Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Leo McCarey|
|Produced by||Hal Roach|
|Written by||Lewis R. Foster (story)
Leo McCarey (story)
H.M. Walker (titles)
|Edited by||Richard C. Currier|
English (Original intertitles)
Wrong Again is a 1929 two-reel comedy silent film starring Laurel and Hardy. It was shot in October and November 1928, and released February 23, 1929, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Although it is a silent film, it was released with a synchronised music and sound-effects track in theatres equipped for sound.
Stable grooms Laurel and Hardy overhear news of a $5,000 reward for the return of the stolen painting The Blue Boy, but think the reward is for the horse at their barn named Blue Boy. When they bring the horse to the painting's owner, he speaks to them from an upstairs window where he can't see the steed; he tells them to bring Blue Boy in the house and put "him" on the piano. This triggers a running gag where Ollie explains patiently to Stan that (Scott Fitzgerald aside), the rich are different from you and me. He punctuates his lesson with a twisting gesture of his hand to demonstrate the 180-degree difference between the classes.
The three come clumping through the front door while the millionaire upstairs takes a bath — "and it ain't even Saturday," a title card informs us. Ollie has an altercation with a nude statue, which snaps into three pieces after the two tumble to the floor; Hardy, ever the gentleman, safeguards the statue's modesty by wrapping its bare torso in his coat while he reassembles it. When the statue's back upright and Ollie removes the coat, the torso segment is backwards, so its backside protrudes out from where its midriff should be. Wrong again!
Meanwhile, the suddenly obstreperous Blue Boy has taken to chasing Stanley around the house, while a cross-cut reveals that the police have recovered the Blue Boy painting and are making plans to return it. Working together, The Boys manage to lead the horse over to the grand piano, and up he leaps to his high perch. Shots of the millionaire upstairs in his tub reveal that he's at least hearing the commotion below.
Things seem fine — Blue Boy is placidly up on the piano as his owner has asked — when suddenly a piano leg gives way and Ollie is left literally holding things up, about a ton of piano and horse. Stan rises to his usual degree of helpfulness as the horse, in a bravura performance, keeps nudging his derby off his head and Stan opts to keep retrieving the hat rather than help with the crisis at hand. They finally get the piano leg wedged back under the instrument, but not before Ollie's head gets squished between the two.
The three agents of The Boys' undoing all then converge in a perfect storm of bad luck: the millionaire's mother returns home (and gives the funniest look to her bizarrely deformed statue), the police arrive with the real Blue Boy, the recovered painting, and the refreshed millionaire descends from his bath to reveal the misunderstanding. Ollie twiddles his tie, apologies for the "faux pas" and he and Stan and Blue Boy make a hasty exit, followed by the irate millionaire with a shotgun. In the process, the priceless painting gets knocked to the floor on top of one of the detectives, whose face pops through the canvas in the exact right spot, replacing Blue Boy's face.
The short ends with a favorite Roach finale — a gag at the expense of a cop. This one has the officer as the literal butt of the joke: his rump is still smoking from the pellets delivered by the millionaire's shotgun.
Wrong Again contains a sight gag unknown to modern audiences. When the team first bring their equine meal ticket into the house, Stan lifts the lid off an urn, ties Blue Boy's rein to it and drops it on the floor. 1929 audiences would laugh at this as the insubstantial lid is a visual dead ringer for a horse anchor, an item still common in 1929. Drivers of horsedrawn wagons making deliveries would literally "drop anchor" while they ran their delivery into a house; the horse would be discouraged from wandering by the 25-pound weight of the anchor. This is not the only appearance of a horse anchor in a Laurel and Hardy film: they also have one at the ready in their Model T in the 1934 short Going Bye-Bye! to discourage the car from wandering away.
The working title of Wrong Again was Just the Reverse, a reference to the 180-degree hand-twist gesture that is a running gag throughout the film. Laurel and Hardy historian Randy Skretvedt writes that the gesture was a running gag around the Hal Roach Studios: creative sparkplug Leo McCarey would remind the writers that a dramatic episode could be infused with comedy by applying just a twist to make it funny. The gesture became a staple of writer-to-writer communication around the studio.
- Stan Laurel as Stan
- Oliver Hardy as Ollie
- Dell Henderson as Millionaire (uncredited)
- Josephine Crowell as Millionaire's Mother (uncredited)
- William Gillespie as Horse Owner (uncredited)
- Fred Holmes as Stableboy (uncredited)
- Sam Lufkin as Sullivan (uncredited)
- Harry Bernard as Policeman (uncredited)
- Charlie Hall as Neighbor (uncredited)
- Jack Hill as Man on Buckboard (uncredited)
- Fred Kelsey (uncredited)
- Anders Randolf (uncredited)
Wrong Again is one of the several silent Laurel and Hardy short films that were made with a synchronized music and sound effects track; after its initial theatrical run in 1929, it was rarely seen and overshadowed by the sound films. It would eventually be available a home-edition 8mm or 16mm film, and as such, almost always without its soundtrack.
Critic William K. Everson was among the first to cast a critical eye on the Laurel and Hardy films. Writing of Wrong Again in 1967, "An off-beat comedy that can only be seen at a disadvantage now in that it was made as both a silent and limited sound release, and undoubtedly paced for sound. Today  only the silent version survives, and at times seems awkward and unsure of itself. Nevertheless, it has some very funny moments.... There is a semi-surrealistic quality to many of the sight gags in Wrong Again." "This entertaining film is one of Laurel and Hardy's most bizarre" — by silent film authority Bruce Calvert while prolific critic Leslie Halliwell (who most likely only ever saw it as a silent) takes the exact opposite stand: "Pleasing but not very inventive star comedy." Glenn Mitchell added Wrong Again is among the most original Laurel and Hardy comedies, its gags alternately bizarre, risqué and imaginative knockabout.... The best copies of Wrong Again incorporate a restored disc accompaniment from the original release. The skilled orchestral arrangement and appropriate sound effects transform the film into a minor masterpiece, reminding modern audiences of the way silent films were presented at their zenith."
- Skretvedt, Randy, 1996. Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies. Beverly Hills, CA: Past Times Publishing. ISBN 0-940410-29-X
- Everson, William K. (1967). The Films of Laurel and Hardy. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-0146-4, p.76
- Calvert, Bruce at Allmovie.com, http://www.allmovie.com/work/137563
- Walker, John, ed. (1994). Halliwell's Film Guide. New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-273241-2, p.1329.
- Mitchell, Glenn (1995). The Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. ISBN 0-7134-7711-3., p.293