Watch THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS in the link above
Well, here we are the first "official" Laurel and Hardy film - I think. A lot of sources claim this one, others, including Stan Laurel himself, say PUTTING PANTS ON PHILIP, and then when you throw in the release order of these early films, it gets even more confusing! No matter, whether this is official or not, THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS, more than any film we've discussed so far, feels like a true Laurel and Hardy film. Sure, since the boys are convicts, their heads are shaved, so they lack the standard look of DO DETECTIVES THINK?, but this entire short revolves around Stan and Ollie and features consistently great comedy.
Early on, for the very first time, you get the idea Stan and Ollie are friends. Ollie has a cigarette, and he passes the box onto Stan. The box is empty for Stan, so Ollie, after gazing at the audience, decides to split his cigarette in half and give it to Stan. This sharing and kindness is what makes the relationship of Stan and Ollie unique. Bud Abbott would find a way to con Lou Costello out of his last dime and make him feel bad for wanting a cigarette, Moe would simply gouge Curly in the eye with the cigarette, but Stan and Ollie share. Now they are not always this well behaved, but they are so enough to make them stand out from other comic teams.
I do have some favorite bits here for sure. The assembly line exercise scene is awesome. I love the way all the prisoners are in synch except Stan Laurel, it makes a very funny visual image and the camera set up reminds me of something Buster Keaton would do. Again, in this scene, like in WITH LOVE AND HISSES, Stan almost has his feelings hurts and cries towards authority instead of getting aggressive against them, an overgrown man child which no doubt has a tinge of Harry Langdon influence, a comedian Stan admired, (and much later on, teamed with Ollie himself in ZENOBIA).
Once Stan and Ollie get out of jail by making their convict outfits look like painter uniforms by turning their clothes inside out, all they need to do is walk away and they'd escape. Instead, whenever they see a cop, they feel as though they must act like painters, so they paint the town, literally. The city streets, parked cars, lamp posts, windows, buildings, a girl's back side, nothing is safe from Stan and Ollie trying to show the cops they are painters. Of course they're too dumb to realize they're just drawing attention to themselves, but the slow physical build up to the scene and the carefully timed destruction of property is in its early phase here, something we'll see plenty of over the years. Oh, dig the great sign on one of the buildings they are painting, "Ice Cream Cohen." Ethnic humor the likes you will never see today. Oh, and I love the city streets and neighborhoods in this scene.
My other favorite bit is Stan and Ollie at the dinner party. Again, the way Ollie pantomimes to Stan to watch him pick up the olive properly, you can literally hear the talking Ollie do the same. The highlight here is Stan trying to pick up the olive himself. Not smart enough to simply use his hand for assistance, his utensil leads the olive all the way across the table and eventually down a ladie's dress and Jimmy Finlayson's eye.
Overall, a very funny film, and the first truly great one where Stan and Ollie appear together. This short doesn't get enough credit, but I see no reason not to give it a 10. There'll be plenty more tens to come.