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Author Topic: The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy  (Read 1409 times)

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Offline metaldams

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The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy
« on: December 28, 2015, 06:08:59 PM »
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  • http://www.lordheath.com/index.php?p=1_230_The-Music-Box
    http://www.laurelandhardycentral.com/musicbox.html
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0023251/?ref_=fn_al_tt_4

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2yxo1m

    Watch THE MUSIC BOX in the link above



          I think I'm starting to detect a theme with these all time classic Laurel and Hardy shorts.  There really isn't much to say because their brilliance lies in their simplicity.  Not much of a story here, it's simply an adventure of the boys delivering a piano to an angry man's house.  Is it possible to milk a half hour scenario out of this and make it completely fascinating?  This film answers the affirmative.  Out of all he films I have ever reviewed or will continue to review, THE MUSIC BOX is the only one to win an Oscar, best short subject.  The horse carrying comics and objects in carriage and said comics struggling up a flight of stairs would inspire a certain group of comedians in AN ACHE IN EVERY STAKE.

          The best parts....the whole thing.  OK....Billy Gilbert gives just as high strung of performance here as he does in his two Stooge appearances, perhaps even more so here, if possible!  "I hate and detest pianos!"  The business with the stairs, well, the cameraman uses plenty of long angle shots to really show off the height involved in the slapstick proceedings, being a hat falling down, or Ollie falling down with the piano in that crate!  Speaking of the piano in the crate, that has to count as a character in itself.  The falls it takes and the unholy noise it makes is quite riveting!  Pulley gags, horse gags, falling off balcony into water gags, cop gags, Stan butchering the English language ( this time he butchers "overstepping your bounds"), and the kicker that diminutive Charlie Hall reveals tithe boys are all highlights.  Stan physically dragging his wobbly legs with his hands at the beginning, another highlight.  Simple plot, complex and funny slapstick, an all time classic.  Any comedy fan worth their salt should enjoy this one,

    10/10


    Offline Tony Bensley

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    Re: The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #1 on: February 29, 2016, 09:10:33 PM »
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  • While not from a fresh viewing, as I agree that no reply to this 3 reel gem is a crime, here is a relevant posting I originally made on the Laurel & Hardy Forum November 15, 2013 (The Following Includes Spoilers!):


    THE MUSIC BOX:  Observations & Opinions

    THE MUSIC BOX was filmed by Hal Roach Studios and released by MGM on April 16 1932.

    THE MUSIC BOX is essentially a remake of Laurel & Hardy's 1927 Silent Two Reeler, HATS OFF, the latter of which is their only team film for which to date, no known copies have yet officially surfaced (In spite of recent, though unsubstantiated rumors of a privately owned clip!), even in fragmented form!

    On 2011's U.S. Based LAUREL & HARDY: THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION set, only THE MUSIC BOX'S first two reels were transferred from it's original negative, while it's third reel derives from a dupe negative taken from a work print.  This is said to be because the third reel negative disappeared around 1983, which would have been about two years prior to the start of Richard W. Bann & Company's massive, 17 year (1985-2002) restoration of the Laurel & Hardy Hal Roach Sound Film Library.  Considering the challenge posed, the editing between the two prints is remarkably seamless, in my opinion!

    THE MUSIC BOX was the first ever Comedy Short to win an Academy Award.  It won as Best Short Subject, Comedy for 1931-32.  Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Hal Roach accepted the Oscar at the November 18, 1932 Academy Awards Ceremony.  It was at this same Ambassador Hotel Based Ceremony, that Hal Roach's good friend Walt Disney (Who also won an Honorary Oscar for the creation of Mickey Mouse!) accepted his own Academy Award for the 3 Strip Technicolor Animated Short, FLOWERS & TREES, which was the first Cartoon ever awarded an Oscar, this for the Best Short Subject, Cartoons Category.

    Through the window of the shop where the Piano is purchased, we see a passing Streetcar (Marked Los Angeles Railway.), and a Retail Signs bearing the names "National Credit Jewelers" and "Star Outfitting Co. Credit Clothiers."  Having viewed THE MUSIC BOX many times over the years, I'm still not certain as to whether or not Rear Projection is employed here.  If so, this is certainly one of the more convincing examples of it to turn up in a Hal Roach Film during this period!  Two Roach Films of the period, the Zasu Pitts/Thelma Todd Two Reeler, RED NOSES (From March, 1932.) and the boys own June 1932 Short, COUNTY HOSPITAL feature two particularly horrid examples of the use of Rear Projection!  If not, the timely passing of the Streetcar (Especially given the briefness of the "Window" scene!) is indeed, a curious coincidence!

