Babes in Toyland (1934 film)
|Babes in Toyland|
theatrical release poster (1934)
|Directed by||Gus Meins
|Produced by||Hal Roach|
|Screenplay by||Frank Butler
|Based on||Babes in Toyland (1903 operetta) by
Anna Alice Chapin
|Music by||Victor Herbert (operetta)
|Edited by||Bert Jordan
William H. Terhune
|November 30, 1934|
67 minutes (Britannic cut)
Babes in Toyland is a Laurel and Hardy musical film released on November 30, 1934. The film is also known by its alternate titles Laurel and Hardy in Toyland, Revenge Is Sweet (the 1948 European reissue title), March of the Wooden Soldiers and Wooden Soldiers (in the United States).
Based on Victor Herbert's popular 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland, the film was produced by Hal Roach, directed by Charles Rogers and Gus Meins, and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film was originally produced in black-and-white, but there are two computer colorized versions.
Although the 1934 film makes use of many of the characters in the original play, as well as several of the songs, the plot is almost completely unlike that of the original stage production. In contrast to the stage version, the film's story takes place entirely in Toyland, which is inhabited by Mother Goose (Virginia Karns) and other well known fairy tale characters.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) and Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy), live in a shoe (as in the nursery rhyme There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe), along with Mother Peep (the Old Woman), Bo Peep (Charlotte Henry), a mouse resembling Mickey Mouse (and actually played by a live monkey in a costume), and many other children. The mortgage on the shoe is owned by the villainous Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon), who is looking to marry Bo Peep. Knowing the Widow Peep is having a difficult time paying the mortgage, Barnaby offers the old woman an ultimatum – unless Bo Peep agrees to marry him he will foreclose on the shoe. Widow Peep refuses, but is worried about where she'll get the money to pay the mortgage. Ollie offers her all the money he has stored away in his savings can, only to learn that Stannie has taken it to buy peewees (a favored toy consisting of a wooden peg with tapered ends that rises in the air when struck with a stick near one end and is then caused to fly through the air by being struck again with the stick). He and Stannie set out to get the money for the mortgage from their boss, the Toymaker (William Burress). But Stannie has mixed up an order from Santa Claus (building 100 wooden soldiers at six feet tall, instead of 600 soldiers at one foot tall) and one of the soldiers, when activated, wrecks the toy shop. Stannie and Ollie are fired without getting the money.
The two then hatch a plan to sneak into Barnaby's house and steal the mortgage, but are again foiled by their incompetence. Barnaby has them arrested on a burglary charge, and the two are sentenced to be dunked in the ducking stool and then banished to Bogeyland. But Barnaby agrees to drop the charges if Bo Peep will marry him. She reluctantly agrees, but not before Ollie suffers the dunking.
Stannie and Ollie come up with a new scheme. At the wedding, Ollie is present to give the bride away. After the nuptials, but before the ceremonial kiss, Ollie asks for the "wedding present" (the mortgage) from Barnaby. After inspecting it, Ollie tears it up, and then lifts the bride's veil — to reveal Stannie, who had worn Bo Peep's wedding dress to the ceremony. Bo Peep is still free, and the mortgage is gone. Ollie teases Stan about having to live with Barnaby as Stan cries saying "I don't LOVE him".
Enraged, Barnaby plots his revenge, eventually hitting on the idea of framing Bo Peep's true love, Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son (Felix Knight), on a trumped-up charge of "pignapping", and getting him banished to Bogeyland. Barnaby proceeds to abduct Little Elmer (Angelo Rossitto), one of the Three Little Pigs, and then has a henchman plant false evidence (including sausage links) in Tom-Tom's house. Tom-Tom is put on trial, convicted, and banished to Bogeyland, which he is taken to on a raft by two hooded executioners across an alligator infested river. A distraught but brave Bo Peep follows him.
Meanwhile, Ollie and Stannie find evidence implicating Barnaby in the pignapping, including the fact that the alleged sausage links presented as evidence at Tom-Tom's trial are made of beef. They later find the kidnapped pig alive in Barnaby's cellar.
A manhunt commences for Barnaby, who flees to Bogeyland through a secret passageway at the bottom of an empty well. Stannie and Ollie eventually follow Barnaby down the well. Meanwhile, Bo Peep crosses the river to Bogeyland, finds Tom-Tom and explains Barnaby's trickery to him.
