The Devil’s Brother (1933), also known as Fra Diavolo and Bogus Bandits

Fra Diavolo, aka. The Devil’s Brother, reissued as Bogus Bandits, starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Dennis King, Thelma Todd, James Finlayson

Buy Fra Diavolo from Stanlio and Ollio (Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy) in Fra Diavola, The Devil's Brother, Bogus BanditsIn The Devil’s Brother (also known as Fra Diavolo, and reissued in 1951 as Bogus Bandits, the setting is the north of Italy in the 1700’s, where a famous bandit, Fra Diavolo (aka. the Devil’s Brother of the title) is the most famous bandit in the land, known for stealing money from the men and the hearts of the women of the nobility. 

In this setting, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy play two bumbling peasants, Stanlio and Ollio, who decide to try the “easy life” of bandits, and pick for their first victim Fra Diavolo himself (in his disguise as the Marquis de San Marco).  To punish them for their impudence, the bandit and his band force Stanlio to hang Ollio! 

Ollio and Stanlio laughing uncontrollablyAfter watching them bungle this task, Fra Diavolo changes his mind, and forces them to join his band as his retainers.  He takes them along as he travels, in his disguise as the Marquis, to the Tavern de Cucu to rob the rich, aged Lord Rocburg (perennial Laurel and Hardy foil James Finlayson) and woo beauteous Lady Pamela (Thelma Todd).

Kneesy, Earsy, Nosey is a game of coordination and dexterity, which is particularly played by Stan Laurel in the movie Fra Diavolo, to the great despair of Oliver Hardy.It quickly became a fad shortly after this film was releasedStanlio drives Ollio and the innkeeper to distraction by playing earsie kneesie nosie and “finger wiggle,” and gets drunk helping Ollio fill tankards of wine, sending him into an uncontrollable laughing fit (one of the highlights of the movie).

The boys plot to capture Diavolo (there is a subplot about the honest Captain Lorenzo who can’t marry his true love until he captures the notorious Fra Diavolo), but instead the boys wind up with him in front of a firing squad.  Thankfully, Stanlio causes a distraction that allows them all to escape.

The Devil’s Brother is available on DVD as part of The Laurel and Hardy Collection.

Funny movie quotes from The Devil’s Brother, starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

Fra Diavolo, aka. The Devil's Brother, reissued as Bogus Bandits, starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Dennis King, Thelma Todd, James FinlaysonStanlio (Stan Laurel): Why don’t we start at the top?

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): Whatya mean?

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): Well, why don’t we become bandits? Then we wouldn’t have to work hard anymore. Let’s get it the easy way. We could rob the rich and give them to the poor, and we could have all …

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [Interrupting him] That’s the first time you’ve shown any intelligence.

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): Well, it’s the first time you’ve listened to me. You know if you listened to me, in a while you’d be a lot better off.

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): I guess you’re right. Tell me that plan again.

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): [Bewildered] All of it?

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): Certainly, certainly!

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): Well, if we became rich and we robbed the poor and gave them to the bandits and … we could start at the top, and we’d get to the bottom without working hard anymore. We can’t go wrong. It’s the law of conversation.

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): What do you mean?

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): Well, as ye cast your bread on the waters, so shall ye reap.

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): That’s very well thought out!

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): I’m not afraid of poverty.

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): But I am.

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): [after being robbed of all his savings] Oh, well, come easy, go easy – that’s my motto.

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [seeing Stanlio drunk] You’re spiffed!

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): I don’t want to be walking around with my throat cut.

Thelma Todd being romanced by Fra Diavolo
Thelma Todd being romanced by Fra Diavolo

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [marches importantly up to Lord Rocburg’s bedroom door and pompously tugs the bell cord; the bell rings very loudly and raucously, swinging violently on its pivot, then pulls loose from its mount and flies through the air, beaning Lord Rocburg]

Lord Rocburg (James Finlayson): [giving his famous comical look of offended outrage, scrunching up his face and shaking his head in pain and shocked indignation] Oooooh… phwooof!

