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Author Topic: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy  (Read 1819 times)

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Offline metaldams

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Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
« on: October 11, 2015, 06:17:43 PM »
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  • http://www.lordheath.com/index.php?p=1_177_Be-Big
    http://www.laurelandhardycentral.com/be big.html
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021644/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x26gb1z_be-big-b-w-1931-laurel-hardy_shortfilms

    Watch BE BIG! in the link above



          Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea this was an unpopular short.  I started getting the idea after reading Tony Benslsy's hint, the laurelandhardycentral.com review, and Umday's comment below that I may be a lone voice of praise for this one.  So be it.  I respect all your opinions, but I disagree.

          The main complaint about this one is the taking off of Oliver's boot is too masochistic, goes on too long, and needs to be edited.  Eh, I just don't see it.  For the masochism, look, Ollie is obviously uncomfortable, but he is also uncomfortable in many other shorts, perhaps just not as claustrophobic.  Well, even that doesn't bother me.  The claustrophobic nightmare for me is BERTH MARKS and the bunk scene.  Here, the boys have plenty of space to work with, there, they are trapped in small quarters.  Here, there's plenty of space for Ollie to take pratfalls, fall and be dragged on the ground, and eventually get launched into a pool of water.  In other words, there's variety.  There's also tension that builds and builds as the scene progresses and the soundtrack is a plus.  We are in the season where the soundtracks are exclusively made for the shorts, and it's a big plus here.  Compare that to the stillness of BERTH MARKS of further proof how a soundtrack can liven things up.  I also enjoy comedians milking gags in general, and while this isn't Harold Lloyd trying to get rid of a wallet in NUMBER PLEASE good, (seriously check that film out), it's still enjoyable to my tastes.  Give it another shot.  Oh, and speaking of shot, the final shot of the boys being dumped out of the building had me in stitches.

           As for the rest of the short, it's entertaining.  The boys being nice to the wives, the couple's are almost too nice too each other.  You know something is bound to be bubbling underneath the surface.  Ollie's sick act is a highlight, and Ollie being told over the phone of the acts the girls will be performing at the stag party, acts the audience does not hear, is genius.  Any horror fans here?  You know the way the Val Lewton films have horror off the screen and we get to use our perverse imaginations of the terror happening?  Same effect here, except for smut.  What I thought Ollie heard is much dirtier than anything they'd be allowed to say on screen. 

          A fun short overall, I feel like I'm in the minority.  To each their own.

    9/10


    Offline Umbday

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    Re: Be Big (1930) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #1 on: October 12, 2015, 03:30:13 PM »
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  • Oh, how much better this one would be as a two-reeler. There are actually some nice moments in that infamous ~13 minutes of boot pulling. Just not 13 minutes worth.

    Offline Umbday

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #2 on: October 12, 2015, 06:20:01 PM »
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  •       Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea this was an unpopular short.  I started getting the idea after reading Tony Benslsy's hint, the laurelandhardycentral.com review, and Umday's comment below that I may be a lone voice of praise for this one. 

    Please don't get me wrong. Last year I viewed this again for the first time in ages, and I liked the best parts of it a lot. I began to wonder, though, how that long middle scene could be edited down to make the film a tight, packed 20 minutes, instead of ~28.

    Offline Seamus

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #3 on: October 13, 2015, 04:24:16 PM »
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  • There's an MST3K episode - LOST CONTINENT - in which the Mads introduce the movie with some foreshadowing of what Joel and the bots will be in for by ominously repeating, "Rock climbing, Joel.  Rock climbing.  Did we mention...rock climbing?"  Sure enough, in the middle of the movie, there's a seemingly 12 hour stretch of film that spares us no detail of Hugh Beaumont et al.'s mundane and excitement-free traversal up the side of a cliff.

    I only bring this up to make the point that, if Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank were introducing BE BIG, they'd likely do so with a mantra-like repetition of "Boot removal, guys.  Boot removal."

