Our Relations

Gasser

Our Relations (1936)

     With every Laurel and Hardy movie or short I watch, I warm more to their humor. Our Relations would be my favorite thus far and is just a riot of misunderstandings.

     Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy open the film at the dinner table with their wives. The two are best friends and when the women are away discuss their twin brothers, which Ollie’s mother writes have been executed after getting into trouble at sea. The rest of the film centers more around those relatives –Alf Laurel and Bert Hardy– and the trouble they create. It turns out that part of the families is in fact not dead, but still working on a boat. They have docked in the same town as their brothers but will not run into them until the film’s close. In the meantime, a shipmate has convinced the men to hand over all but $1 of their salary for him to “save and invest”. The bumbling duo is also tasked with picking up and delivering a package for the captain that turns out to be a rather large pearl ring. While at a restaurant, two young women notice the ring and assume the chaps are loaded, so when the couples join up for a meal, the gals order everything on the menu.

     Alf and Bert have already annoyed the restaurant waiter (Alan Hale) so when they attempt to leave to “get a change of clothes” and their money, the waiter requires them to leave collateral, so they offer up the ring. When they find the shipmate who is keeping their dough, Finn (James Finlayson), he refuses to give the money back … which leads to the stealing/hocking of Finn’s clothes … which progresses to the loaning of Alf and Bert’s clothes back to Finn … which leads to the men wandering about in sheets and towel turbans. I could go on for a while explaining the plot but it only gets more complicated. Eventually the paths of the twins overlap with Stan and Ollie and their wives suspect they’ve cheated on them with the two restaurant dames. The waiter is also taking things out on the wrong Laurel and Hardy, and the pearl ring is being handed off to all the wrong people.

     The first really funny moment for me was when Alf and Bert are initially in the restaurant. In order to talk over their money situation privately, they head for a phone booth. After squeezing in together to chat, the phone rings and a drunk chap carrying armfuls of goods also presses into the small box. Faces are smashed against the glass, Laurel is stepped on and milk is spilt on the men’s heads. Finally, the booth tips over and shatters with the drunk fellow never able to properly hold a conversation with his wife at the other end of the line. The scene was humor without words and really great.

     One scene toward the end has both sets of Laurel and Hardy in the same restaurant. Confusing interaction between the pairs has them mispaired at one point and the viewer starts to question who is who. The movie magic techniques used to place double the Laurel and double the Hardy in one scene at the same time is done in multiple ways. At this restaurant, obvious back projection has one set of protagonists walking behind the other two sitting at a table and vice versa. Other scenes involve body doubles, editing that switches back and forth between the pairs without showing them at the same time, and finally a split screen technique where the respective twins walk side by side without crossing the center line.

     I do not recall Hardy ever visually addressing the camera in Our Relations as he often did to share with the audience his frustration over whatever Laurel was putting him through. In this movie, the two are essentially in the same boat at all times with Laurel being only slightly dimmer than his companion.

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