The Music Box (1932) – James Parrott

Philip Kemp’s Movies book leaps a little forward in time to bring me a comedic short starring that iconic pair, Stan Laurel, and Oliver Hardy. In this half hour short, the pair struggle to deliver a piano up a the most imposing flight of stairs I’ve seen since those featured in The Exorcist. Something that gives them no end to grief, and the viewer, laughs.

Going into business themselves, the boys start a delivery company, and they are commissioned to deliver a player piano as a surprise birthday gift. With address in hand, the duo find themselves facing a dizzying stairway, as well as those who want to use it, and not go around the hard-working, accident prone pair.

The laughs are honest, and well-earned, there are wonderful comedic bits, and physical gags, and you can see the payoff coming from a mile away for the film’s end, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

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The duo have great chemistry, brilliant comedic timing, and are so adept at their craft that all it takes is a facial expression to elicit a laugh. It’s hard to believe that the subject matter, getting a piano up a flight of stairs and delivered to the appropriate house could entertain for half an hour, but it does, and actually left me wanting more.

I don’t want to spoil any of the gags, but they all play out wonderfully, and there are character types running around in the film that have endured to this day, and who you definitely want to see receive their comeuppance.

And some of them do.

But let’s be honest, you watch a Laurel and Hardy short to see the pair interact, get into trouble, make faces, and blame one another for their troubles, and that’s all here. I find these shorts absolutely captivating, and goes to show that there is some humour, some comedy styles, and acts that are meant to endure, and Laurel & Hardy, like the Marx Brothers, like the Three Stooges and the Little Rascals, are icons of a bygone age that live on (boy, that Hal Roach knew what he was doing).

And happily, there are so many more of their shorts for me to get through, as I’ve just really started getting into them. Still, this is the only one mentioned in Kemp’s book, so I will be leaping on to something else soon, but I bet I discover another fantastic title I hadn’t seen or reviewed before.

Whose your favourite comedy group from that era of film?

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