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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John G. Blystone|
|Produced by||Hal Roach Jr.
|Written by||Felix Adler
|Music by||Marvin Hatley|
|Edited by||Bert Jordan|
|Release date(s)||August 19, 1938|
|Running time||57' 23"|
Block-Heads is a 1938 comedy film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, produced by Hal Roach Studios for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film, a reworking of elements from the Laurel and Hardy shorts We Faw Down (1928) and Unaccustomed As We Are (1929), was Roach's final film for MGM, and is remembered as one of Laurel and Hardy's most successful films.
The film opens in the trenches of World War I where Ollie, Stan and the rest of their army company are ready to go 'over the top', but Stan is ordered to stay behind to guard the trench. Stock scenes of fighting are then seen followed by the caption 'Armistice'. Twenty years pass, and Stan is still guarding the post, as shown by the huge pile of bean cans he has accumulated, and the path he has worn pacing back and forth on guard. He is found by accident (after firing on a plane he sees approaching) and is brought home, feted as a hero. Ollie, who has been married for a year to the formidable Mrs Hardy (Minna Gombell), sees him in a newspaper and visits him in the veterans' home. He finds Stan in a wheelchair, having apparently lost a leg, and invites him home. However, Stan is in fact just resting in another veteran's wheelchair and Ollie only finds out he still has both legs after pushing him around in the chair and then carrying him. Ollie, angrily: "Why didn't you tell me you had two legs?" Stan: "Well, you didn't ask me." They reach Ollie's automobile, which he says belongs to his wife and is 'practically new', but it is boxed in by a dump truck. Stan climbs into the cab to move it and inadvertently operates the dump mechanism, burying the car in sand and leaving only Ollie's head exposed. It is then completely wrecked when Ollie demonstrates the automatic garage door at his home and allows Stan to drive the car in to test it.
There is then a lengthy scene of the pair attempting to climb thirteen flights of stairs to Ollie's apartment because they think the elevator is out of order. They are resting near the top when a top hat-wearing man with a cane (James Finlayson) insults Ollie, leading him to challenge him to a fight outside. They return down the stairs, picking up spectators along the way. After settling the disagreement, the pair finally reach the top of the stairs, where they run into a brattish kid (Tommy Bond) with a football. Ollie kicks his ball down the stairwell, where it hits the face of a man speaking on a telephone at reception. The kid's burly father emerges and orders Ollie back down the stairs to fetch it. After a 'tit-for-tat' fight with the father, the ball is kicked down the stairwell again and hits the man in the face a second time. When they finally reach the apartment, Ollie's wife wants Stan to leave immediately, as she is disgusted with the bums he brings home. When food is demanded she walks out, leaving Ollie to prepare a meal for Stan, but the pair only succeed in blowing up the kitchen.
Across the hall, Ollie's attractive neighbor, Mrs Gilbert (Patricia Ellis), offers to help clear up the mess. She is then soaked by a bowl of punch (the only item left unscathed from the kitchen explosion) and the only dry clothing Ollie can find is a pair of his enormous pajamas. Mrs Hardy then returns, because her car is wrecked, and Ollie tries to conceal Mrs Gilbert by covering her with a cloth to make her resemble a chair. After Stan unwittingly sits on her, Ollie hides her inside a trunk. All this time, Mrs. Hardy has been quarreling with Ollie, and finally leaves. Big-game hunter Mr Gilbert (Billy Gilbert) then arrives and the wife reveals herself after he boasts about his extra-marital conquests. He then chases Stan and Ollie back down the stairs, blasting at them with a shotgun, missing the duo, but hitting everything else. A large number of philandering husbands jump out of windows with trousers off.
- Stan Laurel - Stan
- Oliver Hardy - Ollie
- Patricia Ellis - Mrs. 'Toots' Gilbert
- Minna Gombell - Mrs. Hardy
- Billy Gilbert - Mr. Gilbert
- James Finlayson - Finn (man on stairs)
- Zeffie Tilbury - Dowager seated near stairs
- Harry Anderson - Doorman
- Mike Behegan - Bugler
- Patsy Moran - Lulu
- James C. Morton - James, porter
- Karl Slover - Midget
- Chill Wills - Midget (voice)
- Tommy Bond - Neighbor's son
- Ed Brandenburg - Pedestrian
- Tex Driscoll - Bearded veteran
- The film was announced as being the last Laurel & Hardy movie and it was the last Hal Roach production for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
- Block-Heads was the last film directed by John G. Blystone who died shortly afterwards.
- The original ending in the script had Billy Gilbert seated comfortably in his study, with Stan and Ollie's heads mounted on his trophy wall (Ollie glances at Stan and says, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"). Hal Roach vetoed the idea as "too gruesome", but writer Felix Adler later used the gag at the end of The Three Stooges' 1941 short, I'll Never Heil Again.
- The battle scenes at the beginning of the film were taken from a 1925 silent movie called The Big Parade.
- Everson, William K. The Complete Films of Laurel and Hardy. New York: Citadel, 2000, (first edition 1967). ISBN 0-8065-0146-4.
- Louvish, Simon. Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy. London: Faber & Faber, 2001. ISBN 0-571-21590-4.
- McCabe, John. Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy. London: Robson Books Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-86105-781-4.
- McCabe, John with Al Kilgore and Richard W. Bann. Laurel & Hardy. New York: Bonanza Books, 1983, first edition 1975, E.P. Dutton. ISBN 978-0-491-01745-9.
- McGarry, Annie. Laurel & Hardy. London: Bison Group, 1992. ISBN 0-86124-776-0.
- Block-Heads at the Internet Movie Database
- Block-Heads at the TCM Movie Database
- Block-Heads at Rotten Tomatoes