If ever you’re feeling under the weather and want a quick pick me up, get on to YouTube and find a copy of Laurel and Harry’s Helpmates.
Shot in 1932, when the phenomenally successful duo were based at Hal Roach’s studio, Helpmates tells a simple story in its short 20 minute run time, but Stan and Ollie turn this into pure, comedy gold.
The plot: Ollie’s feisty wife has gone to stay with her mother and while the cat’s away …the mice get busy on the phone. Ollie throws a wild party, his home gets trashed and he loses all his money in a poker game. Shortly after he wakes up on ‘the morning after the night before’, a telegram arrives announcing his wife’s imminent return signalling the start of a massive, under pressure, clean up operation. And the fun.
Stan and Ollie milk the situation for all its worth, with perfectly timed knock about sight gags, inviting the audience to sympathise with them by ‘looks through the fourth wall’. A running series of disasters reduces Ollie’s wardrobe to just a fancy dress costume and the film ends with Ollie, a ‘sadder, wiser and dizzier man’, sitting in the burnt out shell of his home, in the rain, complete with a black eye.
This film delivers the goods and you’ll be laughing from the moment Ollie’s gives himself a telling off, to the end credits. Not bad for a film that’s 89 years old.
Simple, smart, funny.