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Demonstrating how much can be made of little, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy take a simple premise and mine it for comic gold in Blotto (1930). This talkie short, the first of the pair's three-reel comedies, has the boys plotting a night out on the town to be kept secret from Mrs. Laurel (Anita Garvin). They plan to steal a bottle of liquor she has been saving throughout Prohibition.
By listening in on a telephone extension, Mrs. Laurel learns what's afoot and comes up with her own scheme. She empties the bottle and refills it with a bitter brew of cold tea, mustard powder, pepper sauce and any other unpleasant ingredient she can find in her kitchen. Stan and Ollie proceed to the Rainbow Club, where they are impressed by the "fire" of their false liquor and proceed to get completely soused on it. The evening's revelry, and the boys' false inebriation, is brought to a sobering halt when Mrs. Laurel shows up with a shotgun.
Near the end of Blotto, Laurel and Hardy use their famous "laughing" routine for the first time, building from self-satisfied chuckles to helpless peals of hysterical laughter when Mrs. Laurel appears and Hardy explains how they have outwitted her. (She gets the last laugh with the shotgun, of course.) Interviewed in 1981, Garvin (who referred to Hardy as "Babe") said, "If you will forgive me, or even if you won't, I think that scene in Blotto is one of the greatest ever... What marvelous comedy -- I'm talking about Stan and Babe, not me!...I laugh so hard myself every time I see it, especially at Stan, the way he's holding his sides, throwing his head back. You know, it's contagious!"
It was common in the 1930s for Hollywood films to be simultaneously shot in foreign versions, and Blotto was filmed in French with Georgette Rhodes as Stan's wife and in Spanish with Linda Loredo in the role. This led to some fun for studio still photographer Bud "Stax" Graves, who shot Laurel with all three "wives." The February 8, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World ran with the caption, "A bigamistic illusion. There are wives and 'wives.' It all depends on the quotation marks. The three lovely creatures shown above with Stan Laurel are not his wives but his 'wives.'"
Blotto had contributions from two future greats among film directors: Leo McCarey co-wrote the screenplay, and George Stevens served as cameraman. Years later the film served as the inspiration for an episode of the classic CBS-TV series The Honeymooners, starring Jackie Gleason and Art Carney.
Producer: Hal Roach
Director: James Parrott
Screenplay: Leo McCarey, H.M. Walker
Cinematography: George Stevens
Original Music: Marvin Hatley, Nathaniel Shilkret, Leroy Shield (1937 reissue)
Editing: Richard C. Currier
Principal Cast: Stan Laurel (Stanley), Oliver Hardy (Oliver), Anita Garvin (Mrs. Laurel), Baldwin Cooke (Waiter), Charlie Hall (Cabdriver), Frank Holliday (Rainbow Club Singer).
by Roger Fristoe