    I admire Metal's characteristic insistence on finding nice things to say about even the weakest shorts, I really do.  But I can't put BE BIG even within hailing distance of a 9/10.  Thing is, most of the time you can give L&H a simple piece of business to improvise with and let them go, and the results are beautiful.  Sometimes though, it just looks like uninspired flailing, and so it is with the boot scene, at least for me.  It's amazing to me that, like Umday said, they decided to make this a three-reeler because, apparently, they couldn't bear to edit down the boot removal scene (which is so long it has you pining for the brevity and efficiency of the bunk scene from BERTH MARKS).

    I'd be curious to know the decision-making process there.  Did the filmmakers think they were getting such pure gold out of the scene that they decided to extend the short to three reels so that we wouldn't miss a second of it?  Or did they set out to make a three-reeler and decide that extending the boot scene was the best way to pad it out?  Either way, having this overlong piece of business in the middle of the short does give it an unusual shape, which is interesting if nothing else.

    There is some good stuff on either side of the boot epic.  As Metal pointed out, the final shot of the boys getting blasted through the wall is hilarious, a strong over-the-top ending that salvages some of the goodwill that was lost over he previous 15 minutes. I also got a chuckle when the scene cuts from the wives at the train station back to Ollie's apartment, where we find Ollie putting on the infamous boot while, in the background, Stan is playing with an old-timey vibrating weight loss machine, looking like he's having a ball.  And Stan's slowness to comprehend Ollie's plot for ditching the wives in favor the lodge party is a fun character bit.

    The main complaint about this one is the taking off of Oliver's boot is too masochistic

    A slapstick comedy getting criticized for masochism?  Who does this?  Imagine being the kind of person who watches a Stooges short and frets over the poor professional slapstick comedians getting themselves hurt.  And why does BE BIG get singled out for this criticism?  Ollie's been through a hell of a lot worse.


    There's also tension that builds and builds as the scene progresses and the soundtrack is a plus.  We are in the season where the soundtracks are exclusively made for the shorts, and it's a big plus here.  Compare that to the stillness of BERTH MARKS of further proof how a soundtrack can liven things up. 

    The soundtrack really does have a lot to do with the feel of the final product, for better or worse.  I think L&H's earliest talkie shorts, which were originally music-less, are made better by the background music that was added for the late-30s re-releases.  In that case, the music just sort of burbles inoffensively and pleasantly in the background and adds to the mood.  But sometimes soundtracks that were composed exclusively for a short can almost ruin the gags completely by over-egging the comedy.  What is it with the slide whistle that's all over this short and the previous one?  Composers really, really shouldn't try to tell us what's supposed to be funny by adding a goofy sound effect to punctuate the gags.  Although as much as I hate it, at least the slide whistle stinger is more appropriate in an L&H short than it is in the movie DOA, where it serves as one of the biggest WTF moments in Hollywood history.

    Offline Seamus

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #4 on: October 13, 2015, 04:59:34 PM »
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  • Any horror fans here?  You know the way the Val Lewton films have horror off the screen and we get to use our perverse imaginations of the terror happening? 

    You know it  ;).  I thought about starting a "What movies are we watching for the Halloween season" thread (or bumping the old horror movie thread, I vaguely call us having one at some point).

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #5 on: October 13, 2015, 09:00:08 PM »
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  • Seamus, the scene with Stan on the weight loss belt is funny, and I'm glad you mentioned it, because I forgot to.  I guess we just differ on opinion overall concerning both the boot scene and the soundtrack.  I still maintain my opinion on the boot scene and feel the comparisons to BERTH MARKS differ because of the space differences and variety, but I'll be in the minority here.  It's cool.  I just wonder if there'll be overall praising of TWICE TWO when we get to that one, because I won't be! 


    .....and I'll get to a horror thread soon.  I'm taking a week off from work last week in October, my first in over a year, and part of that is to indulge in horror films.

    Offline Seamus

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #6 on: October 14, 2015, 07:02:28 AM »
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  • I guess we just differ on opinion overall concerning both the boot scene and the soundtrack.  I still maintain my opinion on the boot scene and feel the comparisons to BERTH MARKS differ because of the space differences and variety, but I'll be in the minority here. 

    Oh, it's an improvement on BERTH MARKS for sure, just long outstays its welcome in my opinion.  Spending almost 20 minutes on one gag is a bold move, I'll give them that.  It might have worked if there'd been a noticeable build-up of tension, but it felt pretty shapeless and meandering.  Just killing time till the wives showed up with their double-barrels.


