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Mary Boland - 8/4
Remind Me

Nothing But Trouble

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy ended their MGM career with a cinematic whimper that still manages to stand as one of the best of the nine films they made after completing their contract with pioneering silent comedy producer Hal Roach in 1940. Only two of those were made for MGM, though the studio had released all of their shorts and features for Roach between 1927 and 1938. But though it had most of the problems of their other late features, at least Nothing But Trouble (1944) managed to showcase a few memorably comic routines.

Like the Marx Brothers before them, Laurel and Hardy were tamer imitations of themselves in these late films. In striking out for better money, more control of their work and an escape from their often contentious relationship with Roach, Laurel and Hardy were forced to sign over control to the studios for whom they worked. Often they were shut out of the writing process. None of the four writers who scripted Nothing But Trouble, about a pair of bumbling domestics who help a young king escape assassination, had any experience working in silent comedy. They cannibalized the comedy team's earlier films for gags and comic bits. And the plots were less about them and their ability to generate chaos than about sympathetic young people they decided to help out. In addition, they were confined to low-budget, assembly-line productions that left them little time to improvise. Nor were they allowed to shoot in sequence, a practice that had helped them develop running gags through the course of a film.

At MGM a low-budget production was often equal to an A-picture at any other studio, so at least Nothing But Trouble had strong production values and a solid supporting cast. In particular, the comic team were helped by the presence of elderly character actor Henry O'Neill -- who had worked with them on their other MGM feature, Air Raid Wardens (1943) -- the sublimely ditzy Mary Boland, best known as the much-married Countess DeLave in The Women (1939) and sharp-tongued Connie Gilchrist, who specialized in playing servants and assorted domestics.

It also helped greatly that their director, Sam Taylor, had directed silent screen legend Harold Lloyd in some of his best films. In fact, one of the best comic bits in Nothing But Trouble, a mock suicide attempt, was adapted from a similar set of gags in Lloyd's Girl Shy (1924).

Balancing the good was an unsubtle flag-waving plot (the film was made during World War II) featuring a boy king who preached about the virtues of democracy while tossing out corny one-liners. With their films doing poorly at the box office, Laurel and Hardy eventually left Hollywood for a series of profitable tours of the British musical hall circuit (Laurel began his career there) where they could still delight audiences in their own fashion.

Producer: B.F. Zeidman
Director: Sam Taylor
Screenplay: Russell Rouse, Ray Golden, Bradford Ropes, Margaret Gruen
Cinematography: Charles Salerno, Jr.
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Harry McAfee
Music: Nathaniel Shilkret
Cast: Stan Laurel (Himself), Oliver Hardy (Himself), Henry O'Neill (Basil Hawkley), Mary Boland (Mrs. Elvira Hawkley), David Leland (King Christopher), Connie Gilchrist (Mrs. Flannagan), Philip Merivale (Prince Saul), Joe Yule (Officer).
BW-70m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller



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