The Big Noise
is a 1944
comedy film starring Stan Laurel
and Oliver Hardy
. It was produced by Sol M. Wurtzel
and directed by Mal St.Clair
. It is regarded by many film critics and Laurel and Hardy
historians as being among the duo's worst films.
In this film, Laurel and Hardy are janitors. One night, while cleaning the office of a detective agency, they answer a telephone call from Alva P. Hartley, an inventor who claims to have created a destructive bomb he calls "The Big Noise." Posing as detectives, Laurel and Hardy move into Hartley's home, where they must contend with his eccentric behavior and the oddball antics of his widowed aunt (who takes a fancy to Hardy) and Hartley's misbehaving son. Hartley's neighbors are crooks who are eager to steal the new bomb. Laurel and Hardy hide the bomb in an accordion and steal an airplane to bring it to Washington. However, the airplane is a remote control target used by the U.S. Army for gunnery training. Laurel and Hardy barely escape by parachuting to safety over the Pacific Ocean, and they dispose of the bomb by dropping it on a Japanese submarine.
The Big Noise
was the fifth of six feature films Laurel and Hardy made at 20th Century Fox
during the 1940s. During the film's production, Stan Laurel told an interviewer that efforts were made to support the American World War II
domestic effort to conserve materials. "We cut out automobile chases and food wasting-gags when the war first started, and with The Big Noise
we decided to slash every gag that might conceivably have bearing on wartime wastages and destruction," he said.
Scenes and gags used in previous Laurel and Hardy films turned up in The Big Noise. Among the earlier films to have their material reused were Berth Marks, Wrong Again, Block-Heads and The Flying Deuces.
Laurel would later recall that he attempted to convince his producer to recycle the Berth Marks scene involving the duo in a claustrophobic train berth by changing the location of the berth to a transcontinental airplane. Laurel felt having the airplane hitting turbulence with the pair bouncing about in the berth would be funnier than recycling the train-based gags. Laurel's request was rejected, but the film changed the original setup by adding comic actor Jack Norton as an inebriate who shares the berth with Laurel and Hardy.
The Big Noise
was greeted with harsh reviews when it was first released. Bosley Crowther
, writing for The New York Times
, claimed it "has as much humor in it as a six-foot hole in the ground." Crowther also derided the duo's advanced age by noting: "Once, long ago, it was funny to see them joust with wet paint and folding beds. But now it is dull and pathetic. And they don't even seem to care.
Other reviews were equally cruel. The New York Herald Tribune complained that "from any comic consideration, it represents the last stop on a dead-end street." Variety echoed Crowther's notion of has-been status by commenting that the film's "silly situations may have been comical in their time, but certainly not to this day and age.
Over the years, The Big Noise has earned the wrath of Laurel and Hardy scholars. William K. Everson stated the film "sank to a new low" and dismissed the airplane finale as "pale and tedious.
Leonard Maltin stated the film was "not only unfunny, but for anyone who loves Laurel and Hardy, very sad.