13 December 2007 | bkoganbing
"You Don't Need Any Brains To Be A Bandit"
With those words to live by, Oliver Hardy convinces Stan Laurel that this might be just the profession for them in 18th century France. Unfortunately the second guy they decide to rob is the famous bandit, Fra Diavolo, the Devil's Brother played by Broadway star Dennis King in his second feature film role. And to top it all off, these two decide to impersonate Fra Diavolo while doing the robbery.
King is justifiably angry about this and orders Stan to hang Ollie who he sizes up rather quickly as the brains of the outfit. But when Stan bungles the job in a most amusing manner, King decides these guys are worth having around for laughs.
King's on quest, to rob nobleman James Finlayson of a fortune in jewels and then to woo the lovely Thelma Todd. At that point the action of the film and for that matter the operetta it's based on takes place in an inn where all the principals are staying. These also include Arthur Pierson as the earnest, but rather dull young French officer who wants to capture the notorious Fra Diavolo and Lucille Browne, the barmaid who loves the lug.
Stan and Ollie give King cause to regret his choice of confederates on this job before the film is over. Let's just say the rotund Mr. Hardy is not built for swashbuckling and my favorite moment is seeing Ollie swinging from the balcony like the man on the flying trapeze. Best moment for Stan is him getting drunk in the wine cellar. There's a whole lot more.
The Devil's Brother was their second film where they have supporting roles in a classic operetta. The first was The Rogue Song where they support Lawrence Tibbett which has unfortunately been lost. Dennis King who primarily concentrated on the stage in his career delivers a far better screen performance in this than he did when he repeated his Broadway role of Francois Villon in The Vagabond King. Dennis King had a strong voice, it's a pity he did not do more musical films.
In the end their escape has to be seen to be believed. Let's just say that one of Stan's earlier gags came back to haunt the forces of law and order.
The Devil's Brother is Stan and Ollie at their finest with Hal Roach, don't miss it if you are fan of their's.