Sons of the Desert - Contemporary Film Criticism

Leonard Maltin: "SONS OF THE DESERT was the best feature the team ever did. It manages to take the kind of material used in the Laurel & Hardy two-reelers and expand it to feature-length without padding or musical subplots. It remains one-hundred per cent pure Laurel & Hardy. The film moves along at a brisk pace, directed by comedy expert William A. Seiter, who, unfortunately, never worked with the boys again. At the convention itself, Stan and Ollie share the spotlight with Charley Chase as an hilariously obnoxious fellow delegate."

Leslie Halliwell: "SONS OF THE DESERT is the quintessential Laurel & Hardy comedy ... unsurpassed for gags, pacing, and sympathetic characterization....Sociologically, the movie pinpoints its period with total precision."

Charles Barr: "SONS OF THE DESERT, the fourth of their full length films, is, I think, the most perfect of them; it doesn't, like its possible rivals BLOCK-HEADS and A CHUMP AT OXFORD, depend on a knowledge of their career as a whole to get its full effect....The film is very much more than a moral schema. It is deeply funny, with a great richness of detail, meticulously acted and plotted, and directed with an understanding of the timing which Laurel & Hardy's personalities dictate. They have mastered the longer form: the film has as tight a unity as any of the shorts."

William K. Everson: "Although a re-working of a theme that the comedians used quite frequently, SONS OF THE DESERT is a thoroughly fresh and delightful comedy, quite certainly the best and subtlest of all their features...with Charley Chase scoring as an irrepressible practical joker....(SONS OF THE DESERT) has that indefinable quality of charm which broadens its appeal beyond the legions of Laurel & Hardy devotees....One of the most accomplished comedies of the early 1930s."

Nick Barbaro: "SONS OF THE DESERT is a fascinating psycho-sexual parable on marital dominance, considerably more complex than it seems. That the convention is a sexual matter is demonstrated in the first shot, as the boys greet a pretty young woman along the parade route. Thus their machinations can be analyzed in Freudian terms. On one level we might say that Stan represents the id -- his desires and needs are simple and so is he. Totally incapable of the duplicity necessary to achieve those needs, he never seems wholly aware of his role in Ollie's plotting. Thus in the end he is seen as innocent and is rewarded for his honesty. Ollie is constantly seeking ways for them to gratify their desires. In his plans, he resorts to all sorts of subterfuge, and, in the end, is firmly punished."

Glenn Mitchell: "Often considered the team's best feature, SONS OF THE DESERT elevates the premise of WE FAW DOWN to an adroit blend of domestic farce and social document. The comedians are integrated totally into the story rather than running in parallel to an unrelated plot....A definite plus is the appearance of Charley Chase as an obnoxious conventioneer who turns out to be Ollie's brother-in-law."

John McCabe: "I had the occasional habit of asking Stan Laurel for thumbnail descriptions of various films. For SONS OF THE DESERT, he used the adjective 'jolly.' It was, he said, the 'jolliest' of their films. I don't think anyone would dispute that. He certainly was fond of the word 'jolly,' calling it a particularly English word. His using that word reminded me of an evocative bit of verse that I first heard when I was a graduate student in England. This piece of light verse in fact I had encountered not long before I met Stan.

"At one time at Oxford University, there was a great English scholar named Sir Walter Raleigh (no, not that Sir Walter Raleigh, who lived in Shakespeare's time). The Sir Walter Raleigh I mean was resident at Oxford from 1904 to 1922. He wrote many learned tomes but of all his works, I loved best this simple quatrain:

I wish I loved the human race,
I wish I loved its silly face.
I wish, when I met someone,
I could say, 'what jolly fun!'

I recited this to Stan, saying, 'This is the perfect definition of who you are not!' He laughed, and was delighted. 'What a nice thing to say about me,' he said."

-- by Richard W. Bann --