Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Laurel and Hardy feature The Dancing Masters (1943), directed by Mal St. Clair. This film is generally considered by die-hard fans to be one of the better of their post-Roach films, which isn’t saying a lot. Like Air Raid Wardens, also released that year, it places war and business aims over comedy. But there are a couple of touches which redeem it, such as an auction scene, which is lifted practically whole cloth from their earlier (and excellent) Roach short Thicker Than Water.
Here Laurel and Hardy play a couple of ballet instructors. When we meet them they are dressed in tutus, because everyone knows that if you dance you must either be a woman or a transvestite. Fortunately, they are given the opportunity to prove their manhood by helping a boring young inventor (Bob Bailey) sell his destructive war invention and win the hand of his insipid girlfriend (Trudy Marshall), who also happens to be one of their dance pupils. They must also foil a gang of crooks, one of whom, most implausibly, is played by a young Robert Mitchum! Other pluses: the cast also includes Margaret Dumont and Daphne Pollard.
To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.