This is the first movie to officially bill the pair as a team. The irony is, although in some previous films they had played characters quite close to the ones they became famous for — and together — in this one they do not! Here they revert to characters more like those they had played in lots of other films. It would take a few more films before they would re-discover the right formula, and then stick to it there ever afterward. In Phillip, Laurel is particularly different from the dim-witted “Stan” whom modern audience know and love, and much more like a character he had played in many solo films, a guy who is more mischievous, energetic and not particularly dumb.
In Putting Pants on Philip, Laurel plays Hardy’s visiting Scottish nephew in full kilt regalia, a lad who has a weakness for women. He literally “chases skirts”. Hardy meets the nephew at the boat and is immediately embarrassed by the kilt, and makes Laurel walk a good distance from him as they go through town. Crowds keep gathering to look at him. After a few blocks Laurel’s underwear falls off and then a gust of air from a subway vent blows his kilt up. Then they get on double decker bus. Laurel keeps chasing pretty girls. (Whenever he sees one, he gives a little cartoon-like leap).
Fed up, Hardy takes Laurel to the tailor to get fitted for pants. Laurel balks at the tailor measuring his inseam. Finally he is wrestled to the ground and humiliated, crying like a baby. He is given the pants to try on, but sees a girl’s legs out the dressing room window. He pursues her. A huge crowd follows him down the street. A lot of sexy flappers are walking around this town — Laurel flits from one to the other like a kid in a candy store. Laurel leaps off a bus to follow one at the same time another kilted Scotsman gets aboard, causing Hardy to trail the wrong Scotsman. Finally, Laurel chivalrously puts his kilt across a puddle so that a woman can cross it. She jumps across. Hardy steps on it and sinks in the puddle up to his neck. Laurel is now standing in his underwear, a new spectacle for the crowd to gawk at.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see 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 find out more about show business past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.