Many films, even in the modern era, suffer from continuity lapses and discrepancies. What we mean by the former is where props, scenery and even lines differ or change erroneously from scene to scene. If you need any examples, look for the cars visible in Braveheart and Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, Gas cylinders on chariots in Gladiator, Harry Potter’s changing scar and the wristwatch in Ben Hur.
There are several of these in virtually every film, and even the 2019 movie Stan and Ollie is no exception. Case in point being where following his heart attack, Stan takes an in-bed Babe some hard boiled eggs. The eggs are placed on the bed but when Stan climbs in with Babe, the eggs have vanished.
Even though the majority of Laurel and Hardy comedies were shot largely in sequence, Stan frequently added additional scenes, deleted sequences that had already been shot and changed routines to get more laughs following preview screenings, or if he felt they didn’t work as well as he thought they would. Even when shooting in sequence, a scene shot on a Friday afternoon and completed on Monday morning might have inconsistencies in it.
Some might say – with some justification – that in pointing such instances out I am denigrating the films. Others would however counter that; To notice errors in continuity etc is to really appreciate the films and to better understand how they were created. In many cases, the lapse is simply down to budgetary demands having an impact where even when an error was noticed; reshooting to cover off continuity errors etc would not be sanctioned by Hal Roach and later Henry Ginsberg (Studio Manger 1931-36) on grounds of cost.
So, I make no apologies for reproducing these as I have always found such instances fascinating and they have enhanced my appreciation of the movies I have loved so well for so long. Here then are some of the continuity errors and discrepancies that have been spotted over the years.
I am indebted to Willie MacIntyre and my historical issues of his wonderful Bowler Desert magazine and the correspondents who spotted these and sent them in to him over the years – of whom I was one of the many! There are many more of course and if you know of any, please let me know and I will be happy to add them to the below. I am still on the lookout and will add more as I come across them. Mike Jones
Note that these are in alphabetical order and that each entry can also be found on the relevant film page which you will be taken directly to by clicking on the film title.
Another Fine Mess: Lord Leopold Plumtree (Charles Gerrard) is wearing a handkerchief in his top pocket. This changes variously throughout the film between barely visible to hanging halfway down his jacket.
Babes in Toyland / March of the Wooden Soldiers: Ollie is being ‘Dunked’ before being banished to Bogeyland. After the dunking jib snaps, when he re-emerges from the depths he can clearly be seen to be holding on to his wig to keep it in place.
Bacon Grabbers: Near the start of the film, the boys exit a building and Ollie tells stan to “close the door” a simple instruction Stan manages to get wrong. Ollie takes over and slams it causing debris to fall onto his hat. He shakes it off, but in the next shot, the debris has returned to his hat.
Battle of the Century: The pie salesman and the dentist are played by the same person, George French.
As the boys leave the pie fight, they move out of the shot to the right each holding a pie. As they enter the next shot from the left, Ollie’s pie has gone. Even though the extant footage of the pie fight has been heavily edited, these two shots do seem to fit together despite the mysterious disappearance of Ollie’s pie.
If you look carefully, you can see the hand of the prop man throw a pie in the face of a man who is about to have his photo taken!
Beau Chumps: When legionnaires Laurel and Hardy topple over the top of the sand dune, Stan drops his rifle. When they reach the bottom and collide with Captain Schultz, Stan still has his rifle to hand.
Below Zero: Where did Frank Holiday go on holiday? While waiting for the meal to be served, Ollie asks “where are you going to spend your vacation this summer”? Disappointingly we never hear the officers reply.
Stan empties out the miraculously unbroken pigeons egg from the mug and places it on the organ with his right hand. Moments later the mug handle is pointing in the opposite direction.
Big Business: When Stan mistakenly thinks Fin is about to order a Christmas Tree, he calls out ‘Babe’ to attract Ollie’s attention. Stan makes the same mistake in Habeas Corpus, perhaps forgetting that audiences could perhaps lip-read and of course not being aware of the level of scrutiny their films would be put under by so many…
Block-Heads: When Mr. Gilbert is talking to the reporters about his hunting trip, you can see the shadow of the boom mic on the wall behind him.
When Stan is being pushed by Babe in the wheelchair, Stan wants a drink from the hosepipe and Babe gets the usual soaking. In the next shot – when the pal of the real occupant of the wheelchair confronts the boys – Babe is amazingly dry as a bone.
Several people run down the stairs prior to Ollie’s street fight with Fin. One man disappears!
Blotto: When Ollie looks for Stan’s number (Oxford 0614) he finds it near the front of the telephone book. When he has to look for it again, he seems to find it this time near the back.
