Block-Heads (1938)

Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Patricia Ellis, Minna Gombell, Billy Gilbert, James Finlayson

Directed by John G. Blystone

Expectations: Not as treasured as Way Out West, but I remember loving this one as well in my youth.


For their next feature after Way Out West, Laurel and Hardy went contemporary. Block-Heads opens during World War I, as the tanks laboriously roll by and the soldiers march into certain death. Soon we focus down on a trench teeming with men, where Stan and Ollie prepare for war. But it’s not in the cards for Stan, as he is told decisively by his commanding officer to guard his post until told to do otherwise. Well, Ollie and the rest of the boys run out of the trench and Stan hangs back for the next twenty years. Yeah, he’s a block-head alright!

Block-Heads is an interestingly plotted film because unlike Way Out West which is pretty straightforward, Block-Heads tells a few different concurrent storylines and then has them all collide. In a way, it’s like the writers had a lot of leftover ideas and decided to throw them together, but that sounds like a unfair slight to a film that’s full of great gags and ideas. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Block-Heads might start as a war-based comedy, but it quickly transitions to the home front, revealing itself to be more of a domestic, relationship comedy. Along the way to the domestic comedy, though, is a lot of “trying to get from point a to point b”, and that’s what makes up most of the runtime of Block-Heads.

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