is a 1929
-Events:The days of the silent film are numbered. A mad scramble to provide synchronized sound is on.*January 20 - The movie In Old Arizona is released. The film is the first full-length talking film to be filmed outdoors....
two-reel comedy silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...
starring Laurel and Hardy
Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comedy double acts of the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema...
. It was shot in October and November 1928, and released February 23, 1929, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer...
. Although it is a silent film, it was released with a synchronised music and sound-effects track in theatres equipped for sound.
Stable grooms Laurel and Hardy overhear news of a $5,000 reward for the return of the stolen painting Blue Boy
The Blue Boy is an oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough. Perhaps Gainsborough's most famous work, it is thought to be a portrait of Jonathan Buttall, the son of a wealthy hardware merchant, although this was never proved...
, but think the reward is for the horse at their barn named Blue Boy. When they bring the horse to the painting's owner, he speaks to them from an upstairs window where he can't see the steed; he tells them to bring Blue Boy in the house and put "him" on the piano. This triggers a running gag where Ollie explains patiently to Stan that (Scott Fitzgerald aside), the rich are different from you and me. He punctuates his lesson with a twisting gesture of his hand to demonstrate the 180-degree difference between the classes.
The three come clumping through the front door while the millionaire upstairs takes a bath — "and it ain't even Saturday," a title card informs us. Ollie has an altercation with a nude statue, which snaps into three pieces after the two tumble to the floor; Hardy, ever the gentleman, safeguards the statue's modesty by wrapping its bare torso in his coat while he reassembles it. When the statue's back upright and Ollie removes the coat, the torso segment is backwards, so its backside protrudes out from where its midriff should be. Wrong again!
Meanwhile, the suddenly obstreperous Blue Boy has taken to chasing Stanley around the house, while a cross-cut reveals that the police have recovered the Blue Boy painting and are making plans to return it. Working together, The Boys manage to lead the horse over to the grand piano, and up he leaps to his high perch. Shots of the millionaire upstairs in his tub reveal that he's at least hearing the commotion below.
Things seem fine — Blue Boy is placidly up on the piano as his owner has asked — when suddenly a piano leg gives way and Ollie is left literally holding things up, about a ton of piano and horse. Stan rises to his usual degree of helpfulness as the horse, in a bravura performance, keeps nudging his derby off his head and Stan opts to keep retrieving the hat rather than help with the crisis at hand. They finally get the piano leg wedged back under the instrument, but not before Ollie's head gets squished between the two.
The three agents of The Boys' undoing all then converge in a perfect storm of bad luck: the millionaire's mother returns home (and gives the funniest look to her bizarrely deformed statue), the police arrive with the real
Blue Boy, the recovered painting, and the refreshed millionaire descends from his bath to reveal the misunderstanding. Ollie twiddles his tie, apologies for the "faux pas" and he and Stan and Blue Boy make a hasty exit, followed by the irate millionaire with a shotgun. In the process, the priceless painting gets knocked to the floor on top of one of the detectives, whose face pops through the canvas in the exact right spot, replacing Blue Boy's face.
The short ends with a favorite Roach finale — a gag at the expense of a cop. This one has the officer as the literal butt of the joke: his rump is still smoking from the pellets delivered by the millionaire's shotgun.
Wrong Again contains a sight gag that modern audiences likely won't recognize. When The Boys first bring their equine meal ticket into the house, Stan lifts the lid off an urn, ties Blue Boy's rein to it and drops it on the floor — as if this lightweight trinket is going to halt the movement of the horse if he chooses to ambulate about the premises. 1929 audiences would laugh at this, because the insubstantial lid is a visual dead ringer for an item still common in 1929: a horse anchor. Drivers of horsedrawn wagons making deliveries would literally "drop anchor" while they ran their delivery into a house; the horse would be discouraged from wandering by the 25-pound weight of the anchor. Of course, the lightweight lid used by Stan would be totally ineffectual for the purpose. This is not the only appearance of a horse anchor in the L&H canon: they also have one at the ready in their geriatric Model T in the 1934 short Going Bye-Bye!
- Plot :In a packed courtroom, Butch Long vows revenge on 'squealers' Laurel and Hardy whose evidence has helped to send him to prison for the rest of his life, threatening to "break off their legs and wrap 'em around their necks!"...
to discourage it
from wandering away.
The working title of Wrong Again
was Just the Reverse
, a reference to the 180-degree hand-twist gesture that is a running gag throughout the film. L&H historian Randy Skretvedt
Randy Skretvedt is an American film and music scholar, author, lecturer and broadcaster. His 1987 book Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies is the reference standard for Laurel and Hardy fans Randy Skretvedt (b. November 1958) is an American film and music scholar, author, lecturer and...
writes that the gesture was a running gag around the Roach Lot of Fun as well: creative sparkplug Leo McCarey would remind the writers that a dramatic episode could be infused with comedy by applying just a twist — a twist to make it funny. The gesture became a staple of writer-to-writer communication around the studio.
