I’ll be honest with you, I’ve only seen extracts of this extraordinary film, and I wouldn’t have seen those extracts if I wasn’t a dedicated Laurel and Hardy completist. Hollywood Party is an astonishing revue comedy song and dance film made at the height of the Great Depression. It is such a bizarre, inventive and excessive celebration of bling and conspicuous consumption that it sort of transcends bad taste and feels more like a carefully crafted incitement to proletarian revolution. There’s a “Last Days of Pompeii” feel to this movie, a kind of swirling desperation that makes you feel that some kind of apocalypse of nigh – if not long overdue.
Jimmy Durante hosts, along with Lupe Vélez. There are dancers upon dancers, pianos upon pianos and more high kicking party goers than you ever thought Southern California could accommodate. There is also a full colour animated sequence by Disney called “The Hot Choc-late Soldiers” which offers a perfect example of 1930s animated unheimlich which sings the story of an aggressive war of conquest by chocolate soldiers upon gingerbread men culminating with the melting of the entire cast. Oh, and the Three Stooges are in Hollywood Party too.
Stan and Ollie have an extended altercation with Latin diva Lupe Vélez which culminates in a carefully timed and very slow tit for tat egg battle. They would repeat this routine, with perhaps less success, a decade later in their very late film, The Bullfighters. Lupe hits Ollie very hard on the head with her shoe for no very obvious reason and so Stan and Ollie join forces against Lupe, who is more than a match for them. The best moment is when a raw egg goes down the front of Ollie’s pants. The camera is content to silently monitor the slow progression of sensations on Ollie’s face as the raw egg makes its slow and cold journey down Ollie’s lower half. Ollie’s face is doing all the comedic work here. Stan and Ollie do, however, eventually succeed in tricking Lupe into sitting on an egg – which is some consolation. They are then chased from the bar by an angry mob, which is only repelled by releasing a lion.
It’s that sort of film.
In short, I think it’s my fave Stan and Ollie MGM movie.
I’ve some thoughts about some other Laurel and Hardy movies.