In a sequence cut from many of the later television prints (the version shown on WPIX in New York retains this sequence), Tom-Tom sings Victor Herbert's Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep to Bo-Peep in an enormous cave set with giant spider webs. Barnaby catches up to Tom-Tom and Bo-Peep, and attempts to abduct Bo-Peep but gets into a fight with Tom-Tom, who gives Barnaby a well-deserved thrashing. An enraged Barnaby grabs a large stick and beats a stalactite to summon an army of Bogeymen, who chase Bo-Peep and Tom-Tom through the caverns of Bogeyland. The lovers run into Stannie and Ollie, who help them escape back through the well and are welcomed by the town, who now realize Barnaby's treachery. Barnaby leads an invasion of Toyland on a fleet of rafts in a scene reminiscent of the painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Ollie and Stan tell their story to Old King Cole (Kewpie Morgan), the King of Toyland, and the townspeople as two Bogeymen scale the wall and open the gate. The crowd flees in panic as the army of torch-wielding Bogeymen attacks Toyland. Ollie and Stannie run and hide in the toy shop. There they discover boxes of darts and use them to fight off the Bogeymen, thanks to Stan's skill with the game of "peewees" (and help from the three little pigs and the mouse). Stan and Ollie then empty an entire box of darts into a cannon, but as the two search for the last remaining darts, they realize instead that they should activate the wooden soldiers. The "march" alluded to in the film's title begins as the soldiers march out of the toy shop (filmed in a stop-motion animation sequence by Roy Seawright). The scene changes to live action as the soldiers attack the Bogeymen with the bayonets of their rifles. Barnaby is defeated and trapped and covered by blocks that spell "rat", while the Bogeymen are routed and driven back into Bogeyland, where alligators appear to feast on them, although this is never made clear. The kingdom of Toyland is saved. Stan and Ollie decide to give the Bogeymen a parting shot with the dart-filled cannon. As Stan aims the cannon and lights the fuse, and Ollie turns away to avoid the loud blast, the barrel of the cannon flips backwards and unleashes the barrage of darts on Ollie, covering his back with darts. The film ends with Stan pulling them out one by one as Ollie winces.
The film featured only six musical numbers from the enormous stage score, though that was fitting for a musical with only a 78-minute running time. Included in the film, in the order in which they were performed, were "Toyland" (opening), "Never Mind Bo-Peep", "Castle in Spain", "Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)", and "March of the Toys" (an instrumental piece). Also included was an instrumental version of "I Can't do the Sum" for the running theme of Laurel and Hardy's scenes. The opening song was performed by Mother Goose and an offscreen chorus; most of the rest were sung by Bo Peep and/or Tom-Tom. While none of the songs were performed by Laurel and Hardy, the two briefly danced and marched in a memorable scene to "March of the Toys". Another song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" was not one of the original stage songs, but did appear in the Three Little Pigs segment, heard only as an instrumental piece.
Reviews from critics were positive. Andre Sennwald of The New York Times called it "an authentic children's entertainment and quite the merriest of its kind that Hollywood has turned loose on the nation's screens in a long time." Variety proclaimed it "a film par excellence for children. It's packed with laughs and thrills and is endowed with that glamour of mysticism which marks juvenile literature." "It's certainly far more successful than was last year's Alice in Wonderland, and the children will probably be far less bored by it than they generally are by those films designed especially for them," John Mosher wrote in The New Yorker. Film Daily called it "delightful musical fantasy" and "dandy entertainment". "It's been many a long day since I've had so much pure (and I MEAN pure!) fun as I had watching this picture," wrote the Chicago Tribune.
The movie was popular at the box office Babes in Toyland was one of many feature films with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. However, many years later in a filmed interview, Hal Roach admitted that on its first release the film lost money. After it appeared in theaters, it was re-released several times with the title constantly changed to make it seem to audiences that they were going to see a different film. Like the later M-G-M film, The Wizard Of Oz (which despite its popularity, was also a box-office disappointment on its first release in 1939), it was television which made Babes In Toyland the beloved classic it has become over the decades. It surfaced as a holiday movie on TV as March of the Wooden Soldiers, where it was rerun annually on some local affiliates for many years. On one local Atlanta station, the film was shown as a Thanksgiving special only a few weeks before the release of the 1961 Disney Technicolor remake, so that those who saw it and then saw the Disney version over the Christmas holiday had the experience of seeing two different versions of the same work within a few weeks of each other.
