Written and filmed September, 1931. Released by MGM, December, 1931. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by James Horne. Four reels.

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Charles Middleton, Broderick O'Farrell, Harry Schultz, Abdul Kasim K'Horne (James Horne)

STORY: The Boys join the French Foreign Legion so that Ollie can forget the woman who jilted him. Upon arrival in the Legion, they discover that virtually every soldier has been jilted by the same woman (Jean Harlow, no less). The discovery completely cures Ollie of his melancholy state, but their polite request for discharge gets no sympathy from Commandant Middleton. After days of torturous marching and training in the scorching desert sun, The Boys succeed in defending their camp against an attack from the dreaded Riffs.

    The only Laurel and Hardy four-reeler. It was intended as a two-reeler, but kept getting longer as more gags were added during filming. Even though the Roach Studios lost money on the film (it had been pre-sold to distributors at two-reel prices), it was felt that the quality of the film would suffer with editing, and was sent out as is. Randy Skretvedt: "There aren't many producers today who would willingly lose money on a film just because it was too good to cut. There weren't many producers then who would do that."


JL: Unlike PARDON US, the episodic structure gets in the way here. It's a good film up to and including the scene where they request their discharge. From there, it drags along with an occasional good gag to redeem it. Everson was right on target about this one when he said "Four reels was a clumsy length for a Laurel and Hardy film; they never repeated it." But the "Jeanie-Weenie" device is inspired, and Ollie crashing into the piano is one of their greatest-ever sight gags.

JB: The first two reels of Beau Hunks are so good, they could have put up a "The End" sign after Stan dumps the sand (and one absurdly large rock) out of his shoe after a long hike, and the film would have joined the ranks of One Good Turn, Laughing Gravy or Come Clean as a thoroughly enjoyable above-average Laurel and Hardy film. It would have been a "what the hell" ending, but it would have made for a much better short.

     Unlike most of their films, Beau Hunks is heavily dependent of dialogue, but that is not a drawback since the running conversation that opens the film, just after Ollie's beautiful rendition of "You Are The Ideal of My Dreams", ranks among the best dialogue sequences they ever had. Ollie barely gets the words "I'm going to be married" out of his mouth before Stan takes the conversation onto several sidetracks, beginning with his initial exclamation of "You don't believe me!" (mangling the phrases "I don't believe you" and "You don't say!"). Ollie makes the mistake of using the word "levity" somewhere along the way, which takes the dialogue in a different direction as Ollie is forced to define the word for Stan's benefit before he can get back to talking about his beloved "Jeannie-Weannie". In fact, with "You don't believe me!", "Hello, Mr. Levity?" and "B.S." ("Big Sucker, I guess") this one scene added more to the lexicon of Laurel and Hardy fans than any other extended dialogue sequence I can think of.

     The film continues through several funny sequences in the Foreign Legion, where Ollie discovers that at least half the platoon has joined for the same reason as he - to forget Jeannie Weannie. When they enter the Commandant's office and are soundly rebuffed in their request to leave the legion, they make at least five attempts at exiting without success - Stan forgets his hat, Ollie forgets his, they walk into the bathroom. Just leaving a room is sometimes a task far beyond these two men.

     Unfortunately, after the amusing scene where Ollie, weary from an eight-hour march, mistakenly massages Stan's foot thinking it is his own, the film runs out of inspiration. There is no clear indication why Beau Hunks had to be a four-reeler, except the possibilty that by adding an impending attack on the fort late in the film, they could pad things out to quasi-feature length. But there is little of real interest in the final two reels, and Beau Hunks suddenly goes from being a wonderful little Laurel and Hardy film to one of their most lopsidedly disappointing efforts to date. Some Laurel and Hardy films start out slow and build to amazing climaxes. Beau Hunks starts out with a bang but runs out of steam two reels before it is over.

      Two final points of interest: Jeannie Weannie is "played" by former Double Whoopee co-star Jean Harlow (seen only in a photograph in this film), and Beau Hunks was later remade as their 1939 feature THE FLYING DEUCES.

Copyright © 2013 John Larrabee, John V. Brennan

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