JL: Long-heralded as one of their
true silent classics, Two Tars
is almost a primer on "How to Make a Silent Comedy." No
construction to be found here -- it's obviously a case of piling one
ingenious sight gag on top of another, plot be damned. Though
has been reported that Stan and Leo McCarey envisioned the film as an
organic whole, the individual sequences are as loosely connected as can
be. This, plus the fact that several stills exist of
shot-but-deleted scenes, indicates that this may have been a case of
"Let's put the Boys in sailor outfits and see what happens."
The film opens with a montage of patriotic images honoring our fighting men of the sea, although there's really no need for Laurel and Hardy to be cast as sailors -- save for the fact that comely young ladies seem to find Stan and Ollie instantly attractive once they're dressed in their "Crackerjacks." In both this film and Men O' War, the sight of the Boys coyly flirting with their girlfriends-for-a-day is one of the highlights. In fact, it is in the first reel of Two Tars that we find the most characteristic L&H moments (it is also the first film to reveal that Stan seems to have an obsession with monkeying around with the gearshift for no particular reason whenever he gets behind the wheel of a car). Holler me down like Mae Busch on a tyrade if you must, but it is for this reason that I prefer the first half of the film more so than the more famous traffic-jam second reel.
While the traffic-jam sequence may contain an endless series of brilliant sight gags, there's also something a bit calculated about it that keeps it from being in the same league as their other reciprocal-destruction silent classic Big Business. The gags seem to clutter, there's no real build to the sequence, and it lacks the looney, freewheeling quality of their best slapstick bits. And it's yet another example of a scene that would have been just as good with anyone other than Laurel and Hardy doing it. Yes, I think Two Tars is a very good film, but I place it a notch below its reputation.