The owner of an American bean cannery and his wife are expecting the arrival of two orphans from war-torn England, but the "youngsters" arrive and are two addled-brain adults, Albert (Harry ... Read allThe owner of an American bean cannery and his wife are expecting the arrival of two orphans from war-torn England, but the "youngsters" arrive and are two addled-brain adults, Albert (Harry Langdon) and Alfred Prattle (Charles Rogers). Making a worse deal out of a bad one, the ow... Read allThe owner of an American bean cannery and his wife are expecting the arrival of two orphans from war-torn England, but the "youngsters" arrive and are two addled-brain adults, Albert (Harry Langdon) and Alfred Prattle (Charles Rogers). Making a worse deal out of a bad one, the owner puts them to work in his cannery where, among other mishaps, they manage to place a $1... Read all
For the occasion he resuscitates the subtle, magnetically babylike character he played earlier in his career, complete with battered, shapeless felt hat, rather than the slightly maturer version he had been playing in more recent years. Langdon brilliantly inhabits this indecisive, , childlike comedy character. He's hilarious as ever here and somehow a magically believable toddler at sixty-something (he looks extraordinarily like a slightly wrinkly youth, too, with his old white makeup) – too caught up fiddling with a refrigerator to contemplate what to do when in danger, convinced that a woman who smiled at him is his "girlfriend," too delighted that he made an accidental rhyme to complete his sentence.
Charlie Rogers makes an excellent partner for him. He's funny in his own right. Pretending to absurd haughty dignity while still plainly a slightly google-eyed fool. He provides a fluent and fast-talking but still childlike contrast to Langdon who can move scenes and story along more efficiently, and provides Harry someone to talk to in his own disjointed way without just failing to be comprehended. Perhaps it should be no surprise both Langdon and Rogers wrote for Laurel and Hardy: many of their lines could have been reused for that team, though their comic personae are markedly different. They way they play off each other instantly creates a believable relationship even though we know next to nothing of their past.
The actual writing is variable here. The situation and story, that Harry and Charlie ("Bert and Alf" here) are a couple of drifters from England taken in by a bean magnate who thought they were going to be children and then gives them a job in the factory, where they accidentally can a priceless bracelet, is surreally goofy and pretty amusing. There are also plenty of good lines in evidence given to Langdon and Rogers which are sprinkled throughout the film. A couple of jokes are surprisingly risqué, with a man reaching down the dress of Langdon disguised as a woman, and Harry bemusedly discovering that he has given himself the middle finger.
On the other hand, much of the gag writing is just middle-of-the-road (one, involving a floating balloon they confuse for a real "nightmare," seems to be lifted from Harry's earlier work) . The requisite romantic subplot is more a gesture than anything else. The supporting cast essentially range from bad to average, but none of them really detract. The fun of this film – and there is plenty of it – is in seeing a one-of-a-kind comedy performer in Harry Langdon have plenty of space and a supporting atmosphere in which to work the magic of his countless stunned and awed little reactions to the world around him, and to play amusingly off of his new comedy partner in Charlie Rogers. The two really seem to work as a comedy team, and they made one more picture together, "House of Errors," the next year. If Langdon had not sadly died in 1944 I would have been happy to see the pair in more films.
- Jan 18, 2010