I was surprised to read in Randy Skervedt’s excellent book ‘Laurel & Hardy–The Magic Behind The Movies’ that ‘The Finishing Touch’ (1928) was considered something of a disappointment in its day–Stan Laurel, a notoriously discerning craftsman, apparently felt that it could have been much better. Five years later some of the gags (and much of the milieu) were reworked for one of their best talkie shorts ‘Busy Bodies’. Was this perhaps Laurel’s way of ‘getting it right’ finally? Thus, one can view ‘The Finishing Touch’ as a first draft of sorts for the later film. On the other hand, watching the first film now is more than rewarding–it strikes me as one of their funniest silents and I’m at a loss to understand what was considered less than perfect at the time. Indeed, it’s a testament to what two genius comedians can do when given only some very simple props–wood frames, saws, nails, boards etc.
The film is also one of those inadvertent tours of old Los Angeles. The neighborhood it was shot in, Cheviot Hills, was just being developed at the time–it’s located south of Twentieth Century Fox studios off Pico Blvd. The nakedness of the surrounding area, the hills dotted with the occasional houses, are practically unrecognizable today. I’ve included a very nice (if you skip the first three minutes) reel that explains the then/now of the locations in great detail. For your info: the ‘hero’ house (the one they’re building) was built by the Roach crew at Motor Ave. and Club Drive. (It’s now 2826 Motor Avenue). The large house in the background is still standing at 2839 Forrester Dr. And the ‘sanitarium’ house is also still standing at 2728 McConnell Drive. I’ve often wondered if the owners of houses featured in L&H movies knew what they were getting into when they bought their house–L&H fans are obsessive about tracking down these locations and have no qualms knocking on doors and asking (or telling) the owners about the house’s history.