One Good Turn

One Good Turn (1931) starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Mary Carr

At the beginning of One Good TurnLaurel and Hardy are victims of the Depression, living on the outskirts of town with their meager possessions – an old, run-down automobile, an older army surplus tent, the clothes on their back and some spare shirts.  While Stanley (Stan Laurel) is cooking soup for lunch, Ollie (Oliver Hardy) is washing out their clothes in a nearby stream. Oliver, however, makes the mistake of asking Stan to “do something and help me”€ – and in the process of hanging up the clothes, he trips and knocks the tent into the fire.

In an inspired clown moment, he grabs a drinking cup, walks past Ollie and the stream of water to a water pump, where he fills the cup with water and dashes back.  He repeats this twice, finally asking Ollie if he has another cup – why? asks Ollie.  “Because the tent is on fire!”  They dash back to the remains of the tent and Stan, now that things are too late, flings the soup on the fire in a useless attempt at saving the tent.  Ollie, tempting fate, asks how could things get any worse — and the camera obligingly answers, but showing their clothes on the clothesline, shrunk by the heat of the tent flames, now worthless.

Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel are reduced to begging in One Good TurnWith no other options, Stan and Oliver drive into town to beg for food.  At the same time, a little old lady (Mary Carr) is rehearsing a scene for her community theater with a friend (Jimmy Finlayson), where the cold-hearted banker is going to foreclose her mortgage.  This is the house where Stan and Ollie decide to stop and ask for a handout since they “haven’t had a meal in three days – yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy eating in One Good TurnThe kind-hearted old woman obliges, and Stan volunteers Ollie’s services to cut up some lumber for her. After a short disagreement, Stan starts chopping the wood – with flying lumber landing on Oliver’s head, in a very funny scene.  As Laurel and Hardy go inside to eat the lunch prepared for them — a funny scene in itself, as Stan helps himself to the lion’s share of the food.  Mary Carr and James Finlayson practice their scene again where she can’t pay her mortgage.  Laurel and Hardy overhear the rehearsal and think that their kindly old benefactor is about to be thrown out of her home, for the lack of one hundred dollars.

Colorized photo of Oliver Hardy auctioning off the boys' car in One Good TurnBeing the good-natured duo that they are, Stan and Ollie see only one thing to do; they drive their car downtown and proceed to gather a crowd, and auction off their car to raise the $100 dollars that their hostess needs.  In the midst of the bidding, when it’s at the needed one hundred dollars, someone asks Stan what time it is and he answers “1:25” – which, of course, sounds like one hundred and twenty-five, and becomes the high bid.  The crowd disperses, and Oliver realizes that there is no money for the old woman.  To add insult to injury, during their auction a drunk has accidentally put his wallet in Stan’s pocket, which Oliver finds – with $100 in it!  Oliver jumps to the conclusion that Stan is the thief, and after a verbal tirade he drags Stan back to the woman’s house, in order to have Stan “€˜confess”€™.

Once they arrive, the woman explains that there is no stolen money and no foreclosure.  Oliver is red-faced and embarrassed, at “having committed a faux-pas.” Stan, however, has had his ire raised, and has had enough!  In a very comic finale, Stan attacks Ollie, who hides in the woodshed.

“You come out!”
“I will not!  You leave me alone!”

Stan has armed himself with an axe, and the frightened Oliver refuses to come out; undaunted, Stan begins attacking the woodshed, until it falls down around the frightened Oliver, pinning him with his head sticking through what’s left of the roof.  Getting his revenge, Stan starts chopping wood again, sending lumber crashing down on Ollie’s head – €”and finally on his own!

It’s a very funny Laurel and Hardy film, and I frankly don’t see how they could improve it.  I rate it 5 clowns out of 5.  I enjoyed it, as did my children, and hope that you do as well.

Funny movie quotes from One Good Turn starring Laurel and Hardy

[after their tent has gone up in flames]
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Well, our earthly possessions are slowly getting less and less.

Oliver (Oliver Hardy): We haven’t tasted food for three whole days.
Old lady (Mary Carr): Three whole days!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Yes ma’am. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Oliver (Oliver Hardy): One good turn deserves another.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): So do I neither.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): What do you mean, “€œso do I neither”€?

Stanley (Stan Laurel): I don’t know anything about cutting wood.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Well, you ought to. You once told me your father was in the lumber business.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): I know he was, but it was only in a small way.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): What do you mean small way?
Stanley (Stan Laurel): He used to sell toothpicks.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Well, go ahead and make some toothpicks. Be a chip off of the old block.

Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Now I see it all.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): What?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): “What”. Don’t  try to alibi. You know you stole this money from that old lady. Why guilt is written all over you.
Stanley (Stan Laurel): What do you mean?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): I mean that you’re going to give this money back and make a full confession!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): A confession of what?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): And to think after all these years I’ve been fostering a common thief. A viper in my bosom!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Whose bosom? What are you talking about?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Don’t try to bluff me! To think you would bite the hand that was feeding you. You snake in the grass. You traitor! You sheep in wool clothing. You double-crosser. You judist! You … You…!
Stanley (Stan Laurel): Stop! Don’t call me a “€œYou-you”€.

Old lady: [Ollie shoves Stan through the door] What on earth is the matter?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Madam, my one-time friend Mr. Laurel has a confession to make.
Old lady: Confession?
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): Yes. He’s the one who stole your money and left you at the mercy of that villain!
Old lady: There must be some mistake.
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): There’s no mistake. It’s all too true. Why I caught him red handed.
Old lady: There hasn”€™t been any money stolen. We were just rehearsing a play for the community players. [laughs]
Oliver (Oliver Hardy): [after a long pause; nervously twiddles his tie] I must have made a faux pas.
[laughs; Stan proceeds to beat Ollie up]

Trivia about One Good Turn starring Laurel and Hardy

  • The finale in the film, where Stan retaliates against Ollie, was inspired by Stan’s daughter, Lois. After Lois had seen so many movies in which Ollie mistreated Stan, she became fearful of Ollie (known to her as “Uncle Babe”). So, Stan decided to write a scene that showed his character could stand up for himself. After that, Lois got along just fine with Ollie.

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