One Good Turn

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

The boys are out, camping. Ollie is washing clothes in a stream. He finishes scrubbing a couple of articles, and calls Stan over. “Hang these clean clothes on the line,” he says. “And it must follow, as the night to day…”

Stan trips over the tent’s guy rope, which causes the tent to collapse and roll into the fire. He makes his way to the stream where Ollie is still scrubbing those clothes. Stan, holding a cup, walks through the stream to a water pump that’s on the other side. He fills the cup, walks back through the stream, and then throws the water on the fire. He repeats this action, several times. Not surprisingly, his efforts are insufficient.

Frustrating, says a certain type of viewer. (Cf. Perfect Day, q.v.) That’s definitely true. But isn’t what Stan is doing resonant, somehow mythological? Sisyphus, Tantalus. Prometheus!

Later on there’s a kind of a food fight. It is a food fight that proceeds very, very slowly. Also, a motor vehicle is destroyed. Emphatically.

L&H aficionados (see publications by John McCabe [1961] and Randy Skretvedt [1987]) remember One Good Turn for its unusual conclusion. For a brief period Stan’s little daughter Lois was reportedly afraid of Oliver Hardy, because she always saw him—in the films—being impatient or angry with, even abusive toward her father. This was in turn upsetting to Stan, for Lois’s sake, and also because Ollie was in real life, for decades and decades, his very dearest friend. Stan hated to have any one think ill of him. To remedy the situation, he inserted a sequence into this film in which Stanley pummels Ollie for once. Apparently, this remedy worked, which makes me reconsider the ways that I had always gone about trying to teach my own children things …