Watch DO DETECTIVES THINK? (1927) in the link above
See the picture above? Looks like Laurel and Hardy, right? The suits, the hats, it's the classic image we have in mind of them. That picture is taken from DO DETECTIVES THINK? and is the first time they have this image we all know. Previously, they'd be butlers with slicked hair, in the army, as sailors, anything but the classic archetype. Now, they finally look like Laurel and Hardy. The next several films after this, they revert back to other looks, so as usual with the team's development, things are anything but linear.
DO DETECTIVES THINK? is also the last film we will discuss that's not officially a Laurel and Hardy film. It's another one of those Hal Roach All-Star creations, though in this case, the film of discussion plays 80% like a Laurel and Hardy comedy. They unquestionably act like a team, entering the film together as two detectives on the same case and working together until the end. I say 80% a Laurel and Hardy film because a bit more time than usual is dedicated to Jim Finlayson's judge character and the escaped convict, played by Noah Young, who is out for revenge on the judge for having sentenced him to death. Still, plenty of Laurel and Hardy, more so than any film up until this point.
Even though it's great to see what feels like real Laurel and Hardy, we're still in an embryonic state in the team's development, so there's only one scene where great Laurel and Hardy comedy is played out. The great scene starts when they are walking by a very atmospheric graveyard. A wind blows both of their hats into the graveyards, and they are both scared to go in, so they both push each other inside. Eventually, there's a large grave making a shadow against the wall where the hats lie, and Stan slowly keeps trying to get his hat, only to be scared of his own shadow. The pantomime plays funnier than it sounds in writing, but it's a great scene. When they're outside the graveyard, the way Ollie is yelling at Stan and making hand gestures while Stan makes those facial expressions like he's crying - you can picture the way they sound, it's definitely the mannerisms of prime Stan and Ollie. It makes me wonder how audiences of the time reacted to just their pantomime, not knowing how they sound. Seeing the talkies, we know exactly what they sound like in this bit without hearing it, so I have to wonder how that effects our interpretation of the humor. In any case, we're witnessing a big step in them gelling as a team here.
Once they get out of the graveyard, they, for the very first time, do the classic bit where the each put on the wrong hat, try to give each other the correct hat, only to somehow manage putting on the wrong hat. Again, it's physical comedy, funnier in execution than me writing it, but watching them do this routine, I feel like I'm watching Laurel and Hardy.
As for the rest of the film, nothing special to write home about. The escaped killer basically chases everyone around the house, eventually Jim Finlayson gets some funny mask on the back of his head and a sheet around him that makes him look like a ghost, and a lot of running around takes place. The great stuff mentioned above definitely makes this film a must see and is historically important, but taken as a whole, this is just an average comedy.
This will be the last of our Laurel and Hardy spring training discussions, starting next week, we discuss actual films made with the intent of being Laurel and Hardy films. Finally!