movie review for Laurel and Hardy‘s first speaking film, Unaccustomed As We Are (1929) starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Mae Busch, Thelma Todd
Unaccustomed As We Are is remembered primarily as the first talking film by the great comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy, and this is correct – however, it’s also a very funny short film in its’ own right. The basic plot has Oliver Hardy bringing his friend, Stan Laurel, home to dinner, unannounced. His wife, played by Laurel and Hardy regular Mae Busch, is none too pleased, and after a short, furious, and funny fight, she walks out, leaving Oliver to cook the meal for Stan. Ollie, however, hasn’t the first clue on how to cook, and after a ‘slight accident’ that involves exploding the gas stove in the kitchen, Oliver’s pretty neighbor, Mrs. Kennedy (played by the lovely Thelma Todd) volunteers to help — only for her dress to be damaged.
The boys plot to sneak her back into her apartment before her husband, the police officer (played by Roach Studio regular Edgar Kennedy) can misconstrue the situation. Before that can happen, however, Oliver’s wife returns, apologetic for her outburst and offering to cook dinner for Stan — unaware that Stan and Oliver have hidden Mrs. Kennedy in a trunk in the Hardy’s bedroom, in hopes of smuggling her out of the apartment. Oliver puts on a big show about moving out to go to South America and “do big things” and taking his trunk with him — but Officer Kennedy interrupts the situation, taking Stan, Ollie and their trunk across the hall of Oliver’s apartment complex to his apartment, where he proceeds to give them advice on how to cheat on their wives, the way that he does … unaware that his own wife is inside the trunk, listening, and growing progressively angrier.
Stan and Oliver return to Ollie’s apartment, where Mrs. Hardy has put together a nice dinner. The boys eat the dinner, waiting for the inevitable shoe to drop, as Mrs. Kennedy vents her rage on her police officer husband — as they can hear in the Hardy’s apartment. Soon, a bedraggled Officer Kennedy appears at the Hardy’s door, motioning for Oliver to come over — and promptly punches him in the nose. He next motions for Stan to receive his medicine, but as Stan goes out into the hallway, unseen by Officer Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy proceeds to break a large vase over her philandering husband’s head. Oliver goes to investigate the noise, and sees the triumphant Stan standing over the prone body of their antagonist. Incredulous, Oliver watches as Stan walks away, gloating, only to fall down the apartment stairs.
That’s a fair amount of action for a 30-minute short film, and it’s jam-packed not only with action, but some very funny comedy as well, both visual and verbal. My family and I truly enjoyed watching Unaccustomed As We Are during Turner Classic Movie‘s recent Roach Studios marathon, and I hope that you do as well. I rate it 4 stars out of a possible 5.
Trivia for Laurel and Hardy’s Unaccustomed As We Are
- This was Laurel and Hardy’s first talkie. Three shorts that were already completed were withheld in order to rush this into release. The three completed shorts were then released with music and sound effects added.
- Being Laurel and Hardy’s first sound film, it introduced two gags which used sound as a major element and became classics which would be re-used. The first involved Officer Kennedy (Edgar Kennedy) getting his comeuppance from his wife in the room across the hall (heard as a collection of off-screen yells and crashes). The second involved Stan Laurel tripping at the top of the stairs followed by the sound of him supposedly tumbling down the entire flight.
- Although their voices turned out to be perfect for their characters, Stan Laurel was apprehensive about his dialog because he had a slight lisp, and was afraid it would be exaggerated in films.
- Unaccustomed As We Are was remade into the full-length film Block-Heads in 1938.
Funny movie quotes from Unaccustomed as we are
Title card: The world over — a wife loves to have her husband bring a friend home to dinner — As a surprise —
Oliver Hardy: I brought him home for dinner, Mrs. Kennedy.
Mrs. Kennedy (Thelma Todd): How lovely, Mr. Hardy.
Oliver Hardy: How is Mr. Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy?
Mrs. Kennedy (Thelma Todd): He’s fine, Mr. Hardy.
Oliver Hardy: Is Mr. Kennedy home, Mrs. Kennedy?
Mrs. Kennedy (Thelma Todd): Not yes, Mr. Hardy. I must be going. Good night, Mr. Hardy.
Oliver Hardy: Good night, Mrs. Kennedy. [to Stan] That was Mrs. Kennedy.
Stan Laurel: I was wondering who it was.
Oliver Hardy: Why don’t you do something to help me?
Stan Laurel: Like what?
Oliver Hardy: Set the table — you don’t need any brains for that.
Oliver Hardy: Go in and light the oven. And pick your feet up. Take your hat off. [Stan complies] Good. Now light the stove. [Stan puts the hat back on, goes into the kitchen]
Oliver Hardy: I was cooking dinner for my friend and I, and I had a slight accident.
Oliver Hardy: Thank you, Mrs. Kennedy. [she goes into the kitchen]
Stan Laurel: Was that Mrs. Kennedy?
Oliver Hardy: Oh, shut up.
Mrs. Hardy (Mae Busch): It will only take a moment to put on another dress, Mr. Hardy.
Oliver Hardy: Are you sure I can’t help you, Mrs. Kennedy?
Mrs. Hardy (Mae Busch): Puddin’.
Oliver Hardy: What do you mean, ‘Puddin’?
Oliver Hardy: You’ve broken the camel’s back once too often.
Oliver Hardy: And I’m burning my bridges behind me.
Stan Laurel: Burning your what?
Oliver Hardy: Burning my bridges behind me.
Stan Laurel: Oh, I thought you said “britches.”
Mrs. Hardy (Mae Busch): What do you mean by taking this poor little innocent [Oliver] to South America, and getting him to burn his bridges, when he never even started a fire in his life?
Mrs. Kennedy (Thelma Todd): I’m a cluck, am I? You get a load of my technique! [throws vase at her husband]
Stan Laurel: Good night, Mr. Hardy. [noisily falls down stairs]