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Helpmates (1931) is often acknowledged as one of the greatest of Laurel and Hardy's two-reel shorts, due in large part to the simplicity of the premise and because it was practically a solo team effort. William K. Everson wrote (in The Films of Laurel and Hardy) that the short "...was one of their best from any period, comparing favorably with their silent classics. It was so much a purely two-man show (as Chaplin's One A. M. was a one-man show) that one genuinely regrets the fleeting and quite unnecessary appearances of the wife and a messenger boy."
At great expense to Hal Roach Studios, Laurel's conception of the film required the building, and subsequent destroying, of a standard-issue Los Angeles-style five-room bungalow. Soon after the completion of the film, the economic winds at the studio changed. In his book Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy, Simon Louvish writes that "Roach was in the bad books of the Bank of America for being wobbly on some of his loans and, at their insistence, a new, tough general manager, Henry Ginsberg, was appointed to run the studio." The sort of extravagance seen in Helpmates would be out of the question for future films. Laurel particularly resented the oversight of Ginsberg, whom he called "The Expediter." When Ginsberg came to the set to observe how quickly filming was progressing, Laurel would slow down production to a crawl until the executive left. In spite of, or perhaps partly because of, the new economics set in place, the Laurel and Hardy films reached new heights of greatness; the first film shot under the new overseer was the classic three-reeler The Music Box (1932).
Producer: Hal Roach (uncredited)
Director: James Parrott
Screenplay: H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Art Lloyd
Film Editing: Richard Currier
Cast: Stan Laurel (Stanley), Oliver Hardy (Oliver), Bobby Burns (neighbor, uncredited), Robert Callahan (messenger, uncredited), Blanche Payson (Mrs. Hardy)