Should Married Men Go Home? - Contemporary Film Criticism

John McCabe: "SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? has the boys involved with a burly golfer (Edgar Kennedy) at a mud hazard on the course, and there is much sloshing about in black goo. Had (Leo) McCarey concentrated on the realistic problems of golfing, a more meaningful comedy would have resulted. As it is, the film is simply a set of adults playing with mud pies, and appealing to viewers on about that level of sophistication."

William K. Everson: "One of the best of the forgotten Laurel & Hardy films, SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? admittedly overlaps with several of their other films but is no less funny because of it."


Certain story elements are familiar since they were used in more frequently shown and better remembered Laurel & Hardy shorts. The opening sequence, where the happy Hardys see Stan at the front door and pretend not to be at home was reworked later in COME CLEAN. And the soda fountain routine where the boys treat the girls but believe they have money enough for only three drinks (derived from the Weber and Fields 1919 vaudeville skit A GLASS OF BEER) was recreated for MEN O' WAR less than a year later. Both adaptations were improved with the use of sound and dialogue.

Nor was the gooey slapstick finale the best execution of its kind either. The mud-slinging melee was obviously inspired by the massive pie fight from THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY - along with TWO TARS and BIG BUSINESS clearly the classic examples of deliberate harrassment and reciprocal destruction so far filmed. The muddy mutual abuse equivalent here, while highly entertaining, fails to top the pie tossing of THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY or even the cooked rice throwing in THE HOOSE-GOW.

"It is a formula easily overdone," Stan Laurel told the LOS ANGELES TIMES in 1930 speaking about the psychology and motivation that went into this kind of violent farce. "People come to me every day and suggest we change it, when the truth of the matter is that we have used it in only five of the 32 two-reelers we have made after THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY."

Evidently documentary filmmaker Robert Youngson also regarded SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? as a second echelon effort (at least for Laurel & Hardy) since he waited until his next to last compilation of silent comedies THE FURTHER PERILS OF LAUREL & HARDY (1967) to excerpt what he hailed as "The Great Mud Fight."

Yet in fairness, to fully appreciate the pacing, the subtle playing, the likeable cast, the variety of pleasant settings and the succession of inventive sight gags, one need only view the derivate MEN ABOUT TOWN, starring the comedy team of Hal Roach Studios graduates Harry "Snub" Pollard and Marvin "Fat" Lobeck. Weiss Brothers Artclass distributed this series which routinely stole material from Laurel & Hardy, and any comparative screening will demonstrate the skill with which SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? was created and crafted.

The soda fountain skit was also redone by Abbott and Costello in their 1941 Universal Pictures feature film entitled KEEP 'EM FLYING.

In 1967 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ran a feature story on sport movies and described Stan Laurel in SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? as "an elegantly attired golfer with an uncanny resemblance to Fred Astaire."

Dorothy Coburn, the first golfer besplattered by Edgar Kennedy, made her last appearance with Laurel & Hardy in SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? In this black and white film we are deprived of seeing she had blue eyes and red hair. She continued performing stunt work in films, and was later a stand-in for Ginger Rogers. She died in Los Angeles of emphysema at age 72 in 1978.

The best Astaire and Rogers musical was SWING TIME (1936), directed by George Stevens. In 1970, on a phone interview, Stevens offered comments on some of the Laurel & Hardy films he photographed. He knew few of them by name, but once described he remembered them well. Recalling SHOULD MARRIED MEN GO HOME? Stevens said, "That was the old style of comedy, from the old school. Sometimes with Laurel & Hardy the story wasn't always there, but they'd keep trying things, changing things. When you do that, and you're done, the structure may not be linear, but that never mattered at Roach if the audience laughed. That's all you're looking for is sustaining that laughter. Throwing mud around is low comedy, but run that for an audience. Every preview we had on that one, audiences laughed. That was such a reward with those two guys, hearing audiences rock with laughter. They were marvelous clowns."

-- by Richard W. Bann --