Beau Hunks

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

There’s a knock on the door. Stan picks up the telephone. Here is one of the great dad or grandpa jokes ever. Or is it one of the worst? Or are those two things the same? Maybe this great and terrible dad/grandpa joke actually provides a key to the understanding and enjoying of these films. There’s a measure of aggravation, undeniably. But there’s also such gravity and tenderness at the core! In domestic settings this kind of thing is an indirect, modest, possibly hesitant or uncertain expression of esteem and affection. The old fellows feel it, but they also feel to hide it, or displace it. Maybe we’ve been responding inappropriately, all of this time.

The man at the door has brought the boys a letter. It is perfumed. Stan smells it and his hat pops off. The perfumed letter is from Jeanie Weenie (and contains a photograph of Jean Harlow), telling Ollie that it’s over between them. Watch the delightful thing that Ollie does with his body after saying “Come, Stanley.” Also watch Stan bonk Ollie on the nose when he opens the door, which causes him to stumble back and fall on a spring that has conveniently, as part of an earlier gag, been placed on the floor. Ollie bounces, implausibly way up high, then comes crashing down on his piano and destroys the entire room. As we’ve mentioned, they do this kind of thing quite often.

The boys join the French Foreign Legion, of course, to forget. They have a tremendous conversation with the commanding officer, or at least with his adjutant. This conversation leaves said adjutant positively apoplectic. This is interesting, ideologically. It’s Stan that’s done it, of course, and in doing so he is tracing an important alternative to resisting or opposing authority. This isn’t outright revolution. It’s not nonviolent resistance either. Rather, this splits those two approaches right down the middle. This is satirical subversion, as in, say Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk. L&H don’t always or often get credit for anything so pointed, or political. They should, though.

The boys are in a big dormitory, with a bunch of other men. “What’s wrong?” asks Ollie. Stan replies. “Can I get a room by myself?” “Certainly. I’ll get you a room with a bath,” says Ollie. Stan smiles happily.

All of the rest of the men who have joined up have a photo of Jeanie Weenie with them.

The boys are called in, and have a conversation with that previous adjutant. When it comes time to leave, Stan picks or puts on the wrong hat, seven different, provocative, maddening, virtuosically varied times.

That Arab antagonist looks and sounds suspiciously like Jimmy Finlayson. Later, the antagonistic and commanding Arab sheik, having had his forces defeated and captured—by a barrel full of tacks—is found also to have a photograph of the perfidious Jeanie Weenie.