The Bohemian Girl: Arline, daughter of Count Arnheim wears his medallion, but later Mae Busch is seen wearing it, presumably having ‘liberated’ it from the kidnapped Arline. Mae departs with her lover – presumably still in possession of the medallion, however, twelve years later, Arline can again be seen wearing it.
This can be explained though with reference to the script which shows that Stan – whose dexterity as a pickpocket is established – ‘relieves’ Mae Busch of the medallion and gives it to Arline.
Brats: When the boys are ‘shooting some pool’ the chalk on the side of the table disappears when Ollie tears the cloth and reappears later. The balls also change position too from shot to shot.
The bath appears to fill remarkably quickly because insufficient time passes in the cutaway material. Moreover, little Ollie is soaked when he falls into the bathtub, but then he starts boxing with little Stan and appears to be completely dry.
After little Ollie has liniment poured down his pyjamas, little Stan turns on the taps and they are only just starting to fill up the bath, but when he and little Oliver return to the bathroom a couple of shots later, the bath is completely full.
Busy Bodies: When Ollie has his hands stuck in the window frame, the right strap on his overalls moves off and on his shoulder from shot to shot where, because he is trapped, he would be unable to move it himself.
In one shot when Ollie is trapped in the ducting, his arms are outside and the next they are inside.
The Chimp: After Stan drops the cannonball on Ollie’s foot, Ollie bends down – with his circus hat on – to pick it up. In the next shot however, he is without his hat and has to retrieve it from the ground. Perhaps it fell off when he was picking up the cannonball and the scene was cut?
In consecutive shots, Ringmaster Fin’s hat is on his head and then in his hand.
County Hospital: When Stan lifts the weight on the rope that is keeping Ollie’s leg in the air to use as a nut cracker resulting in Doctor Billy Gilbert falling out of the window, the prop man doesn’t pull the rope quickly enough and it dangles for several seconds before being tightened.
During the ride home there is a cutaway shot of the car skidding spectacularly on a wet road surface, yet throughout the rest of the largely back projected sequence, the city streets are perfectly dry.
When the rope that Billy Gilbert is hanging on for dear life to snaps, what happens to the weight?
Fra Diavolo / The Devils Brother: In Fin’s last scene, his wig has been knocked askew. On entering Thelma Todd’s room in the next scene, the wig is still askew but on the other side of his head.
Habeas Corpus: Towards the end on the movie when Stan is carrying a sack containing the ‘body’ he stops and shouts for his buddy. However on this occasion, just like in Big Business, forgetting that audiences could perhaps lip-read, he calls out “Babe!”.
Hog Wild: In spite of frequent immersions in the ornamental pond, Ollie frequently reappears on the roof moments later in seemingly dry clothes.
When both Stan and Ollie fall into the pond together, several of the ‘bricks’ can clearly be seen to be floating.
There is no explanation as to how Mrs Hardy is able to get from home to where the streetcar crashes into Stan’s car so quickly.
The Hoose-Gow: At the end of the film the car backs into the truck. However, the two barrels of whitewash start to tip over just before the impact!
Laughing Gravy: After one plant pot on Landlord Charlie Hall’s windowsill gets knocked off the window ledge it disappears, appears and then disappears again.
Ollie is locked outside and yells for Stan to open a window. The close-up shows Ollie with both hands cupped around his mouth. In the following long shot, only his right hand is by his mouth and his left hand is at his side.
After Laughing Gravy has crawled up the chimney, Stan and Ollie are sitting on the roof following a failed rescue attempt. Laughing Gravy walks away and disappears from the shot. In the next shot, the dog is sitting behind Stan.
The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case: Jervis the butler points to the spot where Ebenezer was murdered. In a close-up of Laurel and Hardy, the shadow of the butler’s outstretched arm and pointed index finger can be seen. However, in the following shot of the butler, his arm is still at his side, only then does he raise his arm and point.
At the start while fishing, Stan crumples up part of a newspaper and throws it away. When the newspaper blows back into Ollie’s face, the pages are flat and uncrumpled.
Leave ‘Em Laughing: The water bottle is left on the pillow at such an angle that when the stopper comes out it would empty. Later though when it is on the floor, Ollie steps on it and a jet of water shoots out.
Liberty: After the ladder has fallen from the building, the girder on which the boys are struggling has a number 1-113-4 painted on it. This then changes to 1-814-6 before reverting back to 1-113-4.
The Live Ghost: The whitewash trough is too shallow to completely cover the drunken sailor (Arthur Housman) just by his falling into it face-down. In the shot of him falling in, the whitewash doesn’t splash onto his back, but in the next shot, he is covered all over.
