In this intricate comedy of errors and mistaken dual identities, Stan and Ollie start out as polite householders. They live in a seaport town and have happily married at a station slightly higher than their own. Following afternoon tea, their socially inclined wives leave to dress for a bridge party. Ollie receives a letter from his mother, together with a photo showing himself and Stan. The boys are pictured alongside their respective long-lost, trouble-making twin brothers, Bert and Alf. The letter reveals a belief that Bert and Alf shipped away at sea and were hanged for mutiny. "Let this be a lesson to you," Mother advises. Stan and Ollie vow never to tell their wives of such shameless siblings. That afternoon, however, in a surprise for all, the S.S. Periwinkle, a tramp schooner, arrives in port, carrying the very same Bert and Alf, alive and reasonably well. On a sailors' holiday, the ship's captain entrusts them with a pearl ring, which during shore leave they carry with them to a place known as Denker's Beer Garden. There the sailors meet two "charming and refined young ladies," namely Alice and Lily. The pair of flashy waterfront gals may not have eaten for days, and order expensive dinners the boys cannot pay for, since Fin, the ship's wily chief engineer, had earlier conned them into consigning all their money -- $74 -- for the thrifty Scotchman to invest. He's assured Bert and Alf they'll soon be millionaires. But with the chance to entertain Alice and Lily, the two bad lads depart Denker's to retrieve their funds, leaving the ring as security. Being a swindler, Fin refuses to repay any money, and also tricks them out of their clothes so they can't leave.
Coincidentally, just then, the happily married Stan and Ollie arrive at the same Denker's Beer Garden with their lovely wives for a luncheon engagement. Alice and Lily and the waiter are unaware Stan and Ollie are not the sailor twins they met earlier. Whereupon Fin shows up too, mistakes Stan and Ollie for his mates Bert and Alf, and also their wives for the two tramps he's heard about, Alice and Lily. With their marital suspicions highly aroused, the jealous wives storm out. Bewildered by all this, Stan and Ollie leave too, with a congenial drunk. Now possessing the ring, the threesome plans to drown their sorrows in some other drinking establishment. Meanwhile the seafaring twins wrap themselves in quilts for clothes, looking like Arab rug salesmen, and hoping to pass scrutiny as a pair of "Singapore Eskimos."
Upon returning to Denker's, the two seamen get into a fight over the missing ring, and are thrown in jail. The wives' neighbor sees the incident, and races home to tell the tale. Thinking Bert and Alf are their husbands, the two ladies bail the boys out. The judge, mistakenly believing he knows the two sailors, encourages them to make things right by taking the ladies to a swanky nightclub. Civilians Stan and Ollie are already there, having arrived with the drunk they befriended at Denker's. Inevitably the twins become inter-mixed. Then two gangsters overhear a conversation about the valuable ring, kidnap Stan and Ollie, seal their feet in round-bottomed tubs of cement, and threaten to dump them in the sea if they fail to turn over the missing ring. Instead, Stan and Ollie, teetering in encased half-spheres of concrete, accidentally knock the crooks into the water, then roll over the side of the pier themselves, only to be rescued by none other than Bert and Alf. Happily reunited, and laughing over the many mixups, the four twins leisurely depart along the wharf, unraveling the tangled mishaps they've experienced. Bert and Ollie console one another concerning how dumb the two Laurels are. "You're absolutely right, Bert," confirms Ollie, confidentially. "Neither one of them can see any further than the end of his nose." After which Bert and Ollie strut right off the end of the dock and plunge into the water far below, as Stan and Alf peer over the edge and shrug their shoulders at the plight of their splashing, smarter siblings.
-- by Richard W. Bann -- All photos copyright CCA