Their First Mistake (1932)

Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Mae Busch, Billy Gilbert, Marjorie Campbell,
Mrs. Hardy is irate that her husband Oliver spends more time with his friend Stanley than with her. Oliver decides to adopt a baby, hoping that it will keep his wife occupied so that he and Stanley can continue to carouse. But upo...
  • 7.3 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-07-31 Added:
  • Writer:
  • George Marshall, Director:
  • Producer:
9 / 10

So Much Packed Into a Small Space

This is a remarkable short, seldom talked about. The boys have been spending too much time having a good time. Ollie's wife, the wonderful though threatening Mae Busch, has had enough. She files for divorce and names Stan for alienation of affections (I wonder if there ever were any affections). She take off, but before this, Stan talks the big guy into adopting a baby, thinking it will soothe things. I guess there was a sale on babies at the local baby market. This is no help because now they have an infant child to take care of. From then on, it's nuttiness because the are so utterly incompetent and yet endearing in their efforts to do right by the child. As is usually the case, they begin to demolish the apartment through their carelessness and stupidity. There is one precious scene when Ollie tries to feed the baby without looking to see where it is. Some have criticized this film because of its open endedness, but with all that goes on, who cares. When one realizes how much these guys could do in fifteen or twenty minutes of screen time, they were even more amazing.

6 / 10

Deserves A Place Near The Top Of A Laurel And Hardy Filmography.

An above-average Laurel and Hardy short feature, this two reel affair is directed by George Marshall (later at the helm of many top-flight comedy features) and is marked, specially so during its initial two-thirds, by a greater emphasis upon character development than upon physical humour, to the work's advantage. After Oliver and his wife Arabella (Laurel/Hardy regular Mae Busch) have a violent spat due to his expenditure of a majority of his free time with Stan, the latter suggests that Ollie adopt a baby with which to occupy Arabella's hours, freeing the two pals to enjoy themselves, and Ollie immediately does so (following an optical wipe), but too late because a process server (Billy Gilbert) presents him with divorce papers along with a similar document to Laurel for "alienation of Mr. Hardy's affections." This leads to one of the better developed scenes from the duo's films wherein Ollie pastiches the Abandoned Maiden genre after his buddy tries to leave him alone to care for his new infant, a very funny and original piece of cinematic business that, in addition to a poignant scene when the men revert to boyhood while lolling atop Stanley's bed in his adjacent apartment, make of this a better than standard effort of Laurel and Hardy.

8 / 10

But Not Their Last

Mae Busch, Oliver Hardy's wife, thinks he spends too much time with Stan Laurel. They decide that what she needs is a baby, so they go out and adopt one. When they return to the apartment, they find Mae is suing Ollie for divorce and Stan for alienation of affection. All well and good but what are the Boys going to do with a baby.

This is sometimes cited as the 'gayest' of the Laurel & Hardy shorts, and there;s something in that, but if so, it raises the implication only to make fun of it. Stan and Ollie are almost all the movie; the baby gets one close up to establish it as real, Miss Busch is gone after the first minute, Billy Gilbert plays a process server, and director George Marshall appears briefly as a neighbor.

THe gags are good, but there's no real ending. Apparently Stan and Ollie improvised so many gags, there wasn't time.

8 / 10

it's amazing what movies were able to get away with before the Hays Code

I suspect that a few years after its released "Their First Mistake" might've not been allowed to show all the things that it did. Much of it is Stan and Ollie doing their usual stuff - with Ollie constantly irritated at Stan's idiocy - but their is a scene showing them in bed together with the baby. Maybe it was more acceptable since this was a comedy and thus not to meant to get taken seriously, but I can imagine that a number of people would've found it extreme back then.

Aside from that, it's a funny short, with no shortage of the pair's typical mishaps. As always, Hardy suffers the most due to Laurel's incompetence. The best scenes involve the lamp.

Good one.

7 / 10

Bringing Up Baby

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were comedic geniuses, individually and together, and their partnership was deservedly iconic and one of the best there was. They left behind a large body of work, a vast majority of it being entertaining to classic comedy, at their best they were hilarious and their best efforts were great examples of how to do comedy without being juvenile or distasteful.

Although a vast majority of Laurel and Hardy's previous efforts ranged from above average to very good ('45 Minutes from Hollywood' being the only misfire and mainly worth seeing as a curiosity piece and for historical interest, and even that wasn't a complete mess), 'Two Tars' for me was their first truly classic one with close to flawless execution. Consider 'Their First Mistake' as among their best, also it to me was one of their best 1932 efforts and among the better half of their output at this point.

Admittedly, the story is pretty thin and is pretty standard and the open-endedness of the ending may frustrate.

Despite that, 'Their First Mistake' is great fun, never less than very amusing and the best moments, such as the ending, being classic hilarity. It is never too silly, there is a wackiness that never loses its energy and the sly wit is here, some of the material may not be new and their lack of competence with the baby is never in doubt well before it happens but how it's executed actually doesn't feel too familiar and it doesn't get repetitive. A lot happens yet it doesn't ever feel rushed or over-stuffed. Hardy's milk preparation is comedy gold and one of his funniest moments to me and it is hard not to feel for Laurel and Hardy in a very relatable situation here, it is not easy caring for a baby and that it did so well making something funny out of it in a tasteful way is to be applauded.

Laurel and Hardy are on top form here, both are well used, both have material worthy of them and they're equal rather than one being funnier than the other (before Laurel tended to be funnier and more interesting than Hardy, who tended to be underused). Their chemistry feels like a partnership here too, before 'Two Tars' you were yearning for more scenes with them together but in 'Their First Mistake' and on the most part from 'Two Tars' onwards we are far from robbed of that. Their comic timing is impeccable and Hardy is a delight here. The baby is adorable and avoids being obnoxious, despite the situation poor Laurel and Hardy find themselves in.

'Their First Mistake' looks good visually, is full of energy and the direction gets the best out of the stars, is at ease with the material and doesn't let it get too busy or static. The supporting acting from Mae Busch and particularly Billy Gilbert is solid.

In summary, great. 9/10 Bethany Cox