Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers aka Babes in Toyland (1934)
When people think of holiday classics, few people think of ”March of the Wooden Soldiers” by Laurel and Hardy—and that’s a pity. Based on Victor Herbert’s famous 1903 operetta, “Babes in Toyland,” it is a musical fairy tale that’s loved by young and old alike.
In March of the Wooden Soldiers, the boys (Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy) portray Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee, employees of Toyland’s toy factory and just as inept there as at any other occupation in any other Laurel and Hardy film. They live in the home of the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe, who’s oldest daughter is Little Bo Peep. Peep is in love with Tom Tom, the Piper’s son, but desired by the evil Silas Barnaby (“the meanest man in town”), who holds the mortgage on the shoe. Other fairy tale figures include Old King Cole, the Three Little Pigs, and several others. The plot revolves around Barnaby’s attempts to win the hand of Bo Peep by hook or crook, and Stan & Ollie’s bumbling attempts to foil them, including having Stanley stand in for Bo Peep in a wedding ceremony.
Based on this description, you might think that this is a film solely for the kiddies – and you’d be wrong. Stan and Ollie are as funny in this film as in the best of their other films, and it’s a guilty pleasure for adults to laugh out loud at this ‘children’s film’ as well. Check out the quotes from the movie below for a taste of some of the verbal humor.
I rate it 4 clowns on a 5-clown scale.
Editorial review of Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers | Babes in Toyland | Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, courtesy of Amazon.com
The most lavish feature built around Laurel and Hardy, 1934’s March of the Wooden Soldiers is also the most bizarre. Opening unpromisingly with one of several mawkish numbers derived from Victor Herbert’s musical Babes in Toyland, the antics of toyshop laborers Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee are worked into a scenario midway between Lewis Carroll and the Brothers Grimm. Nursery-rhyme characters come and go in a surreal fantasy, with the evil Mr. Barnaby threatening to evict Widow Peep from her shoe unless he receives her daughter Bo in marriage.
The movie culminates in a full-scale invasion of Toyland by the yeti-ish Bogeymen and their defeat by the 100 six-foot wooden soldiers which Stan and Ollie have built by mistake. Henry Brandon gives a characterful performance, while 1930s child star Charlotte Henry is an appealing heroine. Directors Gus Meins and Charles R. Rogers milk the slapstick to an increasingly unnerving degree. Reputedly Hardy’s favorite among the double act’s features, March of the Wooden Soldiers emerges now as their most audacious screen appearance. –Richard Whitehouse
Quotes from Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : I’ve got a Christmas present for you.
Barnaby : A Christmas gift in the middle of July?
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Well we always do our Christmas shopping early.
The Toy Maker : What do you think of the wooden soldiers?
Santa Claus : They’re nice but they’re not what I ordered. I ordered 600 soldiers one foot high.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Oh I thought you said 100 soldiers six feet high.
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : Goodbye Stannie.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Well aren’t I going with you?
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : Why no. You’ve got to stay here with Barnaby. You’re married to him.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : I don’t want to stay here with him.
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : Why not?
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : I don’t love him.
Barnaby : Big bait catches big rat!
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : Stannie’s so upset he isn’t even going to the wedding. You’re upset aren’t you Stannie?
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Upset? I’m housebroken!
[Stannie nibbles on pig sausage evidence ] Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) [Taking bite ]: It doesn’t taste like pig sausage to me, it tastes like pork.
Old King Cole : I’m offering a 50,000 guineas reward for Barnaby’s apprehension, dead or alive.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Can’t you make up your mind how you want him?
[Barnaby disappears down well. Stannie and Ollie corner him.] Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : You better come up dead or alive!
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : How can he come up dead when he’s alive?
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Let’s drop a rock on him. That’ll make him dead when he’s alive.
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : Now you’re talkin’.
Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy) : Why should you worry? You and he are just like THAT.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : But that was before we were married.
Stannie Dum (Stan Laurel) : Her talking to Barnaby is a matter of pouring one ear into the other. Can’t be done.
Trivia about Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers:
- The six minutes formerly missing from the film have been restored on some prints and can be seen in the version shown on cable channel AMC. They include the song “Go To Sleep,” a beautifully photographed sequence in the underground caves.
- The filming turned into a symphony of cast injuries. Stan Laurel fell off a platform and tore ligaments in his right leg. Henry Brandon was injured in a bar fight at the Brass Rail. Assistant director Gordon Douglas slid 15 feet from the top of the Old Woman’s Shoe and tore ligaments in his left leg. Kewpie Morgan’s part as Old King Cole called for him to laugh continuously – after two days, he ruptured muscles in his stomach. Babe Hardy entered St. Vincent’s hospital to have his tonsils removed, the day after filming wrapped, and Hal Roach developed appendicitis.
- An extra named John D. Wood sued Stan Laurel and his stunt double, Ham Kinsey, claiming back injuries after Laurel and Kinsey threw him in the ducking pond on the set. The lawsuit specified $40,500 in damages, but was settled out-of-court.
- The “actor” in the “Mickey Mouse” costume was a capuchin monkey!
- Look carefully at the back wall in the Three Little Pigs’ house, and you’ll be able to spot framed photographs of “Mother” and “Father” – a plate of sausages and a football, respectively.
- This Hal Roach comedy starred Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and had a costumed mouse which looked strangely like Mickey Mouse, a Walt Disney character. The 1961 Disney remake (Babes in Toyland) featured two comedians obviously impersonating Laurel and Hardy.
- Hal Roach and Walt Disney were good friends, and it paid off for Roach in this picture. Roach asked to borrow the tune “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from a Disney cartoon of the previous year, and Disney obliged.
- Hal Roach signed Henry Brandon to play Barnaby after seeing him as the old villain in the play ‘Ten Nights in a Barroom’. Roach wasn’t aware that Brandon was only twenty-one years old at the time, and demanded to know where the old man was when Brandon appeared at his office. Heavy makeup made Brandon credible as the old Barnaby, a role he repeated in the Our Gang short Our Gang Follies of 1938.