The Music Box - Contemporary Film Criticism

Leslie Halliwell: "Quintessential Laurel & Hardy, involving almost all their aspects including a slight song and dance. With Billy Gilbert."

Fred Lawrence Guiles: "THE MUSIC BOX ... was an inspired piece of work. It is the purest example we have of the Laurel & Hardy formula -- futility aggravated by a total lack of appreciation of their inept efforts....Stan considered the comedy the finest of their shorter works."


Leonard Maltin: "One of the team's most famous shorts, and one of the best-loved....THE MUSIC BOX is a marvel of pacing; it shows how Laurel & Hardy built to a veritable crescendo of laughter through artful repetition and an unhurried tempo that for all its steadiness was never slow....One of the funniest three reels ever filmed....HELPMATES is too slapsticky for some audiences, and some of the silent L&H films are seemingly too subtle, but THE MUSIC BOX has wide and instant appeal....In addition, it is the only one of the three reel shorts they made that does not show padding."

David Robinson: "A year after their partnership began, sound came. Jolson sang, and the rest talked twenty to the dozen. Laurel and Hardy rode the wave imperturbably. With characteristic good sense, they asked themselves just why they should talk any more than they had been used to, merely because they could now be overheard. Not that they failed to make use of the new medium. The shrieking and groaning jangles of the piano which they haul and drop down the interminable stairway in THE MUSIC BOX is the last, the very last, word on the use of sound. These were their great days."

Randy Skretvedt: "This is the one everybody remembers. The image of Laurel & Hardy forever pushing a piano up a tremendous flight of steps seems to have stuck in the public consciousness, a tribute to this movie's beautifully controlled milking of one basic gag."

Glenn Mitchell: "Some admirers find the repitition wearying (particularly at three reels) but this tends to be after several screenings. This said, most agree with the film's high reputation, rivalled only by the silent TWO TARS and BIG BUSINESS, or the talkie short HELPMATES."

William K. Everson: "THE MUSIC BOX is one of the richest and most rewarding of all the Laurel & Hardy films and one of the best edited. Despite the fact that a full three reels are devoted to one basic gag, there is a continual variety of action, and a small but steady flow of new characters to lend punctuation to the new episodes....THE MUSIC BOX was by far the best of all their three-reelers, and together with 1933's BUSY BODIES, the last of their handful of really great shorts."

Charles Barr: "This won them their only Oscar and has always been their most celebrated film. Even those whose memory of Laurel and Hardy has grown dim with the years still remember THE MUSIC BOX. It is the central symbol of the steps which gives it this power, the power of myth: it is 'the myth of Sisyphus in comic terms' (Raymond Durgnat). Though the second half of the film is no anti-climax, it is the steps that are remembered.

"Another formal excellence is in the editing, revealing a precise sense of when to cut a scene and move, with a slight ellipse, to the next. The economy of construction means that an enormous amount happens within the film's 25-minute length: it seems to have in it everything that there is of Laurel and Hardy."

John McCabe: "Films like THE MUSIC BOX were the masterpieces of the short form....It is a film for the ages, an act of simple, well-crafted genius. THE MUSIC BOX is unquestionably the finest of their short films, a superb film. Its citation by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences as the best short subject of 1932, and Stan Laurel's personal endorsement of it as the best picture they ever made, are the only accolades it needs."

-- by Richard W. Bann --