Sons of the Desert (1933) starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charlie Chase, Mae Busch
I can honestly says that Sons of the Desert is one of my favorite Laurel and Hardy films – it begins with the boys, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, attending a serious meeting of their club, the Sons of the Desert, who are giving a solemn pledge that they will attend the upcoming convention in Chicago. Stanley is hesitant, but browbeaten by Ollie and the others into promising; he hesitated because he didn’t know if his wife would let him go. On the ride home, the bombastic Ollie declares that he’s the king of his castle, and he doesn’t ask his wife, he tells her! Until, of course, they’re home, and Oliver’s wife (Mae Busch) tells him in no uncertain terms that they’re going on the trip to the mountains that they’d been planning. It’s a very funny scene, as Oliver is quickly deflated by his wife, and the brunt of the physical humor as she throws virtually everything breakable at him.
Not about to let that get in the way, Oliver concocts a scheme where he pretends to have a nervous breakdown, and has Stanley bring a “doctor” to diagnose him and prescribe a trip to Honolulu. Stan brings a veterinarian, and the entire scene is a classic of slapstick, with Ollie’s pan of hot water for his feet turning into a wonderful comedy prop. Despite everything, Oliver manages to bamboozle his wife into sending himself and Stan to “Honolulu” – which is the excuse that they need to attend the Chicago convention.
At the convention, Stan and Laurel have a good time, running into the stereotypical obnoxious conventioneer, played with gusto by Charley Chase, who after playing a few pranks on Stand and Ollie, calls his sister, who lives in the same city as the boys, and has Ollie talk to her – only to realize that he’s talking to his wife! That makes his wife suspicious, but her suspicions are forgotten when she hears the news that the boat that the boys are supposed to be returning on has been lost in a typhoon. Stan and Ollie and blissfully ignorant of this, and return home with pineapples and leis, not realizing where their wives are until they see a newspaper talking about the disaster at sea – and hear their wives returning. Desperate, they dash into the attic to hide, while the wives try to support each other in their time of trouble, not knowing if their husbands are alive or dead. The girls decide to go out to the movies to get their minds off the situation, and the boys decide to make themselves as comfortable as possible in the attic, since they’ll be stuck there overnight.
While at the movies, however, they see a newsreel (a precursor to the evening television news) where they show footage from the convention in Chicago, starring … Laurel and Hardy! The girls quickly realize that they’ve been lied to, and that the boys are alive – and they begin to make plans for the boys’ “safe” arrival.
The boys, meantime, are trying to make themselves comfortable in the attic, unaware that the jig is up, and are planning to make their “surprise” appearance in the morning. They might have gotten away with it, too, except that it begins to rain strongly, and a lightning strike hits the house, and follows a line to Ollie, who jumps out of bed in surprise, with the noise making the wives think that there are burglars in the attack. They investigate, with Stan’s wife in the lead, bringing her trusty rifle. Stan and Ollie exit to the roof, and Ollie tries to talk Stan into going to a hotel for the night. Stan, however, intends to go to his own bed and simply confess everything to his wife. Ollie blackmails him with the threat of telling Stan’s wife that he … smoked a cigarette! Stan quickly gives in, and they shimmy down the drainpipe, with Ollie landing (in a very funny moment) in the rain barrel, only to be seen by a police officer, who despite Oliver’s attempts at not telling anything soon takes them to their apartment, where their wives are waiting.
At first, Laurel and Hardy try to stick to Ollie’s story, but Stan soon wilts under his wife’s look, and tearfully admits everything – at which point he’s led out of Oliver’s appointment at gunpoint. At the same time, Ollie’s wife starts pulling everything breakable out of the cupboards. The scene then cuts next door to Stan’s apartment, where he’s lounging in luxury, eating chocolates, with his wife reminding him that “honesty is the best policy.” In a very funny moment, as Stan relaxes placidly, the photographs on the wall behind him start shaking, as we hear Oliver’s wife throwing everything breakable in the apartment at Oliver, as Stan silently reacts to the noise. He goes next door to check on Oliver, sitting in what’s left of his living room, amidst a pile of broken crockery, and flaunts his reward – only to be hit by a pot thrown by the jealous Ollie.
Sons of the Desert is one of the best of the Laurel and Hardy films, with countless favorite laugh-out-loud moments, and I recommend it very highly. I rate it (a rare) 5 clowns out of 5.
Funny movie quotes from Sons of the Desert starring Laurel and Hardy
Oliver Hardy: Now isn’t this nice?
Stan Laurel: It sure is. We’re just like two peas in a pot.
Oliver Hardy: To catch a Hardy they’ve got to get up very early in the morning.
Stan Laurel: What time?
Oliver Hardy: Oh about half-past – “What time.” Hmph.
Stan Laurel: I’ve certainly got to hand it to you, Ollie.
Oliver Hardy: For what?