The stable scenes were shot at the posh Los Angeles sports complex, polo field and ranch known as the Uplifters' Club in Rustic Canyon.
- Stan Laurel
Arthur Stanley "Stan" Jefferson , better known as Stan Laurel, was an English comic actor, writer and film director, famous as the first half of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy. His film acting career stretched between 1917 and 1951 and included a starring role in the Academy Award winning film...
- Oliver Hardy
Oliver Hardy was an American comic actor famous as one half of Laurel and Hardy, the classic double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted nearly 30 years, from 1927 to 1955.-Early life:...
- Dell Henderson
George Delbert Henderson was a Canadian actor, director and writer in films from the early silent days.-Biography:Henderson was a frequent associate of film pioneer D.W. Griffith and, on a less prolific basis, Mack Sennett...
as Millionaire (uncredited)
- Josephine Crowell
Josephine Crowell was a Canadian film actress of the silent film era. She appeared in 94 films between 1912 and 1929....
as Millionaire's Mother (uncredited)
- William Gillespie
William Gillespie was a Scottish actor who started in Hollywood films from the silent era. Born in Aberdeen, he supported such comedians as Charlie Chaplin, Charley Chase and Laurel and Hardy, but was most prolific supporting Harold Lloyd in over 50 films.-Selected filmography:* The Cure * Easy...
as Horse Owner (uncredited)
- Fred Holmes as Stableboy (uncredited)
- Sam Lufkin
Samuel "Sam" William Lufkin was an American actor who usually appeared in small or bit roles in short comedy films.-Career:Born in Utah, Lufkin spent most of his career at the Hal Roach Studios where he made over 60 films...
as Sullivan (uncredited)
- Harry Bernard
Harry Bernard was a movie comedian who worked for Mack Sennett and with Laurel & Hardy, usually typecast as a policeman.Bernard was born in San Francisco, California, and died in Hollywood.-Selected filmography:...
as Policeman (uncredited)
- Charlie Hall as Neighbor (uncredited)
- Jack Hill
Jack Hill was an American actor, who appeared in scores of Laurel & Hardy comedies.-Filmography:* A Quiet Street * Stage Fright * Dogs of War * Back Stage...
as Man on Buckboard (uncredited)
- Fred Kelsey
Frederick Alvin "Fred" Kelsey was an American actor, film director, and screenwriter. He appeared in 404 films between 1911 and 1958, often playing policemen or detectives . He also directed 37 films between 1914 and 1920...
- Anders Randolf
Anders Randolf was a Danish American actor in American films from 1913 to 1931.Anders was born in Viborg, Denmark where he became a professional soldier in the Danish army and a world-class swordsman. He immigrated to the United States in 1895, quickly giving in to a lifelong passion for the...
is one of the half-dozen silent Laurel and Hardy two-reelers that were made with a synchronized music and sound effects track; after its initial theatrical run in 1929, it was elbowed into obscurity in the vault by the "all-talking" shorts that followed. For years, if it was seen at all, it was seen mostly as a home-edition 8mm or 16mm film, and as such, almost always without its soundtrack. Fans' reactions to the film seem to skew with sound: those who know it best as a silent think less of it, those who discovered it with its music track rate it much higher.
Critic William K. Everson
William Keith "Bill" Everson was an English-American archivist, author, critic, educator, collector and film historian. He often discovered lost films.-Early life and career:...
was among the first to cast a critical eye on the Laurel and Hardy films. Writing of Wrong Again
in 1967, when the Victor soundtrack discs were thought to be irretrievably lost, he wrote:
- "An off-beat comedy that can only be seen at a disadvantage now in that it was made as both a silent and limited sound release, and undoubtedly paced for sound. Today  only the silent version survives, and at times seems awkward and unsure of itself. Nevertheless, it has some very funny moments.... There is a semi-surrealistic quality to many of the sight gags in Wrong Again."
Surrealism has also been cited — "This entertaining film is one of Laurel and Hardy's most bizarre" — by silent film authority Bruce Calvert while prolific critic Leslie Halliwell
Robert James Leslie Halliwell was a British film encyclopaedist and television impresario who in 1965 compiled The Filmgoer's Companion, the first one-volume encyclopaedia devoted to all aspects of the cinema. He followed it a dozen years later with Halliwell's Film Guide, another monumental work...
(who most likely only ever saw it as a silent) takes the exact opposite stand: "Pleasing but not very inventive star comedy."
Perhaps Glenn Mitchell sums it up best in his book The Laurel and Hardy Encyclopedia
- "Wrong Again is among the most original Laurel and Hardy comedies, its gags alternately bizarre, risqué and imaginative knockabout.... The best copies of Wrong Again incorporate a restored disc accompaniment from the original release. The skilled orchestral arrangement and appropriate sound effects transform the film into a minor masterpiece, reminding modern audiences of the way silent films were presented at their zenith."