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [knocking importantly on the door after he hears the bell come loose, his head turned slightly away from the door, and with an arrogantly formal and innocently charming smile on his face]

Lord Rocburg: [storms over to the door and flings it open]

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [still knocking on the door without observing; when Lord Rocburg opens it, Hardy is “between knocks” and is so intent on acting formal and looking elegant that he is unaware that the door is now open, and so he snaps his knuckles forward once again toward where the door had just been, but where Lord Rocburg’s head is now, and so he firmly taps him on the forehead a couple times] Ah… I BEG your pardon… hm-hm-hm-hm!
[proffers the serving tray with a flourish and a disarming closed-eyed smile]

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): With the Marquis’s compliments!

Lord Rocburg (James Finlayson): [drawing himself up and back slightly in a gesture of surprised indignance] Humph! Kindly inform the Marquis that I am very particular with whom I drink!
[gives a very firm, almost ferocious nod for emphasis, causing his nightcap’s long stocking-tassel to wave and bob ridiculously, then irritably turns back through the door and slams it shut again]

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): [looks at Hardy with his classic “nothing more we can do” expression and helpless shrug, then lifts the huge wine goblet from its tray and slowly and deliberately pours the entire contents down his throat]

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [in his classic “attempting to remain good-natured” tone of disgust] WHY did you drink that?

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): Well, I was afraid I mawght SPILL it.
[gives an affirming nod of assurance]

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [feigning a pleasant agreeable attitude] Come on…
[follows Laurel a few steps down the hall till they are out of earshot of Lord Rocburg’s bedroom, then gives Laurel a hard shove]

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [disgustedly] Afraid of SPILLING IT!

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): [conks Hardy on the head with the serving tray]

Ollio (Oliver Hardy): [giving his famous cry-baby howl of pain] Oooooh-hooh-hooh-hoooooh!
[rushes at Laurel and they start to scuffle, then lose their balance and tumble down the stairs]

Fra Diavolo: [watching his servants roll noisily down the stairway and land in an untidy heap at the bottom, then hurriedly sit up and smile at him and preen their disheveled clothes in an attempt to act as if nothing is wrong] What are you two trying to do – – break your necks? Ohhh, I shoulda done it for you in the FIRST place!

Stanlio (Stan Laurel): [to a Guard] Leave us alone, or I’ll tell Diavalo on you.
Ollio (Oliver Hardy): He doesn’t mean Diavalo, sir; he means the Marquis de San Marco.
[realizes he’s made the connection between the two]
Ollio (Oliver Hardy): Oooooohhhhh.

Matteo: All night long… I could not sleep! I tried to do THIS – -!
Matteo: – COULDN’T DO IT! NOW… you worry me… WITH THIS!
[irritably mashes his hands together and furiously waggles his fingers around amongst each other to imitate Stanlio’s playing “finger-wiggle”]
Matteo: What I wish youuuuu – –
[gestures helplessly above his head to indicate his enraged feelings – – obviously he wishes either that Stanlio was dead or that he would go to …]
Matteo: – I cannot SAY!

Trivia about The Devil’s Brother, starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

  • In this movie, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are named respectively “€Stanlio“€ and “€Ollio“€. These are the names by which they are still known in Italy
  • Fra Diavolo is one of the first movies to have exit music.
  • This was Laurel & Hardy’s first comic-opera film. The movie’s success led to another Laurel and Hardy operetta film, The Bohemian Girl.
  • Actor John Qualen is often erroneously credited with the bit role of the owner of the bull. However, it is clearly not Qualen in the role nor is it his voice.
  • In a 1957 radio interview, Stan Laurel said he considered this to be one of the best of the comedy team’s movies.
  • Anita Louise was originally slated for the role played by Lucile Brown.
  • Stan Laurel always referred to this film as “Fra Diavolo.”
  • “Fra Diavolo” represented a dream project for Hal Roach, who had seen the play as a boy. The fact that the play’s rights were in public domain was an added incentive to the producer.
  • In the wine cellar scene, it is so cold that Ollio’s breath can be seen.
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