The Lost Films of
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
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Oliver gets the sniffles in "They Go Boom."

The Transition to Sound (1929)

In 1929, Hal Roach Studios gave in to the public's demand for sound productions. While Laurel and Hardy easily made the transition to sound, Hal Roach was less certain about what to do with several silent productions that were already finished. "Bacon Grabbers" and "Angora Love" -- both filmed without sound -- sat on the shelf for over six months while five Laurel and Hardy sound shorts were released.

Amongst all the comedies collected in The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy, "They Go Boom" (1929: vol. 4) comes as a surprise. Finally, we get to hear Laurel and Hardy talk. And when we do hear them, it's obvious how well-suited they were for sound. Their voices are a perfect complement to their characterizations

"They Go Boom" returns to a situation first developed in "Leave 'Em Laughing." Stan and Ollie try to get a night's sleep but Hardy's sniffles keep them awake--or rather Stan's efforts to help his friend keep them awake. Incredibly simple premises, like this one, would become a hallmark of Laurel and Hardy's comedies. Whereas "Leave 'Em Laughing" starts with Laurel and Hardy trying to sleep -- but quickly moves on -- "They Go Boom" spends its entire running time in their apartment, with the camera typically turned toward the bed. Thanks to the addition of sound, time slows down in Laurel and Hardy's world. Now, we experience the over-bearing pleading of Oliver: "Don't stand there looking so dumb. Do something for me!" he yells. And we can experience the air-headed assuredness of Stan: "I know just what you have. You have the sniffles," he tells Oliver, reciting simply the obvious. (While most surviving copies of "They Go Boom" are burdened with noisy optical soundtracks, the soundtrack for this version was prepared by returning to the original 16" Vitaphone discs. As a result, this is the best "They Go Boom" has sounded since its original release.)

While "They Go Boom" was released, "Bacon Grabbers" and "Angora Love" both collected dust on a shelf. When they were released, silent pictures were dead. So both films only received cursory engagements before disappearing. One sign of the studio's lack of interest in "Bacon Grabbers" (1929: vol. 4) is the musical soundtrack. While most Laurel and Hardy comedies received orchestrated scores, "Bacon Grabbers" received just a pipe organ and a few synchronized sound effects. Because of this disinterest, "Bacon Grabbers" was on the brink of decomposition when it was printed onto safety film in the late '60s. Of all the Hal Roach Studios productions included in this set, "Bacon Grabbers" is in the worst condition, but it's still very watchable. It represents a return to "Big Business" territory. It's the story of two repo men (Stan and Ollie) sent to repossess Edgar Kennedy's radio. But soon a battle of "wits" develops. Jean Harlow has a small role as Kennedy's wife.

While "Angora Love" (1929: vol. 2) drags in spots and suffers in comparison to many of their best comedies, it nonetheless contains several priceless routines--such as when the boys try to bathe a goat in their apartment, while the suspicious landlord (Edgar Kennedy) keeps interrupting them. Many of the gags in "Angora Love" would be duplicated in their sound short "Laughing Gravy."

"Unaccustomed As We Are" (1929: vol. 4) comes from the period where Laurel and Hardy were transitioning to sound. In fact several scenes are so reliant upon dialogue (check out the hallway conversation with Thelma Todd) that a barrage of title cards must be utilized in the silent version. This clumsy sequence reveals that this short was actually filmed as a sound short, but the version included on Volume Four is a back-modified version, originally created for those theaters that had not yet upgraded for sound equipment.

Luckily, Volume Seven of The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy contains the sound version of "Unaccustomed As We Are," and this version is vastly superior to the silent version. It shows that Laurel and Hardy were well-prepared for making the transition to sound. They immediately begin taking advantage of sound and what it could add to their comedy. For exmaple, in one scene, Hardy turns on a phonograph to drown out the complaints of his wife, and this scene only works with sound.

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Page 1 Introduction

Page 2 Pre-Union Solo Efforts (1919-1926)

Page 3 Together … But Not Yet a Team (1926-1927)

Page 4 The Team Solidifies (1927)

Page 5 Classic Comedies (1928-1929)

Page 6 The Transition to Sound (1929)

Page 7 About the DVDs