Sorry to have skipped a day, but not doing stuff is what Boxing Day is all about, right? Anyway, here’s a 1928 Laurel & Hardy silent called ‘The Finishing Touch’. The plot is beyond simple. L&H have inexplicably been hired to build a house. A cop and a woman who works for an adjacent hospital (incongruously housed in a 1920s bungalow) provide the conflict. The sight gags are terrific, though I could do with a little less of Oliver putting nails in his mouth and swallowing them. As always with these largely exterior-set early comedies, part of the joy of watching is the meta-filmmaking–the idea that a crew went out in the then barren wilds of West Los Angeles and rather casually shot a short comedy. The empty hills of L.A. (I believe this is Cheviot Hills, near 20th Century Fox and now completely developed) provide a stark backdrop to the goings-on. When you see automobiles driving on the roads below you can be certain that they aren’t ‘picture cars’–i.e., cars specifically hired by the film to be used as background. They are simply folks driving around on a pleasant L.A. day in 1928 while a movie unit from the Hal Roach studio was knocking out a short that we are rather astonishingly enjoying ninety-five years later at home on a computer.. Enjoy!


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