As Ollie explains to Captain Walter Long that Stan means the ocean is ‘Infuriated’ with sharks, he is holding the newspaper upwards in the close shot only to be holding it downwards when the director moves to a longer shot.
Me and My Pal: James C Morton pushes Eddie Dunn into the radio which in turn knocks the picture on the wall crooked and over goes the vase of flowers. Shortly after the end of this melee, both are still properly in place.
Love ‘Em and Weep: Inside the hall, the outside appears to be in darkness, yet our heroes emerge in full daylight.
Men O War: Just before Ollie passes the flirtatious brunette over to Stan (“Meet the General”) there is an inserted closeup of him reacting to the girls observation (“I just love soldiers”). The position of his arms however, do not match the previous shot where he has taken hold of the girl’s arm.
Midnight Patrol: During the sequence in the shop with the burglar, Officers Laurel and Hardy argue amongst themselves about their off-duty time. Ollie says “We were off last Monday”, yet at the and of the film when confronted by the chief at the police station, Ollie pleads “Pardon us chief, we only started this morning”.
Falling into the ornamental pond does not seem to result in wet uniforms in subsequent shots.
The Music Box: The shadow of the camera and crew can clearly be seen as the piano rolls down the steps. Also, the piano in one shot is facing one way as it is again rolling down the steps then in the next shot it has turned its self around.
The “Heave – Ho’s” change in speed and pitch from the on location footage taken on the steps to that shot at the ‘top’ of the steps – which was filmed in the studio.
When Ollie is in the pool his clothes are all wet, but in the next shot out of the pool his clothes are dry.
The boys ring the bell, just as the piano moves off down the steps again. They run after it with Stan in the lead, but in the next (continuous) shot Ollie is holding onto the piano in front of Stan.
As Ollie falls into the fountain, the piano lands on its side. The next shot shows it on the other side and then when Stan falls in, it is back on the original side. Just watch the ‘This Way Up’ notice.
Interestingly, it has long been acknowledged that the Music Box exteriors took longer than usual to shoot because of the changing weather and the movement of the sun as the days wore on.
Night Owls: When James Finlayson rolls down the stairs, he smashes a large vase at the bottom of the stairs. The vase is intact a few scenes later.
Oliver the Eighth: During the ‘invisible’ meal Stan hilariously and clearly unnecessarily unbuttons his waistcoat. The next few shots then alternate between it being fastened and unfastened.
Our Relations: When Bert and Alf get their beer which is all froth and an inch of beer and they go and sit at the table with Alice and Lily, when Alf puts the glass on the table suddenly the beer glass is a good half full of beer and a lot less froth Obviously a good settling brew.
When Ollie first looks at the photo of himself, Stan and their twins, he’s holding it with both hands. In the next shot though, he’s only holding it with his right hand.
During the phone booth sequence, Stans face is liberally splashed with milk from Arthur Housman’s bottle, yet when Stan clambers out of the now horizontal booth, there is no sign of the milk.
Stan throws a stone at Fin’s window which bounces off the top of his head, yet it is his nose Fin holds in reaction to the impact.
Our Wife: When Fin goes nuts over Dulcie’s photo of Ollie, the maid is in the room, When Fin leaves the room immediately before his calamitous dive down the stairs, she is outside the door.
When Stan, Ollie and Dulcie arrive at the registrars office so Ollie and Dulcie can be married, Blanche Payson shouts ‘Pa!’ to get Ben Turpin to come and perform the ceremony. Later, when Ben Turpin has become horribly confused and married Stan to Ollie and kissed Ollie mistaking him for Dulcie, she shouts ‘William!’ and hustles him from the room.
Pack Up Your Troubles: After Stan stands up, causing the bench he and Ollie were sitting on to fly up and hit cook (and director), George Marshall, on the chin, the cooks hat falls off as he falls. From another camera angle though, he’s still wearing it.
Pardon Us: When released from solitary confinement, Stan speaks without his finger on his loose tooth, yet no buzzing sound is heard.
As the plantation workers are finishing for the day, the shadow of a hanging microphone or lights is caught on them as they walk towards the camera.
Perfect Day: When they first start to leave for the picnic, the shadows suggest it is the front tyre that goes flat, yet they boys set about changing the rear one.
The dog – sat with his paws on the picnic basket when they first get outside – disappears and then re-appears again in several subsequent scenes.
Putting Pants on Phillip: Rather glaringly, why do crowds gather to gaze at Philip / Stan in a kilt yet the other similarly attired Scot that Ollie encounters provokes no such reaction?
