This is another film where you get some kind of trivia question that seems unusual:
Name the film that had a cast including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Loretta Young, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Hedda Hopper, Fay Wray, Polly Moran, Maurice Chevalier, William Haines, Wallace Beery, Gary Cooper, Edward Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Frank Faye, Edmund Lowe, Victor McLaglen, Richard Dix, Richard Barthelmess, Charles Butterworth, Buster Keaton, Gabby Hayes, "Our Gang", Mitzi Green, George E. Stone, Wheeler and Woolsey, El Brendel, Jack Oakie, Joe E. Brown, Laurel and Hardy, Eugene Palette, Stu Erwin, and Skeets Gallagher.
It is THE STOLEN JOOLS (also called THE SLIPPERY PEARLS). It was a specialty little film done for charity by Chesterfield Cigarettes in 1931. It is a relatively minor comedy - and it is it's stars and some of the humor they bring to it, that make it worth watching today. A bit better planning about the material and maybe the film would be worth real revival on television or by movie societies.
Norma Shearer threw a big Hollywood party at her home for a charity, and during it her pearls were stolen. We learn it was Eddie Robinson and George E. Stone who stole them, but the pearls were stolen from the thieves. Robinson and Stone report the theft from them to a bemused Wallace Beery (more interested in writing a film script than in pursuing criminals, despite being a police sergeant). He sends for Buster Keaton (his assistant) to get the police out. The investigator is Inspector (Eddie) Kane - who goes to the Shearer mansion with his two best men (Stan and Ollie - whose car falls apart when they arrive). The rest of the film follows Kane's questioning all the prominent guests, with varying degrees of success due to their cleverness or density. The end result is Kane finds the stolen jewels when the party who took them from Robinson and Stone confesses.
The film had vast potential, but like so many "let's stuff the film with stars" ideas, the appearance of the stars out stripped the actual result. Like those World War II all star war-effort films, the idea sounds appealing, but the results are less so.
Laurel & Hardy; Wheeler & Woolsey; Beery (with or without Robinson and Stone); Stanwyck with her then husband Faye (and Kane); Irene Dunne (all too briefly); Palette, Erwin, Gallagher, and Cooper; Our Gang, all have the best moments in the film. Kane (a useful character actor, but nothing really special) does happen to prove funny as the struggling detective. But the fact is that the material is so slap-dash it is not really memorable at all. Stan and Ollie drive Kane to Norma Shearer's mansion - and their car collapses. Kane asks them to wait for him. As he walks away, Ollie hits Stan on the shoulder and says, "Didn't I tell you not to be so fast on that last payment?" Cute bit, but not one of their high points. Wheeler and Woolsey are in a diner watching Kane (disguised as a counter man. They don't trust him, but Bert is unwilling to leave without a cup of coffee (he is sitting in back of a mountain of empty coffee cups - the best sight gag in the film, and probably not noticed by most viewers). They end up in a slapping situation with Kane over remarks that Bert said that Robert told him to say. Kane finally asks if they've ever done this before. Woolsey says, "Yeah, in RIO RITA!".
That happens to be the most interesting aspect of THE STOLEN JOOLS: the topical references to Hollywood in 1931. William Haines is in a sequence as a friend of Joan Crawfords. Still a recognized leading man in 1931, Haines retired soon after because he was coming out of the closet as a gay man, and would soon have a successful career with his boyfriend as interior decorators and furniture designers in Hollywood. Beery's involvement with Listening to robbers Robinson and Stone (who, remember, actually did steal the pearls from Shearer) is a reference to Robinson's first big role (shared in many scenes with Stone) in LITTLE CAESAR. George Sidney is with his film partner Charles Murray, who appeared as the warring heads of the mixed couple marriage in THE COHENS AND THE KELLY series. Mitzi Green was a popular young child actress in that period, and the "Our Gang" group includes Norman Chaney (soon to be replaced by the better remembered Spanky MacFarlane. Lowe and McLaglen are with a female extra in a restaurant (run by El Brendel as waiter) and obviously dressed as Quirt and Flagg from their "What Price Glory?" series - in fact McLaglen gets upset finding that Lowe went with the girl to Shearer's party the night before! The soon to be over marriage of Frank Faye and Stanwyck is referred to as currently existing in their scene.
By the way, Dunne and Stanwyck do the best comic performances of the regular stars among the females - Dunne describing the missing item, but claiming she never saw it, and Stanwyck reciting an awful poem she wrote, and getting rewarded by Kane (with Faye's approval) for reciting it. The best of the regular actors who appeared was probably Beery, who is barely concerned at news that Los Angeles is burning as he concentrates on his writing. Warner Baxter does a nice trip on his Cisco Kid performance flirting with his Spanish accent to Fifi D'Orsay with her French accent. When Kane demands of Baxter if he attended the Shearer party and danced, Baxter says, "Excuse me, I do not dance English!".
It needed a major script rewrite - but it's best moments are cute enough.