    There are those that feel THE MUSIC BOX'S Stairs Sequence goes on too long.  Contrary to the common perception that this takes up most of the Film's length, the approximate time between the start of Stan & Ollie's first attempt up the stairs and the final illogical (Though completely in line with the boys' do it right at all costs philosophy!) descent down those same steps is a shade under 12 minutes.  The far more monotonous (In my opinion!) Boot Removal Scene in the 1931 Laurel & Hardy three reeler, BE BIG! lasts 13 minutes and 22 seconds!  In THE MUSIC BOX, the Stairs Sequence is punctuated by comic encounters with an obnoxious Nurse Maid, a Cop, and the infamous Professor Von Schwarzenhoffen, who we eventually discover was the intended recipient of the Music Box as a surprise Birthday Present from his Wife!

    Gladys Gale, who played Mrs. Von Schwarzenhoffen appeared in just one other Laurel & Hardy Film, their last Starring Hal Roach Short from 1935, THICKER THAN WATER, in which she played an Auction bidder who leaves Ollie high and dry.  In THE MUSIC BOX, she's the buyer of the Piano with which the boys have such an arduous ordeal!  In my opinion, Gladys' pronounced overacting (Which is mercifully brief!) in the final scene is one of this gem's few weaknesses (Visible Suspension Wires during one of the Music Box's descents down the Stairs is another!)!  The concluding exploding pen gag could also be perceived as a bit of a throwaway.  As an added note, one might also wonder how the boys' two scenes with the Professor portrayed by James Finlayson would have played out!  However, these are all minor quibbles (Except perhaps, for the last one!) that shouldn't detract anyone from enjoying this true Film Classic! 

    The songs we hear on the Piano Roll are snatches of Patriotic tunes, including I WISH I WAS IN DIXIE and THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER (The latter produces the Film's one poignant moment!), the latter of which, while composed by Francis Scott Key during the war of 1812, only became the official American National Anthem the year before THE MUSIC BOX was released!

    Another fairly common question among Laurel & Hardy Scholars in recent years is does THE MUSIC BOX live up to it's lofty status as an Academy Award Winning Film?  In my opinion, my answer is a qualified yes.  There is certainly no doubt that this gem is well constructed, and is also a prime example of a Laurel & Hardy Short that makes for an ideal introduction for new fans!  While other characters do appear at just the right moments to not only prevent the 12 minute Stairs Sequence from growing stagnant, but greatly add to the comedic magic that takes place on those Steps; we are also treated to ample screen time in which Stan & Ollie are left to themselves, and more comedy gold is mined, with the Music Box (The Crate, at least!) effectively standing in as a third character!  However, whether or not THE MUSIC BOX is the best Laurel & Hardy Film ever made is subject to opinion, and very compelling arguments have been made in favor of other Laurel & Hardy Vehicles.  For instance, in my opinion, their earlier two reel gem HOG WILD (Also an ideal Laurel & Hardy introduction!) could have also taken home Best Comedy Short Oscar honors for 1929-30, had that category existed then!  There are also those who find THE MUSIC BOX'S goings off to be simply too frustrating (My lovely wife is unfortunately for me, among them!).  As a certain level of frustration exists in many of the boys' Films (Ultimately success is simply not part of Stan & Ollie's usual "Modus Operandi," though their succeeding on occasion was necessary in order to at least somewhat avoid the perceived monotony of consistent failures!), this is, in my opinion fairly revealing in terms of people who are simply not likely destined to be fans of the bulk of Laurel & Hardy's work!  In these instances, I find WAY OUT WEST to be an ideal panacea for it's great comedy, combined with what most viewers will find to be a most satisfying conclusion.

    With that said, THE MUSIC BOX is, in my opinion, an ideal way to spend 29 minutes, and should make for ideal viewing for MOST hardcore and casual Laurel & Hardy Fans!

    CHEERS!

    9.5/10

    Offline metaldams

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    Re: The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #2 on: March 03, 2016, 07:25:09 PM »
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  • Nice write up, Tony.  It never even occurred to me to think that anyone could find the stair scene too long.  Seems perfect to me, and for the variety you stated.

    Offline Paul Pain

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    Re: The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #3 on: April 30, 2016, 10:36:52 AM »
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  • From about 5:00- 13:40 was amongst the most deplorable things I ever watched in my life, as in Besser horse epic bad.   Lilyan Irene is as much a human POS as Walter Long in ANY OLD PORT, and it got even more dissatisfying when the lady lies to the cop and Ollie ends up getting abused by the cop.  I almost turned off the short at this point it was awful...

    From 13:40 on was an absolute riot.  I was in stitches and had to pause the short a couple of times just so I could laugh it off.  Any one else notice that Ollie really got stabbed by the nail?  Whatever... an interesting little comedy of abuse, but those 8:40 seconds are insufferable enough to make this one I won't likely watch again, thus...

