AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Pardon Us
Alternate Title: Their First Mistake
Director: James Parrott (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Aug 1931
Production Date:   began 24 Jun 1930
Duration (in mins):   55
Duration (in reels):   6
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Cast:   Stan Laurel (Stan Laurel)  
    Oliver Hardy (Oliver Hardy)  
    June Marlowe (The warden's daughter)  
    Wilfred Lucas (The warden)  
    James Finlayson (Instructor)  
    Walter Long (Tiger)  
    Stanley J. Sandford (Officer LeRoy Shields)  

Summary: Bootleggers Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are arrested and sent to prison after Stan sells a bottle of beer to a police officer. Stan is afflicted with a loose tooth that makes a buzzing "raspberry" sound every time he speaks, much to the chagrin of their tough cellmate, Tiger, and the prison warden, who suspect that Stan is making fun of them. Stan and Ollie go to the prison school but are sent for a stint in solitary after Ollie shoots an ink ball at Tiger and hits the teacher instead. Later, after they rejoin the others in the yard, Tiger and his tough pals plan an escape, and although they are caught, Stan and Ollie make it to freedom. The warden sends bloodhounds to track them, but the boys charm the dogs into becoming their pets. Sometime later, the boys have disguised themselves with blackface and are happy members of a group of cotton pickers. Stan has even devised a way of using chewing gum to stop his tooth from buzzing. One day, the warden and his daughter are driving by the field where Stan and Ollie are working when their car breaks down. The warden requests the boys's help, which they give even though they recognize him. The warden does not recognize them, however, until Stan removes his chewing gum and his tooth buzzes as he bids them farewell. Back at the prison, Stan's buzz annoys yet another guard, who sends him to the prison dentist. Terrified, Stan brings Ollie in with him, and the dentist mistakes Ollie for his patient and takes out one of his teeth before Ollie can explain. The dentist then sets to work on Stan, but extracts the wrong tooth, so, still buzzing, Stan goes back with Ollie to their cell, where Tiger is planning yet another escape. Later, in the mess hall, the prisoners pass out guns and bullets, and when Stan and Ollie accidentally fire their guns, a riot begins. Tiger and the others capture the warden and the guards, but Stan and Ollie's inept handling of their guns again causes chaos, this time keeping the other prisoners at bay until police troops arrive to save the day. The warden gives pardons to the boys in gratitude for their bravery, but when he offers to help them go straight, Stan asks him if he wants to buy a couple cases of beer, after which the warden chases them out of his office. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
  Hal Roach Studios, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.  
Director: James Parrott (Dir)
Producer: Hal Roach (Pres)
Writer: H. M. Walker (Dial)
Photography: Jack Stevens (Photog)
Film Editor: Richard Currier (Ed)
Set Decoration: Frank Durloff (Prison set des)
Sound: Elmer Raguse (Rec eng)
Production Misc: L. A. French (Purchasing agent)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Lazy Moon," music by J. Rosamond Johnson, lyrics by Bob Cole; "I Want to Go Back to Michigan," music and lyrics by Irving Berlin; "Swing Along, Chillun," by Will Marion Cook; "Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet, Lord" and "Dar's a Jubilee" composers undetermined.
Composer: Irving Berlin
  Bob Cole
  Will Marion Cook
  J. Rosamond Johnson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp. 10/9/1931 dd/mm/yyyy LP2460 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric System

 
Genre: Comedy
Sub-Genre: Prison
 
Subjects (Major): Bootleggers
  Bumblers
  Pardons
  Prison escapes
  Prison life
 
Subjects (Minor): Chewing gum
  Cotton
  Dentists
  Dogs
  Firearms
  Mistaken identity
  Prison wardens
  Racial impersonation
  Riots
  Teachers

