Directors: George Marshall & Raymond McCarey
Although, that credit notwithstanding, Ray McCarey (Leo’s brother) doesn’t seem to have actually done an awful lot on this film, most of which seems to have been Marshall’s work (the latter also plays the army cook Stan & Ollie antagonise cos the actor hired for the part never actually turned up on set). This was the boys’ first feature film to have actually been planned as a feature film, although it shows them still not fully adapted to the extended form yet. Story’s quite a good one; WW1 breaks out, Stan & Ollie get drafted, and when the war’s over they go home to help a pal killed in battle by returning his baby daughter to his parents from whom he was estranged. The only problem? Stan & Ollie don’t know where the grandparents live. Still, there can’t be that many people out there with the surname “Smith”… can there? IMDB notes the presence of at least two more uncredited directors, which may or may not explain the somewhat uneven tone of things (most jarring in the scenes with the foster parents being paid to care for the child; there’s a darkness to those that meshes poorly with everything else, and indeed they were cut from reissues of the film for decades. I can’t really say the film would’ve suffered for their loss either). It doesn’t have quite the same feel of being made up as they went along that Pardon Us tended to give off, but it is still somewhat episodic, although I still felt like there was generally a better flow from one episode to the next. And though it could perhaps have been compacted into a three-reeler, it might’ve lost something in the act. The good bits tend to be really good, too; the wartime scene where Stan & Ollie inadvertently capture a whole platoon of German soldiers is glorious. Maybe not fully there yet, but definitely an advance on their first feature.