The Music Box starring Laurel and Hardy was the first short comedy to receive an Oscar in 1932.
Laurel and Hardy are charged with delivering a piano to a house that sits on top of an enormous flight of steps. It’s a three reeler talkie that lasts around thirty minutes. About half of this time is spent getting the piano to the front of the house with much repetition of the journey, but the duo inject so many different scenarios that this never feels tedious or dull. The pair encounter some gems of supporting characters on their way up, including Professor von Schwarzenhoffen – a rude, aggressive and pompous man who Laurel and Hardy frustrate to little short of bursting point.
When the pair eventually reach the house, more hilarity ensues as they attempt to get the piano inside, trashing the house in the process. It’s a charming film, full of laughs that come largely from its visual gags. The Music Box is fairly light on dialogue with awkward silences – as the pair lug the heavy object around – working a treat. When the piano begins to play it provides a wonderful score and there’s some nice action that’s reminiscent of older silent movies.
The characters of Laurel and Hardy shine through and their dimwittedness is endearing as well as amusing. There’s a great gag where their horse looks round at Hardy (apparently wondering how silly this man can be) before causing him to get crushed by the piano – later there’s a nice moment when Hardy thinks he’s outwitted the horse. This battle of intelligence with an animal is one of the film’s many highlights.
The Music Box is a partial remake of an earlier Laurel and Hardy short – the 1927 Hats Off. This short, now believed to be lost, saw the duo carry a washing machine up a vast flight of stairs before getting into an argument where they knocked off each other’s hats. The same flight of steps in Silver Lake, Los Angeles was used to film The Music Box. The crate that the pair pull around is empty but the one that slides down the stairs has a real piano inside, allowing its jangling tones to be heard as it falls away.
I’ll leave you with a great hat gag from this brilliant classic, The Music Box, for you to enjoy.