Note: The working titles of this film were The Rap and Their First Mistake , which was also the release title of a 1932 short made by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. A 9 Aug 1930 EHW review noted that a preview of The Rap (as the picture was then called) ran for 70 min. According to modern sources, after the film's Aug preview, retakes and foreign language versions were shot from mid-Sep--1 Dec 1930. [For information on the foreign language versions, please see the record for De bote en bote .] A 15 Nov 1930 EHW news item reported that "In an effort to make Their First Mistake , originally titled The Rap ...louder and funnier, Hal Roach is adding sequences to it before it is finally released for the entertainment of the millions of Laurel and Hardy fans." According to company records located at the USC Cinema-Television Library, the prison set was designed from photographs of San Quentin and Sing Sing. Although the onscreen credits and contemporary sources list Jack Stevens as the photographer, modern sources often credit Jack's brother, George Stevens.
       This was the first feature-length film in which Laurel and Hardy starred. Between 1929 and 1951, they appeared in twenty-seven feature-length, English-language films, four of which featured the comedians in guest appearances rather than starring roles. The first picture in which Laurel and Hardy appeared together was the 1921 Reelcraft short entitled The Lucky Dog , although they did not appear as a "team" until a 1926 Hal Roach short called Duck Soup . Many modern sources note that, while Laurel and Hardy worked at Roach, Laurel was actively involved in all facets of production, including writing, directing and editing, although he did not receive onscreen credit for these contributions. Modern sources also state that "the boys," as Laurel and Hardy were known, occasionally reworked gags and story lines from their shorts into their features. Among the actors who often appeared in Laurel and Hardy shorts and features were James Finlayson, Stanley J. "Tiny" Sandford, Charlie Hall, Sam Lufkin, Baldwin Cooke, and Mae Busch. Among their frequent directors and writers, both on the shorts and features, were James Horne, James Parrott, Leo McCarey and Charley Rogers.
       In addition to a Spanish-language version, De bote en bote , French, German and Italian language versions, entitled Sous les verrous , Hinter Schloss und Riegel and Muraglie , respectively, were also produced. No information concerning the release of these versions in the U.S. has been located. Boris Karloff may have appeared in the French version (some modern sources state that he played "Tiger," but another modern source asserts that Walter Long and June Marlowe played "Tiger" and the warden's daughter in all five versions.) Lucien Prival was in the German version and Guido Trento was in the Italian version. According to the company records, the production crew listed above also worked on the foreign-language versions, which were shot simultaneously after the English version was completed. Laurel and Hardy were taught their foreign language lines phonetically, and dialogue scenes were shot using each of the languages. They used this procedure for the foreign releases of several shorts, and for some shorts that were combined into feature-length films, while for other films, they shot the foreign versions at the same time as the English-language version. The cutting continuities for the foreign versions of this film, contained in the company records, reveal that the plot was slightly different: During the riot caused by Stan and Ollie's inept handling of a weapon passed to them in the mess hall, a fire starts in the warden's home. Stan and Ollie rescue the warden's daughter, and thus win their parole. According to modern sources, the fire and rescue scenes were filmed for the English version but were deleted. De bote en bote , which was viewed, utilizes the fire/rescue sequence and includes two more songs, but dispenses with the schoolroom sequence. Modern sources note that S. C. Baden was the sound mixer for all of the foreign versions. Modern sources credit John Whitaker with assisting Elmer Raguse in mixing the sound of the English version, and John Harrison and Ralph Butler with the location sound recording.
       Modern sources also include the following actors in the cast of the English version: Charlie Hall ( Dental assistant/deliveryman ); Sam Lufkin, Silas D. Wilcox and George Miller ( Prison guards ); Frank Holliday ( Officer in classroom ); Harry Bernard ( Warren, the desk sergeant ); Robert Burns ( Prone dental patient ); Frank Austin ( Dental patient in waiting room ); Otto Fries ( Dentist ); Robert Kortman and Leo Willis (Tiger's pals ); Jerry Mandy ( Convict who can't add ); Bobby Dunn, Eddie Dunn, Baldwin Cooke, Charles Dorety, Dick Gilbert, Will Stanton, Jack Herrick, Jack Hill, Gene Morgan, Charles A. Bachman, Blackie Whiteford and Charley Rogers ( Insurgent convicts ); Gordon Douglas ( Typist at desk ); James Parrott ( Prisoner marching in formation next to Hardy, right after the boys's recapture ); Hal Roach ( Prisoner marching in front of Hardy ); Eddie Baker ( Plantation overseer on horseback ); The Etude Ethiopian Chorus ( Cotton pickers ); and Belle ( Bloodhound ). Modern sources also note that Bobby Mallon and Buddy MacDonald, playing boys fishing by a stream, were cut from the final release print, and that the incidental music scoring was by LeRoy Shield, Edward Kilenyi, Arthur J. Lamb, H. W. Petrie, Will Marion Cook, Irving Berlin, Abe Olman, M. Ewing, Frederic Van Norman, L. E. de Francesco, J. S. Zamecnik, Frieta Shaw and Marvin Hatley. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
EHW   9 Aug 30   p. 34.
EHW   15 Nov 30   p. 45.
Film Daily   23 Aug 31   p. 18.
Motion Picture Herald   29 Aug 31   p. 36.
New York Times   22 Aug 31   p. 7.
Variety   25 Aug 31   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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