Our Relations - Contemporary Film Criticism
Leslie Halliwell: "A fast-moving comedy which contains some of Laurel & Hardy's most polished work as well as being their most satisfying production....We cherish the moment when Ollie decides they can only afford one glass of beer between them, which he orders with his usual majesty; then Stan calls after the waiter to add, 'and two clean straws that haven't been used.'"
William K. Everson: "OUR RELATIONS was on a much bigger scale than any prior Laurel & Hardy film. The elaborate night club set in which much of the action took place was a really impressive creation, and the whole production has a look of class and polish to it. No little of this can be attributed to the smooth, glistening camerawork of Rudolph Maté.
"OUR RELATIONS also has more than a casual relationship to Shakespeare's COMEDY OF ERRORS, or at least to the musical show made from it under the title of THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE.
"OUR RELATIONS is one of the most handsome Laurel & Hardy films, and because of its production values, one that holds up best today. Television revivals have been especially ruthless to it in terms of cutting, however. There is even a one-reel version under the title of SAILOR'S DOWNFALL."
Randy Skretvedt: "The recutting of the picture must have helped it enormously, because the final cut moves along at a much more rapid tempo than usual for Laurel and Hardy. The whole production looks far more lavish than any of the previous features, with Mate's unusual compositions adding extra visual interest. The special effects sequences showing two sets of Laurels and Hardys are held to minimum, but they are seamlessly accomplished by Roy Seawright.
"In sum, OUR RELATIONS is a well-crafted and consistently amusing comedy. The film's major flaw: there's so much story that the boys don't have time to just stop for a while and be funny. Even though there are twice as many Laurels and Hardys in this picture, one leaves feeling unsated."
Charles Barr: "OUR RELATIONS is the antithesis of the loosely constructed opera films. It is so intricately plotted as to be rather a strain: there isn't room left for them to develop their best leisurely routines.
"Half the film is a kind of SON OF SONS OF THE DESERT, with Stan and Ollie as respectable fraternity members, older and settled, finding the main interest of their existence in the repetition of idiotic Masonic ritual. However, they have twin brothers Alf and Bert, disreputable sailors whom they believe to be dead....
"It is the only film, except for TWICE TWO and BRATS, where they play double roles, but, since they appear together only in the final scene, the technical complications are not so great. They simply play alternately the two familiar versions of their characters, the bourgeois and the outsider, bringing the two into confrontation.
"It is the respectable Stan and Ollie who, blamed by their wives for what Alf and Bert have done, suddenly burst out in defiance and resolve to have a night on the town. They have always wanted this; their wives, as they show, have always expected it.
"OUR RELATIONS still works well as a neat and entertaining comedy, and is perhaps the most respectable of their films, with antecedents going back to Plautus and Shakespeare; Borde and Perrin, in their PREMIER PLAN booklet on Laurel and Hardy, bracket it with BLOCK-HEADS as their masterpiece, but I would argue that to appreciate Laurel and Hardy fully is to prefer to it not only BLOCK-HEADS but even a scrappy film like BABES IN TOYLAND."
John McCabe: "There is, about OUR RELATIONS, a particularly British flavor, doubtless due to the taste of its creator. It's all there: the tang of the sea, the sailor costuming, the perils of high tea, the maritime nightclub and overall high Cockney flapdoodle. Moreover, the culminating Briticism is the invoking of Shakespeare's name as a catch phrase throughout this Bow Bell's version of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS."
Glenn Mitchell: "Complex in plot but high in production values, OUR RELATIONS is one of the finest Laurel & Hardy features....The idea of (SONS OF THE DESERT) lodge ritual resurfaces when 'Al' and 'Bert' meet a judge and, presumably, in Stan and Ollie's business of placing a finger on each other's nose (with cries of 'Shakespeare' and 'Longfellow!') when they happen to use the same phrase simultaneously."
OUR RELATIONS probably rests right in the middle of any ordinal ranking of the Roach features. Yet one area where this subject excels is its wonderful, almost definitive Laurel & Hardy dialogue. Fans who have not seen OUR RELATIONS in a while might be surprised by how many signature Laurel & Hardy phrases can be traced to this film -- phrases and snappy patter we incorporate into our conversations every day, often without ever realizing where they came from, or what we are doing! Some examples:
Ollie: Never mind who it was -- who was it?
Ollie: My eyes are getting worse every day. This letter is just a blur.
Ollie's mother: In going through a lot of rubbish I came across this picture of you....
Ollie: Cha, cha, cha!
Ollie: Isn't that calamitous?!
Stan: We're full of it.
Ollie: Aye, sir. It's on Fifth and Eighth.
Sidney Toler: ...and don't call me 'Cappy'!
Ollie: Fifteen cents for the straws?!
Ollie: My name is Mr. Hardy, and this is my very good friend, Mr. Laurel.
Ollie: Alice! My mother's name was Alice!
Stan: We can be millionaires anytime.
Stan: We just figured out a plan. You'll like this.
Jimmie Finlayson: I wouldn't say yes, and I wouldn't say no.
Ollie: We'll do nothing of the kind. I'm going to teach them a lesson.
Alan Hale: No more drinks! You've had too much, and you two guys haven't had enough.
Ollie: That sounds screwy to me, but any old port in a storm.
Stan: This isn't his birthday.
Alf: You're sure looking good, Stanley, but how you have altered.
All words to live by.
-- by Richard W. Bann --