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It Works: 'Pick a Star'

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Friday, May 18, 2012
Light-headed...with Laurel and Hardy, too!
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Pick a Star

Director: Edward Sedgwick
Cast: Patsy Kelly, Jack Haley

(USDVD release date: )

There are two reasons to watch this film: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. As in Hollywood Party (another recent release in the Warner Archive made-on-demand line), they drop by late in the proceedings and steal the show, not that the rest of the show isn’t perfectly enjoyable in its own light-headed way. There’s a brainless, unimportant heroine (Rosina Lawrence) who wins a beauty contest and wants to go to Hollywood to be a star. There’s her brainless boyfriend (Jack Haley) who tries to make it happen by working as a busboy. There’s a sassy gal-pal (top-billed Patsy Kelly) who’s around to make caustic comments, and there’s a stuck-up star (Mischa Auer) who pitches woo to the heroine but turns out to be all right for a sleazy masher.

And then there’s Laurel and Hardy, playing “themselves” while behaving exactly the same behind the scenes as in front of the cameras. In their first bit, they act in a bar fight sequence for a movie and then discuss the breakaway prop bottles. In their second and last scene, they’re sitting around behind the set in a sequence that might be called “duelling harmonicas”. Their mastery of timing and schtick in unquestionable; Hardy’s exasperated, complicit glances at the audience still feel modern. The entire movie is a loosely strung collection of genial absurdities from the small town to the big city, and it has no goal or function besides raising a few smiles and laughs. In that, it works.


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