    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #7 on: October 14, 2015, 06:58:18 PM »
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  • I miss these, but grad school hell...
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    Offline Seamus

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #8 on: October 15, 2015, 03:10:52 PM »
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  • I miss these, but grad school hell...

    Tell your profs they'll get their thesis paper after you've watched and reviewed the last three L&H shorts.  BE BIG.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #9 on: October 15, 2015, 06:13:41 PM »
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  • Tell your profs they'll get their thesis paper after you've watched and reviewed the last three L&H shorts.  BE BIG.

    It was a test... worse!
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    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #10 on: April 21, 2016, 09:25:53 AM »
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  • This film should be reclassified from "three-reel short subject" to  "three-reel epic."  Holy cow!  By the time Ollie is burning his hand on the radiator, I am done with the boot scene, although it is amazing how it was stretched so long.

    To watch BE BIG! requires that you...  BE BIG!  It is an interesting short, although the acting of the women at the beginning is a bit too cardboardish; and those hats are the most hideous things!  I guess I'm too used to Three Stooges where everyone is either high society or low society.  When L&H are married, they're always bourgeois in so being.

    I think the highlight is Ollie taking a bath as he does the second time.  Good stuff as his Ollie's attempt to find Stan in the Murphy bed.

    8/10
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    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: Be Big! (1931) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #11 on: December 20, 2017, 03:28:21 PM »
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  • Well, once again I must agree with metaldams. Not only do I find this short to be entertaining overall, but I also must admit: I actually like the boot pulling scenes. Ok, it’s no masterpiece, but for something with a reputation like this, I actually did find myself laughing a lot more than I expected to.

    Starting with the beginning, there is a fantastic set-up. Hardy’s overacting in his attempt to fake sickness is hilarious and Laurel’s failure to comprehend helps stretch it out as well. Admittedly, it is a bit disappointing that Anita Garvin is given less to do as Stan’s wife than in BLOTTO, though, really, all you need from her is one angry look at Stan in order to understand their relationship, and that’s exactly what she does here, so she still does a pretty good job for what little she has to work with. Isabelle Keith does a pretty good job as Mrs. Hardy as well.

    After a brief scene of Stan and Ollie beginning to get ready for the party as well as another of Mrs. Laurel and Mrs. Hardy, we then get to the boot pulling and I’ll admit that my least favorite part occurs at the beginning of this: Stan and the weight loss belt. I don’t know why, but this is another one of those things that I found more odd than funny. I get what they’re going for and don’t think it’s a terrible idea, but it doesn’t play out the way I think it should and just comes across as nothing more than some weird shots of Laurel shaking his butt.

    As for the rest of it, I think it’s pretty funny for the most part and nowhere near the horrors of BERTH MARKS, for a couple reasons. First off, BERTH MARKS as a whole is a terrible film, not just the upper berth scene, and this is mostly due to the combination of a crowded location and a camera that stays firmly in place when it shouldn’t. As metaldams mentioned, the boot pulling takes place in a much larger environment and because the camera isn’t as close, we can always tell what’s happening during the scene. There’s also another reason: BE BIG! takes breaks. If it was non-stop boot pulling, then I could see why people wouldn’t like it, but they do take moments to simply sit and talk and as a result it doesn’t feel as repetitive as you’d think it would be. I’ll admit it’s not flawless; towards the end, I did begin to feel that it was going on a bit too long, but I only felt this way once it got to the part where Stan got stuck in Ollie’s clothes, and immediately after that they followed with Stan getting stuck in the bed, which I thought not only led to a great payoff, but when they returned to do a bit more boot pulling afterwards, I suddenly found it funny again, because once again we got a brief break from the repetition that didn’t make it feel repetitive anymore. Honestly, I have to admire the pacing of this; as Paul mentioned, it is amazing how it was stretched so long, yet for me, it actually worked as well! Oh yeah, and as for that ending, just watch it. It is too amazing to put into words.

    Overall, a great short that I think is much better than its reputation.

    9 out of 10