Tiger decides to try and break out of prison, and take “his pal” Stan, Oliver and several other prisoners. The warden sends his bloodhounds after the escapees, and soon all are recaptured – except for Stan and Ollie.
It turns out that Stan and Ollie have disguised themselves with grease and are blending in with a group of black farmers picking cotton. Some people may take offense at the sight of Laurel and Hardy in blackface, but they are not mocking anyone. They are merely hiding in plain sight, with their pet dogs – the warden’s bloodhounds. Oliver enjoys the simple life on the farm, and one evening after a day of working in the fields he sings a soulful rendition of Lazy Moon to which Stan dances. Speaking of the Warden, he and his daughter are driving by the farm when their car breaks down. She sees Stan and Ollie, and not recognizing them in their disguises, asks them to help fix the car.
Frightened, but afraid of drawing attention to themselves, they try to fix the car, and after a shocking encounter with the car engine, Oliver climbs under the car while one of the dogs comes up to him and starts licking his face, wiping away part of his disguise. The audience thinks that this is how the Warden will see through their disguises – but they’re wrong. Stan spreads more grease around Oliver’s face, and it’s not until the Warden is about to drive away that he hears Stan’s raspberry tooth again; the boys are soon taken back into custody.
Once back in prison, one of the funniest scenes in the movie occurs, as Stan is sent to the prison dentist to have that loose tooth pulled. Oliver goes along for moral support, only to have the dentist pull his tooth by mistake! Stan is enjoying the scene, until the dentist rectifies his mistake and pulls one of Stan’s teeth as well – the wrong one. Soon, the Tiger is again causing trouble, and starts a prison riot – which Stan and Oliver inadvertently stop, and the warden gratefully rewards Laurel and Hardy with a pardon.
Funny movie quotes for Pardon Us (1931) starring Laurel and Hardy
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Well here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): What do you mean I got you into?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Well, you sold that policeman that bottle of beer, didn’t you?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): I thought he was a streetcar conductor.
Desk Sergeant: What’s your name?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Stanley Laurel.
Desk Sergeant: Say “sir” when you’re addressing me. Now what’s your name?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Sir Stanley Laurel.
Desk Sergeant: What’s your name?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Oliver Norvell Hardy, sir.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): [they are wearing blackface] Oliver, er, Sambo!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): [gesturing to an African American cellmate and an Asian cellmate] Look, Amos and Andy.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): We’re not going to the mess hall. We’re not going to eat.
Prison Guard: You’re not going to eat?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): No, we’re on a hunger strike.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Imfatically.
Prison Guard: What? You’re going to pass up that nice, big roast turkey with chestnut dressing, and sweet potatoes Southern style, great big pans of hot biscuits, strawberry shortcake smothered in whipped cream, sprinkled with powdered sugar, with a nice, big maraschino cherry on the top of it. Course, followed by a nice, big slice of ice cold watermelon and a big, black cigar.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Any nuts?
Prison Guard: All you can eat of ‘em.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): How about postponing the strike until tomorrow?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Well … But not one minute after tomorrow.
Prison Guard: Come on, fall in!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): [later; Stan sees their meal of gruel] Hey! What about that turkey dinner?
Prison Guard: [shouts] Sit down, you!
Warden: [seeing Stan and Ollie for the first time]
Warden: My, my, and still they come. Let us begin with a perfect understanding. I am just as sorry to see you here as you are to be here. Keep one thing in mind, it all depends on you yourselves just how you’re going to fare during your stay here. Never forget that this is a prison, and in a prison, all the rules must be obeyed. Discipline is the one thing that must be observed. If you are good prisoners, everything will be okay. If you’re not, if you break the rules, then it will be just plain hell on Earth. Do you understand?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Yes, sir.
Warden: [begins to go ballistic] Wha…!
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): It was his tooth …
Warden: [shouts] Shut up, you! Put them in cell 14!
Prison Guard: But not in with The Tiger, sir.
Warden: [shouts] Put them in Cell 14! Get them out of here before I lose my temper!! Talking to the warden like that! A fine piece business. Convicts talking to the warden.
Warden: Why, I’ll take those men, I’ll break them! I’ll put them in Cell 14. I don’t care who’s in there! What I’ll do with them.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): [after getting their prison pictures taken] If they turn out good, can I have one?
Prison Guard: Come on, get out of here!
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): When are you going to get that tooth fixed? Every time you speak you make a funny noise. It sounds like a pipe organ.
Prison Guard: Clowning, eh?
Insurgent Convict: Hey! Hey! Hey! What are you doing there? Keep off of my head!
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Pardon me, I’m a stranger here.
The Tiger: Put ‘er there. Ha ha ha. You’re the first guy who had the nerve to raspberry The Tiger. I like a guy that does that.
