Written and filmed February, 1932. Released by MGM, June, 1932. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by James Parrott. Two reels.

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert, William Austin, May Wallace.

    STORY: Ollie is in the hospital with a broken leg. Stan pays him a visit, bearing a thoughtful gift of hard-boiled eggs and nuts. Stan causes so much trouble that an angry Dr. Gilbert orders both patient and guest out of the hospital at once. Before leaving, Stan accidentally sits on a hypodermic needle filled with sedative. He attempts to drive Ollie home, but is nearly asleep at the wheel, and the car careens wildly through the streets.


JB: I have complained about the end of this film ever since the first time I saw it, so let's get it out of the way: the end of this film stinks.  Instead of a great runaway car sequence like that in Hog Wild, we get some of the phoniest back projections I have ever seen in a movie.  I don't care what other theories people may have that this is actually a satire on movie-making - it just stinks.

     There, I've said it.  As for the rest of the film... it's Laurel and Hardy at their finest.  I've come to realize that the end of the film does not overwhelm the rest of it, but, in fact, the opposite is true: the first seventeen minutes of County Hospital is so good, I should just forget about the ending and remember all the L&H byplay, and the scenes where Stan does nothing but eat an egg and still make me laugh, Billy Gilbert going out the window, and all the other little moments that add up to an imperfect gem, a true diamond in the rough.  Ranks with their second tier best along with Chickens Come Home and others, and would have been a classic if they had done the runaway car scene correctly. 

JL: I can only echo what John B. says about the ending of this otherwise great film.  Ollie's over-the-top reactions are good for some mild laughs, but to contend the scene is a "satire on movie-making" seems like ad-hoc rationalization.  In other words, you can't enjoy the scene without apologizing for it first.  We laugh at the scene rather that with it, and I doubt this was the intention.

     But it's wonderful stuff up to that point.  The simple premise of Stan visiting Ollie in the hospital is loaded with comic potential, and the film does not disappoint in this regard.  All that poor Ollie needs to recover from his broken leg is some quiet time in bed, but this becomes an unattainable goal once Stan shows up.  Stan's innocent bungling causes Ollie to suffer pain that is probably more excruciating than when he broke his leg in the first place.  It's a great "cringe while you laugh" film.

     Stan Laurel once said, "What's funny?  How do I know?  Can you analyze it?  Can anybody?  All I know is how to make people laugh."  The egg-eating scene that John B. mentions is a good example of Stan's theory (or non-theory, if you will) of comedy.  It is two minutes of a man doing nothing but eating a hard-boiled egg.  No embellishment, no broad takes, no extraneous business outside of shaking a bit of salt and picking a few crumbs.  He just sits there and eats the egg with a blank unawareness of the outside world.  And it's utterly hilarious.  As Stan himself stated, it can't be analyzed.  All we can do is enjoy the genius of a man with an uncanny instinct for making people laugh.

Copyright © 2012 John Larrabee, John V. Brennan

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