Helpmates

Released January 23, 1932 (Sound – two reels).

Title Card: When the cats away – the mice start looking up telephone numbers –

Plot: (by Andrew Cobby) he title cards were usually written by H. M. Walker and they provide a witty and succinct commentary. Ollie has had a wild party while his wife has been away and he guiltily admonishes himself in the mirror.

A telegram arrives. He doesn’t have to read it because the nosey postman has already done so. He tells Ollie that his wife is due at the train station at noon. Ollie’s now in a panic and rings Stan and tells him to make his way to the house to help him clean up. Ollie goes through several changes of clothing as he and Stan attempt to make the house spick and span.

He goes to pick up his wife at the station, magnificently dressed in what appears to be a naval uniform, leaving Stan to put the finishing touches to the cleaning up. He returns sadder, wiser and dizzier (another of H.M. Walker’s pithy observations), sans wife but with a black eye and a bent sword.

In an effort to create a cosy home-coming Stan has applied too much gasoline and burnt down the house. As there is nothing more that Stan can do, he exits. Ollie has lost his wife and his house but he still has his dignity. Dignity is important, it makes us carry on when we might otherwise give up.

As he sits in his roofless front room, it begins to rain and, with a resigned look at you and me, Ollie sits back and carefully picks a piece of lint from his trousers.

Fun Facts: At one point, Stan gives out a phone number. Astonishingly, it was his own personal number at the time.

The studio actually built a five-room facade on an empty lot in Culver City, and then burned it down to shoot the final scenes of this short. Surprising that, as cost cutting had arrived at the Roach studios and for the first time Stan faced a challenge to his control of the films. Chief ‘expediter’ Henry Ginsberg felt films could be produced faster and cheaper.

Classic Dialogue: Ollie: What’s the matter with it? You never met my wife, have you? “Yes, I never did.” Replies Stan:

Stan says to Ollie, “If I had any sense, I’d walk out on you.” “It’s a good thing you don’t,” says Ollie. “It certainly is,” agrees Stan, who then spends some time trying to figure out what was wrong with that conversation.

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