Below I've posted a fascinating clip from a truly strange Laurel and Hardy movie, "Twice Two". Shot in 1931, it's one of several films in which L&H play dual roles (the only other that I can think of at the moment is "Our Relations" but I'm sure there are at least two more)--in this case they play men who married each others sisters. Thus Laurel is married to a female Hardy and vice verse. Furthermore they live together in one house. And L&H work together at the same place. The incestuousness of this would be weird enough in a movie with four different actors. But with L&H playing each others wives, it becomes almost too weird to watch. Ah, wait--there's "Brats", where they play their own sons! Yes, very good. But while its charming to see Stan and Ollie as fathers to two little Stan and Ollie's, its unsettling thinking of them having sex with each other. Indeed, one of the strange things about L&H that has often been commented upon is their male relationship--they usually live together and sleep in the same bed, and though there is never any overt suggestion of homo-eroticism, there is role-playing along gender lines--with Ollie oddly being the feminine, jealous one and Stan--though generally submissive--weirdly authoritative (I think of his sudden bursts of anger which genuinely scare Ollie). This, I think, is one of the strange traits that make L&H still so fresh and watchable--they can be viewed through the prism of whatever relationship you wish--as children, as friends, as a "coupled pair". As the fine film historian Charles Barr in his L&H monograph concludes, L&H are essentialy "pre-sexual" and that's what makes the whole thing somehow remain innocent.

fourshotAll of these subtleties are upended in "Twice Two". For now they are "out". They've married each other! They have sex (presumably). They even can hear each other having sex with each others partner since they live in the same house. Jesus! Watch the argument scene below--the dubbing of the female L&H voices is another reason the movie doesn't quite work, but still it has the power to fascinate me. Also note the opening four shot pictured above--all "four" actors at the same table in one frame. How did they do this in those primitive days? My guess would be an in-camera matte--literally blocking off half the frame and shooting Laurel and the female Hardy on one side of the table, then rolling the film back and double-exposing the next shot, the one of the female Laurel and the Hardy. But if you have any other guesses I'd love to hear them...

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