04/04/2010

Busy Bodies (1933)


From Fred and Ginger to another great double act of the Hollywood Golden Age, Laurel and Hardy. It's amazing how often you can watch the same two people doing the same thing over and over again. No matter how many times you see Astaire and Rogers overcome their various misunderstandings, complications and entanglements to fall in love and throw themselves around a big white set, they never lose the magic. Similarly, no matter what ludicrous scrapes Stan and Ollie find themselves in they always make it worth your while. Their partnership too is a kind of co-dependent love affair - the perpetually exasperated Ollie daring to hope that this time things will be different and the frowning, childlike Stan rely on each other to get by in a hard world - as well as a tribute to the joys of ineptitude and unshakeable optimism against all evidence to the contrary.


Along with the likes of the French Foreign Legion-set Beau Hunks (1931) and The Music Box (1932), in which the hapless buffoons find themselves charged with shifting a piano up a steep L.A. stoop, Busy Bodies is one of their best-ever Hal Roach sound shorts. Benefitting from the simplicity of its set-up - the boys doing a day's work at a sawmill - there's plenty of expert pratfalls and a death-defying ending that anticipates Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) and still makes audiences gasp. Two chumps falling over, breaking things and slapping each other with saws will always be funny, the paint brush bristle shaving scene is masterful and you've got to love the fact that their car stereo is a fully-functioning gramophone hooked up to the dashboard. Gangsta.

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