Stan Laurel: Well for the meticulous care with which you have executed your finely formulated machinations in extricating us from this devastating dilemma.
Oliver Hardy: Get in bed.
Stan Laurel: What?
Oliver Hardy: Get in bed. “Meticulous.” Hmph.
Oliver Hardy: Where is she?
Stan Laurel: Maybe she went to the mountains.
Oliver Hardy: I’ll bet she did. You know she makes me sick.
Stan Laurel: Well if she didn’t go to the mountains, then Mohammad would have to come here.
Oliver Hardy: Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): Have you anything else to say?
Oliver Hardy: Why no. That’s all there is. There isn’t anymore. Is there Stanley?
Stan Laurel: No, that’s our story and we’re stuck with it. In it.
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): You’re going to Honolulu if you have to go alone.
Oliver Hardy: If I have to go to Honolulu alone
[Points to Stan]
Oliver Hardy: He’s going with me.
Oliver Hardy: That settles it! I’m not goin’ to Honolulu!
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): [angrily] Oh, yes, you ARE going to Honolulu if you have to go alone!
Oliver Hardy: [pointing at Stan] If I have to go to Honolulu alone, he’s going with me!
Oliver Hardy: You’d better take my temperature.
Oliver Hardy: Get that thermometer.
Stan Laurel: The what?
Oliver Hardy: Thermometer! You’ll find it on the shelf.
Oliver Hardy: Ooh …ooh … ooh.
Oliver Hardy: [as Stan puts it in his mouth] Uh-um.
Oliver Hardy: [after Stan has taken his pulse] What does it say?
Stan Laurel: Wet and windy.
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): [after the boys have rung the bell one time too many] What d’ya think this is? Halloween?
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): Come in, you bad boy!
Oliver Hardy: Do you have to ask your wife everything?
Stan Laurel: If I didn’t ask her, I wouldn’t know what she wanted me to do.
Oliver Hardy: What did Betty say?
Stan Laurel: Betty said that honesty was the best politics.
Oliver Hardy: Now why did you hire a veterinarian?
Stan Laurel: I didn’t think his religion would make any difference.
Oliver Hardy: Why didn’t you want to take the oath?
Stan Laurel: I was afraid.
Oliver Hardy: Of what?
Stan Laurel: I was afraid that if I took the oath, that my wife wouldn’t let me go. And the Exhausted Ruler said that if … you took an oath, it would have to be broken for … generations and …centuries of …hundreds of years and my wife would let …
Oliver Hardy: Do you have to ask your wife everything?
Stan Laurel: Well if I didn’t ask her, I wouldn’t know what she wanted me to do.
Oliver Hardy: Why don’t you pattern your life after mine? I go places and do things and *then* tell my wife. Every man should be the king in his own castle.
Oliver Hardy: I go places and do things, and then *then* tell my wife.
[on the telephone]
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): Charley tells me you’re from Los Angeles. What part?
Oliver Hardy: All of me.
Mrs. Betty Laurel (Dorothy Christy): Stanley wouldn’t dare lie to me. I hate to think what would happen if he ever did.
Stan Laurel: I may not be king of my castle, but I certainly wouldn’t allow my wife to wear any pants. I’d like to see my old woman throwing things. It’s disgraceful. Never heard of such goings off. On. If my old ball and chain ever talked to me … If she even dared … You know what I’d say?
Oliver Hardy: What?
Stan Laurel: I’d say …
Stan Laurel: Hello, honey. I …
Stan Laurel: If you don’t be careful, she’s going to get the upper hand of you.
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): I’ll show you, you Son of a Desert! Go to a convention on me, ha! ha!
Dr. Horace Meddick: What seems to be the trouble?
Stan Laurel: I think he’s suffering from a nervous shakedown.
Mrs. Lottie Hardy (Mae Busch): I haven’t heard from you since you sang in the choir.
Charley Chase: And you used to pump the organ, remember? You little old organ pumper, you!
Trivia for Sons of the Desert starring Laurel and Hardy
- The role of Stan Laurel’s wife was originally slated for Patsy Kelly, but Hal Roach had loaned her to MGM for Going Hollywood (1933), which was running over schedule when shooting for this film began. Dorothy Christy joined the cast as Stan’s wife four days into filming.
- Lillian DeBorba was drafted into filling a seat in the theatre sequence. She was on the lot with her little daughter Dorothy DeBorba who was “Echo” in the Our Gang comedies.
- The “Sons of the Desert” theme song is a pastiche of several popular tunes, including “Give My Regards to Broadway.”
- The movie’s line “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” was voted as the #60 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
- Three decades after the movie’s release, its motif inspired the creation of an “international Laurel and Hardy appreciation society,” named after the movie and created by Stan Laurel and his biographer John McCabe.
- Stan Laurel reads the January 1930 issue of The American Magazine when at the Hardy residence.