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Laurel and Hardy fans who believe that "The Boys" should have stuck to two-reelers and not ventured into feature films often cite Swiss Miss (1938) as an example of a film that's been needlessly padded and would have been better as a short. Yet the film contains some superb moments in spite of the contrived subplots. The story of Swiss Miss has Stan and Ollie as mousetrap salesmen who go to Switzerland because they believe the large supply of cheese must attract a lot of mice. A business reversal leaves them broke, and they go to work in a hotel kitchen to pay off their bill. Among the people they encounter are a temperamental cook, a composer, and his opera diva wife, with whom Ollie promptly falls in love.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had separate careers until 1927, when they joined forces at the Hal Roach Studios. Over the next 19 years, they appeared in over 100 films, 27 of them features. Even after they starred in their first feature-length film, Pardon Us (1931), Laurel and Hardy continued to make shorts. But starting with Bonnie Scotland (1935), they made only features, to the disappointment of fans who found that longer movies didn't always mean more Laurel and Hardy. Instead, it often meant superfluous subplots showcasing their less entertaining co-stars.

Since 1935, they had only appeared in a handful of films, and by the time they began production on Swiss Miss in December of 1937, Laurel and Hardy had been off the screen for nearly a year. It was a time of great turmoil in the private lives of both men. Each was going thru a messy divorce, and there were rumors that the team was breaking up. Laurel had set up his own production company, and had not yet signed a new contract with Roach. But Hardy's contract still had two years to go, which would have kept him from making any films for Laurel's company. Finally, Laurel and Roach came to an agreement and Roach signed a four-picture deal with Stan Laurel Productions.

The operatic subplot of Swiss Miss appears to be a tip of the hat to the success of the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera (1935), even co-starring Walter Woolf King, who had played the egocentric tenor in that film; in Swiss Miss, he plays the temperamental composer. But in spite of the overburdened plot of Swiss Miss, there are moments that are classic Laurel and Hardy. There's Laurel trying to coax a St. Bernard into giving him his cask of brandy, and Hardy serenading the diva with "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," accompanied by Laurel on the tuba. Best of all is a comic sequence of the boys moving a piano (a sly reference to their classic short, The Music Box, 1932) across a rickety bridge hanging over a gorge, only to encounter a gorilla halfway across. (Gorillas in Switzerland?) There were apparently even more absurd sight gags in this scene, which ended up on the cutting room floor. According to Laurel's script, the hotel chef had planted a bomb inside the piano, which would ignite when Laurel fell on the piano keys. As William K. Everson writes in The Films of Laurel and Hardy, "the film had a zany near-surrealism in many of its comedy sequences, more akin to the earlier work of the Marx Brothers and Rene Clair than to Laurel & Hardy's usual comfortable exaggeration of reality." There is a rumor that the film was shot in color, but no color prints of Swiss Miss have ever surfaced.

In 1940, Laurel and Hardy ended their relationship with Hal Roach, and struck out on their own, making films at RKO, 20th Century Fox, and MGM. They had hoped for more creative freedom, but instead they got minimal budgets, and scripts by writers who didn't know their characters. Laurel and Hardy's last film was the disappointing Atoll K (1951). Although they had hoped to make a comeback, both men suffered from health problems, and it never happened. Oliver Hardy died in 1957. After Hardy's death, Stan Laurel vowed never to perform again. He died in 1965.

Director: John G. Blystone, Hal Roach (uncredited)
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Felix Adler, Charles Nelson, James Parrott, Stan Laurel (uncredited), Hal Roach (uncredited), story by Jean Negulesco, Charley Rogers
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine, Art Lloyd
Editor: Bert Jordan
Costume Design: Ernest Schrapps
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Music: Phil Charig, Marvin Hatley
Principal Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan Laurel), Oliver Hardy (Oliver Hardy), Della Lind (Anna Albert), Walter Woolf King (Victor Albert), Eric Blore (Edward), Adia Kuznetzoff (Chef), Charles Judels (Cheese Factory Proprietor), Ludovico Tomarchio (Luigi).

by Margarita Landazuri

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