Written sometime mid-to-late 1944. Filmed November-December 1944. Released by 20th Century Fox May 1945. Produced by William Girard. Directed by Malcolm St. Clair.
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Richard Lane, Ralph Sanford, Edward Gargan, Diosa Costello, Carol Andrews.
STORY: In Mexico, Detectives Laurel and Hardy are on the trail of the evil Larceny Nell, but they get distracted by the usual assortment of Fox Studio gangsters. One of the gangsters notices Stan's remarkable resemblence to Don Sebastian, the great bullfighter. A lightbulb goes off in his head. Wackiness ensues.
you ignore the lesser parts, THE BULLFIGHTERS is a pleasant
experience. For the first time in a while, we actually feel that we are
with Stan and Ollie, not celebrity impersonators. They look like
themselves (despite Stan's slicked-down hair), they act like
themselves, they do gags and routines that actually fit their
characters, and, thankfully, they are at the center of their own film.
No boy kings, no inventors, no young lovers. What's going on here?
Didn't anybody tell them this was a Fox film?
I have to say a word here about Edward Gargan (previously unmemorable in A-HAUNTING WE WILL GO), and that word would be "terrific!". In his short scene in the hotel lobby, where he engages in a water fight with The Boys, Gargan displays more understanding of Laurel and Hardy's comedy style than any of their co-stars since Edgar Kennedy. He's the type of supporting player that could have helped spice up so many of the scenes from the past few Laurel and Hardy films. What a shame that he only entered the L&H world so late in the game.
According to co-star Dick Lane (as quoted by Scott MacGillivray), Stan Laurel directed this scene himself, one of the rare times he had any real input at Fox. Laurel reportedly directed the followup scene, a recreation of the egg-breaking routine from HOLLYWOOD PARTY with Carol Andrews filling in nicely for Lupe Velez.
Not every comic opportunity is explored, fully milked or executed perfectly, but the first half of the movie works on an FLYING DEUCES level - workmanlike and amusing. The second half of the film, when Stan substitutes for Don Sebastian, the great toreador who just happens to be Stan's doppelganger! gets a bit tiresome. Everything falls apart in the final ten minutes, when Stan (as Don Sebastian) pretends to fight stock footage of a bull, another character mistakenly refers to Laurel as "Hardy", and The Boys act frightened in an effort to make it look like something significant is actually happening onscreen.
The film is surely no classic. However, every once in THE BULLFIGHTERS, the Boys walk onscreen and do some pretty funny things, and that makes it worthwhile.
Meanwhile, Larceny Nell is still at large.