By David G. Firestone
When it comes to silent comedy teams, you would be more pressed to find a duo more iconic that Laurel and Hardy. With a combination of great chemistry and slapstick, Laurel and Hardy films are fun to watch even in 2021. What makes the duo even better is that they were able to survive the transition into talkies. Their films with audio are just as funny as their silent films.
The first Laurel and Hardy movie was called The Lucky Dog, and it features Laurel being mugged by Hardy. Their next movie together was 45 Minutes From Hollywood, released in 1926. This was after the two had signed with Hal Roach Studios. Roach saw that the two had great comedic chemistry, and the physical differences between the two would make for some great comedy, and thus the legendary duo was fully born.
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had two different careers outside of Laurel and Hardy. One particular short was called “Kid Speed” from 1924, released by Chadwick Pictures, and directed by Larry Semon.
The movie starts with a title card that states:
The tale is told of two men bold
Both loving a maiden fair
To decide the case
They entered a race
The loser to take to the air.
Then a scene starts at the garage, where Dangerous Dan McGraw played by Hardy is preparing his car. Two other men are working on the car, and McGraw slapstick throws them out of the garage. He gets a letter from race organizer Avery DuPoise hinting that the winner will win his daughter Lous’s affectations.
Avery DuPoise is shown with his daughter Lou in a car. It is then revealed that they are sanctioning and promoting a race by the corporation that Avery owns. Avery and Lou pull up to the garage, and McGraw opens the door for both of them. The scene shifts to another garage, where The Speed Kid played by Larry Semon. There was some physical comedy with smoke and grease coating The Kid’s face. This gets the attention of sleepy Sheriff Phil O’Delfa. They have a building to building argument. My complaint about Ford Sterling in The Speed Kings is nullified, as everyone is over the top in this movie, which works very well.
The Kid accidentally backs into The Sherrif’s bed. He then drives away with the bed and Sheriff with some slapstick driving. In a very impressive for the time sequence, he races through a series of different places, and into McGraw’s garage. He sees Lou, who starts flirting, much to the chagrin of McGraw and Avery. This leads to a lengthy slapstick sequence which is very well done, and very ambitious for the time.
This leads to the day of the race, where Avery and Lou watch from the stands, while McGraw and The Kid race. McGraw plots to cause the kid to lose, and the race begins. Like many other movies of the era, the racing schene is filmed using a combination of original footage, and footage of real racing footage, which looks really good, and seamless. One of McGraw’s henchman tries to use a wooden door to stop The Kid’s car, but to no avail. At one point, The Kid drives through a wall of debris, and a bucket get stuck, followed by a white dress, which scares his African-American mechanic. The Kid eventually crashes, and his car gets away from him. He catches up with it, just in time to jump over a bridge, that was blown up. A second explosion crushes McGraw’s car, and The Kid wins the race, and Lou’s hand.
While I did enjoy the movie as a whole, I do have to address one issue. The fact that in a few scenes, there are overtly racist tones. There are at least two instances of blackface, and a KKK referenece mentioned above. While I did enjoy the movie, I felt that these scenes were out of taste, and will dock the grade accordingly. With everything taken into account, I’ll give this a B-
Now as I said a few weeks ago, starting in February, I will only do a Friday Feature every other week, as I don’t have as much free time anymore. So the next Friday Feature will go back to The Vest Project.