The Tiger: Ha ha, hey, you and me is gonna be good pals.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Thank you.
The Tiger: Hey, I heard you the first time. Now don’t take advantage of my good humor. But if you do …
[starts to strangle Stan]
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): You spell “Needle”!
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): [pause] N-E-I-D-L-E.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): There is no “I” in needle!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Then it’s a rotten needle.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Now, what is a comet? You!
Prisoner: A comet. A comet is a star with a tale on it.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Correct.
[points to Stan]
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Name one.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Rin Tin Tin.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): D’oh!
Prison Guard: They disappeared as if the earth had completely swallowed them.
Warden: Don’t worry about those two babes in the woods. Use the bloodhounds. Those hounds never fail. Why they’ll trail them so straight, it will be a cinch. Those hounds are ferocious. They’re killers. Ha ha ha ha, I’d like to see their faces when they see those hounds. Now hop to it.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): [Stan and Ollie are wearing blackface] They’ll never recognize us in a 100 years. For once in your life you’ve hit up on a good idea.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): A practical idea.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): What about the tooth? The buzzer.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Oh, I fixed that too. I vulcanized it.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): You what?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): I vulcanized it. I put some chewing gum in there and it don’t buzz any more.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): You’re actually using your brain. That’s what comes from associating with me.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): What do you mean associa-
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Tut tut tut tut.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Tut tut tut tut?
Warden: My boys, and you are my boys, I hold in my hand the pardons for both of you. This is the state’s gesture in showing it’s appreciation of your bravery. It was the firing of the signal shots in the mess hall that saved us from a disaster of cataclysmic dimensions.
[Stan and Ollie stare blankly; Warden hands them their pardons]
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Thank you, sir.
Warden: Now go, begin life a new. Forget this. Let this episode here be just a hiatus to be obliterated from your memory. And don’t forget that I’m your friend. Anything that I can do to help you start where you left off, call on me at any time.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Thank you.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): We’ll start all over again.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): We certainly will.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Can we take your order for a couple of cases?
Warden: Why you…!
[Stan and Ollie run from the office; screen fades to black; “THE END” appears on screen]
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): [at the prison dentist] Who ever heard of a dentist hurting you these days? Why, you won’t even feel it.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): You won’t feel it, but how about me? How about those other fellows?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Ha ha ha ha, they were only laughing.
[sits down in dentist chair beside Stan]
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): You know, there are times when you try my patience. There’s nothing do it. It’s all in your mind. Now just sit back and … Relax. Why they could pull every tooth in my head and I wouldn’t even feel it.
[the dentist accidentally sets to work on Ollie’s teeth; Ollie yelps in pain]
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Why didn’t you tell him?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): I thought you were laughing.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): We will now have the role call. Those that are here will answer “present”. Those that are not here will say “absent”.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): We shall now have an intelligence test. Who was Columbus?
Prisoner: The mayor of Ohio.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): [pause] What did he do?
Insurgent Convict: He died.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Well, of course he died. Who killed him?
The Tiger: Clark Robbins.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Who said that?
The Tiger (Walter Long): I did.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): [pause] Correct.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): What is a blizzard?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): A blizzard? A blizzard is the inside of a buzzard.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Fresh, huh?
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): How many times does three go into nine?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): …Three times.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): Correct.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): And two left over.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): [nods; Ollie begins to giggle] What are you laughing at?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): There’s only one left over.
Schoolteacher (James Finlayson): D’oh!
Prison Guard: [placing the boys in solitary confinement] This is your suite.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Have you got the time?
[Stan is shoved inside the hole and the door is locked]
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Ollie?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): What?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): I wonder how long we’re going to be in here.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Oh, about two months I guess.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Gee, that’s a month apiece.
Warden: So they wanted a showdown, did they? They wanted a fight into a finish, did they? Well by the livin’ Lucifer, THEY’RE GOING TO GET IT! Go on now, hop to it.
Trivia for Pardon Us – a Laurel and Hardy movie
- Four foreign language versions were also shot: Sous les verrous (1931) (French), Hinter Schloss und Riegel (1931) (German), Muraglie (1931) (Italian) and “De Bote en Bote“ (Spanish). Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy spoke their lines phonetically, and many supporting roles were recast, including Boris Karloff playing “The Tiger” in the French version.
- Several scenes were shot but deleted from the final theatrical print, which ran 56 minutes. The first ending showed the boys in gray-bearded old age reminiscing about their misadventures.
- Cameo: Hal Roach marching in front of Oliver Hardy after his recapture.
- Director Cameo: James Parrott marching next to Oliver Hardy after his recapture.
- Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s first feature-length film. Producer Hal Roach had wanted to use some of the sets left over from MGM”s big-budget prison picture The Big House (1930) to do a prison-movie spoof, but discovered that it would be too expensive to make as a short subject.