The Music Box - Period Reviews

FILM DAILY, February 28, 1932: "Pip gags."

"The two Hal Roach comics do one of their typically goofy acts, this time as proprietors of a carting company. Their first job is to cart a mechanical player piano to the home of the woman who has bought it as a surprise birthday gift for her husband. The principal gagging is done in getting the piano up a long flight of stone steps to the house on top of a hill. Then getting the piano into the house creates more confusion and hilarity. It is up to the Laurel-Hardy standard, and should score easily."


MOTION PICTURE HERALD, March 12, 1932: "It's great fun.

"Laurel and Hardy again, and again supplying an unusual number of laughs for all and sundry. The combination of more than a little slapstick, as the pair know how to handle that comedic form and numerous amusing lines well spaced and well rendered, aid in making this an exceptionally amusing comedy. The two are partners in a moving company, and most of this number has to do with their attempted delivery of a player piano, with all that that should mean. Unusually long for a comedy, it is worth the extra length."

MOTION PICTURE, June, 1932: "It looks as if Laurel & Hardy are getting in the mood to make another feature-length comedy -- and that's news that isn't hard to take. Their latest 'short' lasts thirty minutes and it's a fast and funny half-hour. Perhaps they got their idea from Charlie Chaplin, who once was screamingly funny as a piano mover's helper -- but don't hold that against them. They have improved on Chaplin, which is no easy task. Their job is to move a player piano -- and that's no easy task, either. Not with a pair as absurdly, ridiculously, insanely awkward as these two. The gags are almost as side-splitting as they are."

Eighteen years previously Chaplin had indeed made for Mack Sennett a Keystone Comedy entitled HIS MUSICAL CAREER. Chaplin and huge Mack Swain played piano movers, using a cart hauled by a donkey. They, too, have their own trouble getting to the correct delivery address. There is also a short scene with a flight of steps. Charles Parrott had a supporting role. During the interval this picture had been reissued first as MUSICAL TRAMP (sometimes TRAMPS), and then later as THE PIANO MOVERS.

Even though it was a remake of HATS OFF, was THE MUSIC BOX also modelled after HIS MUSICAL CAREER? Almost certainly both Stan Laurel and Hal Roach saw at least one of these releases, but it cannot be known whether or not either had Chaplin's film in mind when THE MUSIC BOX was conceived and produced.

LOS ANGELES ILLUSTRATED DAILY NEWS, July 1, 1932: "Laurel & Hardy have made another of those extra-length three-reel comedies, in their new vehicle, THE MUSIC BOX, which has been booked as an added screen attraction on the new program starting today at Loew's State.

"This is the first of their comedies to exceed two reels since PARDON US, which was a hit as a feature length comedy. The new picture is said to be a new feather in the caps of the inimitable pair, for sustained laughter."

HOLLYWOOD CITIZEN NEWS, July 2, 1932: "... However, SOCIETY GIRL (the feature attraction) is rather a negligible item in an otherwise entertaining program at Loew's. A hilarious Laurel & Hardy comedy is the hit of the screen. In THE MUSIC BOX, these two comics undergo the trials and tribulations of piano movers and you can readily imagine the slapstick antics they perform."

VARIETY, November 22, 1932: "Less than average subject for this comedy pair, who depend upon house wrecking for their laughs instead of upon the laughs within the situations themselves. Any pair of clowns can make haw-haws out of roughhouse; this pair have reached distinction by reason of a comic quality within themselves. Resort to house-wrecking argues lack of resource in the 'script' department.

"This time the pair are piano movers delivering an instrument on a truck to a suburban residence that turns out to be at the top of a long flight of steps. When they get the piano up, nobody is home, so they rig up tackle and put the piano through the open second-floor window, and on down the stairs to the parlor, of course damaging themselves and each other in the process, and tearing the house apart.

"In the end the man of the house appears, turns out to be a musician, and goes into a rage over an unwanted mechanical piano, purchased by his wife unknown to him for a gift. Finish is only so-so and the subject doesn't hold up pace for its fifteen minutes."

It's fifteen minutes? Fifteen minutes! Less than average? And Billy Gilbert's a musician? Such a notice argues for lack of perception in the critical faculties department. What version of THE MUSIC BOX was this reviewer looking at? VARIETY wrote the toughest reviews, and usually the most reliable, but not always, and here was just such an exception.

MOTION PICTURE HERALD, WHAT THE PICTURE DID FOR ME section, December 24, 1932: "MUSIC BOX: Laurel & Hardy -- One of the best. -- Henry Bettendorf, Opera House, Foley, Minnesota. Small town patronage."

But big time perspicacity. "One of the best," is right, and maybe the best of them all.

-- by Richard W. Bann --