Phillip sneezes and loses his underpants but in a later scene when he removes his kilt to place it over a puddle for a lady, he has a significantly larger pair back on.
Saps at Sea: When Ollie finally cracks in the horn factory, he shouts “Horns to the left of me” but at the same time gesticulates to his right. This is not immediately apparent to the viewer however as from our point of view, he is gesticulating to our left! This mismatch may not have been an actual discrepancy though as it could be explained by the onset of Hornophobia verging on Hornomania!
When Dr Finlayson examines Ollie in one shot his mirror is centrally on his head. In the next shot, mid conversation it has moved to the left. It then returns to its original position in the next shot. Have a look at the handkerchief in his breast pocket too
Scram: The almost instantaneous inebriation of the judge’s wife seems rather odd but is important to the plot, so we’ll let that one go.
Should married me go Home?: When Stan knocks on the door of the Hardy residence with his golf clubs, several marks on the door are clearly already there – presumably caused during a rehearsal or an earlier take.
Sons of the Desert: Have you ever noticed the Slight Faux Pas by Babe during the lodge singing of “We are the Sons of the Desert”? If you look carefully, when the line ‘Far from our sweethearts and Wives’ arrives, Babe appears to forget the words and then picks them up again later in the line.
When the policeman catches the boys climbing down the drain pipe and knocks on Ollie’s door they are soaked to the skin and dripping wet, yet when they walk in and sit down, they’re both dried out.
In the first shot in the ship docking area before the wives arrive, a crew member and camera tripod are clearly visible reflected in a glass door.
When the boys discuss their escape by ‘Ship Hiking’, “we thumbed our way” says Ollie and Stan’s elbow is resting on Ollie’s right knee. The shot changes to a long shot from the head and shoulders framing, and Stan’s hand has moved onto Ollie’s knee.
Swiss Miss: The boys take Della Lind to her husband’s room, but he has closed the door and placed a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on it. After the chef chases Stan and Ollie down the stairs, they lock him in the kitchen cupboard and return to the bedroom and the sign has gone.
Their First Mistake: The tenant that Stan and Ollie meet on the landing is seen to enter the bathroom. As Ollie opens the apartment door though, he can be seen in the background still waiting outside the bathroom door.
When Stan is perplexed by the lamp going on and off, there is sufficient light to see the action. However, when Ollie enters the room with a tray of baby bottles, the scene is plunged into total darkness.
Them Thar Hills: When Stan collects the water from the well he fills the bucket almost to the top. When he places it in the caravan the water level has visibly dropped. This of course could be explained by Stan staggering around following the amount of mountain water he has put away. “It’s the iron in it”
Thicker than Water: During the auction scene, a woman makes two consecutive bids.
When the boys are doing the dishes, the scene cuts to Daphne Pollard putting on her hat and coat. Then when Fin comes to the door she comes into the living room and she is not wearing either, but later on she is wearing them again.
Twice Two: When the Hardy’s are leaving the Laurel residence, (before Mrs Hardy deposits the cake in Mrs Laurels face) the sleeve on Mrs Laurels dress is torn. It is not until a few moments later that Stan actually rips the sleeve in an attempt to restrain his wife.
Towed in A Hole: When Stan is sawing the mast, the sawing sound in the outside shot of Ollie up painting the mast is much faster than when the shot reverts to the interior.
In the first few shots of Ollie his tie appears to be inside his overalls then his tie is outside.
Two Tars: In the final scene, the cables pulling the car from the tunnel can be seen in the bottom right hand corner.
Way Out West: Stan’s laughter was infectious. Case in point, Lola (Sharon Lynn) trying not to laugh when trying to get the deed from Stan.
After Ollie has crashed to the ground, again(!), his hands are in his pockets as he says to Stan “Hand me the end of that rope.” The shot cuts to a closer angle and he is pointing.
Wrong Again: When the horse drinks from the fish tank it is only half full of water, but later the tank miraculously is full again.
You’re Darn Tootin’: When the boys were starting to play on the street corner under the window of the room their band were rehearsing in, note that the conductor’s jacket had his medals on the right of his chest then next shot they were on the correct left side?
Just before the mass shin kicking, Babe rips the buttons from Stan’s waistcoat, but in the next shot it was complete again and buttoned up.
Well, that’s all there is. There isn’t any more. That’s our story and we’re stuck with it…in it…. Well, not really; we’re sure there are many more little foibles and faux pas out there. If you know of any or have an opinion on any of those listed, please email us at email@example.com or use the comments section below and they’ll be added to the text on the individual page of the relevant film.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these and confidently predict you’ll look out for some of the above when you next see Laurel and Hardy in action.