Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, August 4, 2008


BABES IN TOYLAND (1934). Directed by Gus Meins and Charley Rogers.

Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) and Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) are tenants in the shoe of Mrs. Peep (Florence Roberts), mother of Little Bo-Peep (Charlotte Henry). Unfortunately the mortgage on the shoe is held by the sinister Silas Barnaby (Harry Kleinbach -- see more on him below), who will accept the hand of Bo-Peep in marriage in lieu of the latest payment. Trying to help Widow Peep secure the money, Stannie and Ollie only make things worse. After many very amusing complications, it all ends up with the boys saving the town from the boogie men in Boogeyland with the 100 wind-up soldiers that they accidentally made six feet tall instead of 12 inches.

Babes in Toyland (retitled March of the Wooden Soldiers for TV and to distinguish it from a later Walt Disney production) is irresistible and utterly charming. Laurel and Hardy are at the top of their game, and the supporting cast is very well chosen. As Bo-Peep's boyfriend Tom-Tom, Felix Knight exhibits a fine singing voice; he should have had a bigger career in movies. The score by Victor Herbert is romantic and melodious (albeit most of the lyrics are pretty silly). There are too many great scenes to mention but I always get a kick out of the mouse (a chimp in a mouse outfit? -- I've never figured it out) flying across Toyland in a miniature zeppelin and lobbing firecrackers at boogeymen! The boogeymen themselves are scary enough to frighten big children, and the whole production is wonderfully elaborate.

NOTE: Harry Kleinbach was also known as Henry Brandon (his usual billing in later years); a very busy and versatile actor with many, many credits, he had the title role in the serial Drums of Fu Manchu (1940) and was also in the cast of The Land Unknown (1957) and many others.

Verdict: A delight from start to finish! ****.

No comments: