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The Soilers
The Soilers (1923)
Movie
  • Director:
    Ralph Ceder
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Hal Conklin,H.M. Walker
  • Cast:
    Stan Laurel,Ena Gregory,Mae Laurel
  • Time:
    20min
  • Year:
    1923
Bob Canister has struck it rich in Alaska, but another man learns of it, and steals Bob's claim with the help of a mercenary sheriff. Canister's men are ready to fight, but Bob backs down rather than resort to violence in front of his girlfriend. Later, though, he goes to the other man's home and confronts him, ready to fight for his claim.
Casts
Credited cast:
Stan Laurel Stan Laurel - Bob Canister
Ena Gregory Ena Gregory - The Girl
Mae Laurel Mae Laurel - Woman in Saloon
James Finlayson James Finlayson - Smacknamara
Billy Engle Billy Engle - Prospector
Eddie Baker Eddie Baker - Prospector
George Rowe George Rowe - Man in Saloon
Jack Ackroyd Jack Ackroyd - Henchman
Jack Gavin Jack Gavin - Prospector
Marvin Loback Marvin Loback - Henchman
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Joe Bordeaux Joe Bordeaux
Sammy Brooks Sammy Brooks
Al Forbes Al Forbes
Katherine Grant Katherine Grant
John B. O'Brien John B. O'Brien

The Soilers (1923)
Bloodray
Bloodray
Before Stan Laurel became the smaller half of the all-time greatest comedy team, he laboured under contract to Broncho Billy Anderson in a series of cheapies, many of which were parodies of major Hollywood features. Most of Laurel's 'parody' films are only mildly funny, and even less funny for modern audiences who haven't seen the original movie which Laurel is parodying. 'The Soilers' remains slightly funny for modern audiences, but was probably funnier in 1923 for audiences who recognised the source material.

'The Spoilers' was originally a best-selling novel by Rex Beach: a tale of two-fisted prospectors in the Klondike gold rush of 1898, culminating in a knock-down drag-out brawl. The story was so popular, it was filmed at least five times (one version starring John Wayne). This 1923 slapstick comedy parodies a film version of 'The Spoilers' released three months earlier ... which was at least the second movie version of Beach's much-filmed novel.

In 'The Spoilers', hero Glennister squares off against villain McNamara. Here, they're parodied as "Canister" and "Smacknamara". Sadly, most of 'The Soilers' remains on that Mad-magazine level of wit. Since 'The Soilers' is a two-reeler, it can't possibly parody the entire plot of Beach's novel, so it inevitably emphasises the climactic barroom brawl.

There are a couple of decent gags here. The sheriff is trustworthy, because -- as a title card assures us -- 'Once he had been bought, he stayed bought.' So that's all right, then.

In recent years, 'The Soilers' has attracted some scholarly attention for the presence of an unnamed character portrayed by George Rowe. Among all these rootin' tootin' manly macho males, Rowe depicts an effeminate simpering cowboy who is clearly meant to be what folks used to call a 'nance'. During the climactic fight scene, while Stan Laurel and James Finlayson are tearing each other apart, Rowe sashays into the room in skin-tight dungarees and rearranges the furniture. Hilarious! Later, he addresses Stan as 'my hero' and tosses him a bouquet in the form of dropping a flowerpot from the balcony above. The pot lands on Stan's head, though the action is cleverly staged so that we can't tell if the lonesome cowboy did it intentionally or not.

What I found utterly fascinating about Rowe's performance here is that it doesn't seem to be malicious: he's depicting the stereotype of an effeminate 'cissy', presumably homosexual, yet none of the humour is at this character's expense. Rather than inviting us to find this character ridiculous or unnatural, 'The Soilers' gets considerable laughs from the incongruous contrast of this simpering figure among the brawlers ... depicting this one cowboy merely as different from manly Stanley and the rest, not inferior to them. 'The Soilers' indicates that gays weren't invisible in 1923 ... and straight audiences were savvy enough to recognise them. I'll rate 'The Soilers' 7 out of 10, as one of Stan Laurel's funniest pre-Hardy movies.
Maucage
Maucage
This is a decent Stan Laurel parody feature, and it helps to show why this kind of comedy was one of his specialties in the years before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy. This one is more dependent than most of them are on viewers having a familiarity with at least one version of the original story, but in its time that probably was a largely reliable assumption. James Finlayson, later a supporting player in many Laurel & Hardy classics, plays Laurel's antagonist here.

The story had already been filmed twice when this parody was made, and it was also filmed a number of times since then, most notably in the 1940s with John Wayne, Randolph Scott, and Marlene Dietrich. The main portion of the original story follows a claim dispute in Alaska, with a lengthy fight sequence capping it off.

This parody focuses most of the running time on the fight sequence, which it handles with a couple of amusing touches. The setup scenes are rather bland, and it was probably a good decision to rush through them to get to the highlight of the parody. The fight sequence sets up some humorous satirical parallels with the original, in which the whole town chose up sides during the big showdown. It also has some provocative touches of the kind that occur more often in movies of the era than many modern viewers might realize.

Some of Laurel's other parodies are a bit easier to understand now, since the originals are either better known or at least follow a familiar pattern. But this one works all right as long as you have at least a basic idea of the original story.
BlackBerry
BlackBerry
This wonderful short is the funniest of the Stan Laurel solo efforts I've seen so far. It's a spoof of the classic Klondike gold rush story "The Spoilers," which has been filmed many times, always with a gargantuan fistfight between the protagonist (Glennister) and antagonist (McNamara). But this time, Stan Laurel is Canister and Jimmy Finlayson is Smacknamara. It's very funny, but among the sterling attributes of the film is the fact that the fight is every bit as knock-down and drag-out as in the serious versions. Laurel and Finlayson rip into each other with all the ferocity of John Wayne's and Randolph Scott's 1942 version, but with lovely comic moments interspersed throughout the fight. Funniest of all is probably the gay caballero who wanders in and out during the donnybrook, but the utter indifference of the saloon crowd to the massive melée taking place in their midst is also a hoot. Very highly recommended.
Delan
Delan
This is one of Stan's best parodies! Stan is the hero, Bob Canister (Roy Glenister is the original in "The Spoilers") who had to fight for his rights vs villainous Smacknamara (MacNamara) played by Jimmy Finlayson. the two fighters slug around in the Smacknamara's studio, ultimately in the saloon where they're completely ignored by everyone. It's and hard fight and when Canister says "Victory!" the supreme indifference is all around him except from a cowboy...looking down from his window... he says: "My Hero!" and drops a flower (in his pot) down on Canister's head. This effeminate cowboy is funny for real, you have to see him! and Stan as the hero is very rough and "die hard"!
MrDog
MrDog
This film, made by Stan Laurel before his teaming with Oliver Hardy, is a spoof of the Klondike gold-rush story "The Spoilers". It is virtually plotless and focuses almost entirely on the all-out knockdown fist-fight seen in the serious versions. What sets it apart is the fact that - surprisingly for the era - the fight is interrupted on several occasions by a *very* effeminate cowboy; more Ginger Rogers than Roy Rogers!
Ce
Ce
This film was one of many parodies Stan Laurel made of famous dramas of the day before he was teamed up with Oliver Hardy. In this case, he lampoons THE SPOILERS, though he also did comic versions of BLOOD AND SAND as well as DR. JECKYL AND MR. HYDE.

The film is much like THE SPOILERS, as it's about claim jumping during the Alaska gold rush. However, it's played for laughs and includes an awfully funny prolonged fight scene between James Finlayson and Stan. The fighting is very brutal and exciting, but what makes it funny is how the very effeminate guy keeps walking into the scene and seems to take absolutely no notice of the fighting. This mincing guy is awfully funny to watch (especially later when making passes at Stan), but I am sure many watching the film will be offended by the sterotype. If you can ignore the tackiness of this humor, it really is awfully silly fun.

Actually, now that I think about it, I am surprised that Truner Classic Movies didn't include this film in it's June 2007 salute to gay images in film--it is a very interesting curio.
Oso
Oso
THE SOILERS is a short silent effort featuring Stan Laurel and James Finlayson as adversaries, long before they teamed up for their classic appearances in the Laurel & Hardy series. This one is a spoof of another, straight movie called THE SPOILERS, which I confess to not having heard of, although it's about the rivalry between gold prospectors.

With a brief running time, THE SOILERS goes all-out for slapstick laughs and brief one-liner humour. It's a surprisingly funny piece which is dominated by a lengthy, knock-down and drag-out fight scene between Laural and Finlayson which is surprisingly vicious for its era. The fight is regularly interrupted by a jaw-dropping camp stereotype who adds to the fun. Fans of the stars will be in their element with this one.
Still In Mind
Still In Mind
"The Soilers" is an American black-and-white silent film from 1923. It is states that this film runs for 20 minutes, but all the versions I found basically run for under 10 minutes, so I guess a lot from this film must have been lost. or they just sped up and included more frames per second. I am not sure. But it is not that important anyway. This film plays during the days of the gold rush and Laurel's character wants to become rich like everybody else. Here and there, Stan's talent is enough to get a laugh out of me and I also liked the statement about the corrupt sheriff early on, but all in all it was not enough I guess. I only recommend this movie to the biggest Laurel/Hardy fans. everybody else is not missing too much really.