THE LAUREL & HARDY' SHOW REVIEWED'
Originally published in ANOTHER FINE MESSAGE, Windsor Ontario Tent
Mr Slaters Poultry Market.
STAN & BABE'S 1944 RADIO PILOT CAN NOW BE HEARD AND IT MAKES FOR VERY INTERESTING LISTENING.
A few months ago, I wrote about an amazing (in my opinion, anyway) discovery: reports on a radio show Laurel & Hardy recorded as a pilot for NBC on March 6, 1944. The show was never aired, NBC never pursued a series, and the recording was seemingly forgotten. The show is finally available, and it's quite fascinating to hear the boys "unaccustomed as they are" to performing before a radio audience. (It's also a great opportunity to hear them live', before their days touring Europe.)
The premise of the series is a good one: each week, Stan and Ollie muck up a new job. But the plot of the only episode ever recorded, "Mr. Slater's Poultry Market", is pure Abbott & Costello. Stan and Ollie's job with Mr. Slater is to kill and deliver chickens. Arriving at the wrong address, they are mistaken by a gang of mobsters (or a mob of gangsters) who are expecting two anonymous killers-for-hire (recognizable only by their black derbies).
Caught in a police raid, the boys are grilled mercilessly by the cops, who are exasperated to the point of insanity by the duo's naive stupidity. Unlike Laurel & Hardy's only other available radio appearance, "The Wedding Night", "Mr. Slater's Poultry Market" was obviously NOT written by Stan. The show has the stamp of 20th Century Fox writers all over it. The boys encounter a series of 1940's comedy stereotypes, beginning with Mr. Slater, a bombastic Mr. Mooney type. When Slater launches into an agitated tirade, calling the boys, "you nincompoops, you stupid blunderheads, you idiotic, you ... you ...!", Stan helpfully adds "morons". Ouch. The gangsters are generic tough-talkers; ditto for the cops.
The whole show is a comedy-of-errors based on verbal misunderstandings. Typical is this exchange when the boys first arrive at the gangsters' hideout. Gangster #1: "Ya mean ya killed that boid already?" Stan: "Sure, about an hour ago. "Gangster #2: "Do you kill em with a regular 45 rod?" Ollie: "Oh no sir, on this one we used a standard 14 inch butcher knife." Later, in jail, the cops have equal difficulty getting to the bottom of things. Told to "talk", the boys debate about what to talk about. Ordered to "start singing", they launch into "Mairsy Doats" a gag lifted from "A Haunting We Will Go".
The boys are in full Fox/MGM mode here, being far dumber than necessary, as when they treat their jail cell as a luxury hotel: ordering room service, asking for an extra key, etc. The big difference here is that Stan and Babe (and the audience) seem to be having a load of fun during the recording session. When Stan muffs a line, the audience reacts and Stan playfully ad libs. Earlier, he elaborates on a line and starts Babe laughing. And hisrendition of "Mairsy Doats"is just plain silly. Their enthusiasm in the face of a lame script actually makes the show a lot of fun to listen to. While it's disappointing that this "discovery" didn't bring forth a forgotten classic, "Mr. Slater's Poultry Market" is an intriguing curiosity with a lot of merit to it. It's certainly much better than any of the Fox films, and proves that Stan and Babe could have succeeded on radio. So, when the show ends with the boys out of work and the announcer announcing "Right in front of them is Morton's Plumbing Shop. I wonder if they can land a job", the real disappointment is knowing we'll never find out. You can hear a sample at the Vintage Radio Place.
by Chris Sequin .
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