A holiday staple, many television stations in the United States showed this film near Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season each year during the 1960s and 1970s. In New York City, it continues to run (as of 2014) on WPIX as March of the Wooden Soldiers, airing on that station in daytime on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It also runs nationally on occasion on This TV.
Bogeyland is the abode of the "bogeymen" in the 1934 film (and the 1961 Technicolor remake from Walt Disney). In the story, Bogeyland is separated from Toyland by a crocodile-infested river situated just outside the gate of Toyland. It is a dark, cavernous place, where twisted cypress trees grow, and many stalactites and stalagmites protrude from its rocky landscape.
Citizens of Toyland who commit serious crimes are banished to Bogeyland. Those banished to Bogeyland never return; they are inevitably eaten alive by the bogeymen. The miserly Silas Barnaby (a character based on the English nursery rhyme "There Was A Crooked Man") has a secret tunnel to Bogeyland at the bottom of his well. In the climax of the film, Barnaby leads an army of bogeymen out of Bogeyland in an attempt to conquer Toyland, but is thwarted by Toyland's army of wooden soldiers.
In 1948, the 79-minute Babes in Toyland was edited into a 73-minute version for Lippert Pictures' theatrical reissue and was retitled March of the Wooden Soldiers. The very beginning of the opening tune "Toyland" was trimmed and the "Go To Sleep (Slumber Deep)" number was cut completely. Also missing was Barnaby's attempted abduction of Little Bo-Peep and his ultimate fistfight with Tom-Tom. Because no copyright notice was included, some believe this version immediately went into the public domain (in the United States), even though the original Babes in Toyland is still under copyright. When the film was sold to television, the TV prints retained the opening credit's music but used specially made for TV opening credits showing puppets of Laurel and Hardy in traditional 1930s attire and hats.
The complete film was restored and colorized for TV showings and video release in 1991 by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. In 2006, the complete print was again restored and colorized by Legend Films, using the latest technology. Although the Legend Films release was advertised under its reissue title, both the color and black-and-white prints featured the original title and opening credits. Both colorized versions correctly depict Laurel's hair as being red, not medium brown as it appears in other colorized Laurel and Hardy movies.
The film has been distributed by many home video companies over the decades. Thunderbird Films released 16 mm prints in the 1970s drawn from a heavily spliced (and incomplete) master. An "official" version has been released on DVD by MGM, the film's original distributor and now the ancillary rights holder (having inherited the film from the Samuel Goldwyn Company, the former owners of the picture). On September 14, 2010, Legend Films released the movie on Blu-ray titled March of the Wooden Soldiers With Laurel & Hardy. This Blu-ray also contains the animated 1948 short Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- "Calendar of Current Releases". Variety (New York: Variety, Inc.): p. 25. December 25, 1934.
- Maltin, Leonard, ed. (2007). Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide. New York: Signet. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-451-22186-5.
- Sennwald, Andre (December 13, 1934). "Movie Review - Babes in Toyland". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
- "Babes in Toyland". Variety (New York: Variety, Inc.): p. 12. December 16, 1934.
- Mosher, John C. (December 22, 1934). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker (New York: F-R Publishing Corp.): p. 50.
- "Reviews of the New Films". Film Daily (New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.): p. 11. November 12, 1934.
- "Movie Story Set In Toyland Is Grand Fun". Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago: Chicago Daily Tribune): p. 27. December 14, 1934.
- Churchill, Douglas W. The Year in Hollywood: 1934 May Be Remembered as the Beginning of the Sweetness-and-Light Era (gate locked); New York Times [New York, N.Y] 30 Dec 1934: X5. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- Barr, Charles. 1968. Laurel & Hardy. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 90. OCLC 291931
- Everson, William K. 1967. The Complete Films of Laurel and Hardy. Citadel Press. p. 160. ISBN 0806501464
- David, Pierce (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313. See pg. 130
- "Alternate Versions for Babes in Toyland (1934)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
- "ASIN: 6303625800". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
- "The original Babes in colour". Blotto Online. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
- "ASIN: B000HLDFKO". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
- The trailer for Legend Films' colorized version of the film can be seen here
- 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.
- Babes in Toyland at the Internet Movie Database
- Babes in Toyland at AllMovie
- Babes in Toyland at the TCM Movie Database
- Babes in Toyland at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Babes in Toyland at Rotten Tomatoes
- The international Laurel and Hardy society, Sons of the Desert
- original film trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPf8HTipQxc
- The Making of a Christmas Classic