    7/10
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    Offline Tony Bensley

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    Re: The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #4 on: April 30, 2016, 12:29:41 PM »
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  • From about 5:00- 13:40 was amongst the most deplorable things I ever watched in my life, as in Besser horse epic bad.   Lilyan Irene is as much a human POS as Walter Long in ANY OLD PORT, and it got even more dissatisfying when the lady lies to the cop and Ollie ends up getting abused by the cop.  I almost turned off the short at this point it was awful...

    From 13:40 on was an absolute riot.  I was in stitches and had to pause the short a couple of times just so I could laugh it off.  Any one else notice that Ollie really got stabbed by the nail?  Whatever... an interesting little comedy of abuse, but those 8:40 seconds are insufferable enough to make this one I won't likely watch again, thus...

    7/10
    Hi Paul!

    A most interesting take on the aforementioned 8 minute and 40 second (Or thereabouts!) stretch!  While I've always taken Lilyan's character as basically a de facto villain, whose inexcusable actions are necessary to move the story along, I also get how this can be hard for some to take!  I'm certainly never sorry when I see Stan kick her in the butt, as much as I don't normally like seeing that sort of abuse done to women by men!

    CHEERS!  [pie]

    Tony

    Offline Umbrella Sam

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    Re: The Music Box (1932) - Laurel and Hardy
    « Reply #5 on: January 07, 2018, 11:18:07 AM »
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  • So I guess I’ll start by addressing the two problems I’ve seen addressed here with THE MUSIC BOX: the length of the stairs sequence and Lilyan Irene. Starting with the former, considering that I like the boot pulling scenes in BE BIG!, it should be pretty obvious that I like lengthy sequences depending on how I think they play out and I think THE MUSIC BOX plays out very well. Much like in BE BIG! we get an occasional break that keeps it from being monotonous and the timing from our main leads is just so excellent that it makes something that seems like a stupid idea on paper play out as one of the great short comedy masterpieces.

    As for Irene, though it is a little annoying, the truth is that we often do come across these kinds of people in real life who enjoy the misery of others. I think a huge lasting appeal of Laurel and Hardy is that as ridiculous as their situations may be, their constant stream of bad luck does often relate to their audience. There are times where we may feel at a low point similarly to Hardy and I think it is partly because of this that we do find him so relatable. It’s sort of the same reason we may like Daffy Duck, because Daffy Duck often represents us as the viewers and we can relate to the pain he often feels because we have the same ambitions. Going back to Irene, she does represent the annoying person we may come across who likes ruining our day, but at the same time is not really an unbelievably unreasonable foe either. The cop doesn’t arrest Hardy, so it’s not like she made up some story that could have truly gotten him in that kind of trouble, and she’s not like Walter Long in ANY OLD PORT, who forces women to marry him against their wishes, or Blanche Payson in BELOW ZERO, who destroys Laurel and Hardy’s sole source of income during the time they need it most.

    So now that I’ve got that out of the way, what are my thoughts on THE MUSIC BOX as a whole? I love this short and think that it is one of the best examples of how to make a three-reel comedy right. A lot of this is due to Laurel and Hardy’s comedic timing and not just in the stairs sequence either. Take for example the switching hats scene. We’ve seen this before, in some situations done better than others, but to me this is the definitive version. The first two times are done basically the same; Stan throws down the wrong hat and then it’s almost forgotten...until they both fall out the window and once again unintentionally switch hats. Once again, this brief break before bringing back the gag helps tremendously in keeping something that technically is monotonous and unimportant actually turn out as a wonderfully played out comedic routine.

    I must admit that I have been missing Edgar Kennedy’s presence in these films and most of the Laurel and Hardy films have been missing that wonderful comically played anger that he had. Billy Gilbert, thankfully, makes up for that. Gilbert was an actor with an impressive array of credits, including the voice of Sneezy in SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS as well as playing Herring in THE GREAT DICTATOR. To me, though, THE MUSIC BOX is Gilbert’s greatest performance. Everything with him is just wonderful, from his overreaction to the concept of walking around the piano to his unbelievable hatred of pianos to his salute during the Star-Spangled Banner. This is probably my favorite non-Laurel and Hardy performance in a Laurel and Hardy film.

    One moment I especially love is after coming across Charlie Hall again, Laurel and Hardy decide to take the other way he suggested despite the fact that they already have brought up the piano, losing all the progress they’ve made once more. All those falls into the fountain get laughs from me as well. Really, it is hard to pick out favorite bits because there are too many to choose from; there are just so many great gags in here that really all I can say is you have to witness it for yourself.

    I guess the one thing that does bother me is the ending with von Schwarzenhoffen’s wife. She ordered this piano as a present for her husband despite the fact that she knows her husband absolutely despises pianos? Honestly, though, this is so minor that I’m willing to forgive it. This short was definitely worthy of its Academy Award.

    10 out of 10