US Release Date: 02-17-1916
Directed by: Willard Louis
- Oliver Hardy, as
- Billy Ruge, as
- Billy Bletcher as
- Unhappy Boarder
A young Oliver Hardy in the middle.
One Too Many stars a 24-year-old Oliver Hardy, 10 years before he teamed up with Stan Laurel. Oliver Hardy had such a baby face that his nickname at the time was Babe. He already possessed several of the facial expressions that he would later be known for, and had already appeared in more than 90 short movies at this time. One Too Many was part of Vim Comedy Companies' "Plump and Runt" series and was shot in Florida.
It’s a fast-paced slapstick short about a young man whose uncle thinks that he and his wife have a baby. When Hardy gets a letter saying the uncle is coming to visit he must come up with a baby quick. He gives his friend 50 bucks and tells him to “get me a baby.” Much of the shenanigans take place on a hallway and staircase, involving various assorted neighbors and passersby.
The friend eventually winds up collecting several babies including a black child. When this idea fails, and as a last ditch effort, Hardy convinces his friend to play the baby. He gets in the crib and makes like a baby. Uncle John shows up and falls for the gag even kissing the “baby” on the mouth. The ending involves a villain, some gunplay and the wives shoving each other into a bathtub.
It’s all very frantic and confusing and is remembered only as an early surviving Oliver Hardy movie.
Oliver Hardy and his tortured bed in One Too Many
As Patrick wrote, this is a frenzied mass of confusion. No one knows where the baby is or who has him. He gets passed around quicker than a dinner tray at Oliver Hardy's table. The title refers to Hardy having one too many drinks, as he is inebriated at the start of the film.
Speaking of babies, who are these mothers? Runt runs into strange women around town and asks if he can borrow their child. The women of course say no. As soon as he offers them a few bucks, they hand over their babies faster than a fat guy returning a menu. Even in a comedy, I doubt if those scenes would be filmed today.
What was it about fat men in silent film comedies? Why is being obese overtly funny? From Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle to Oliver Hardy, fat men left their mark on silent films almost as much as they did at the neighborhood deli.
Hardy is the name here, but he does little more than get everyone else running around. Billy Ruge is the real talent. His brisk walk and response to everything else are the funniest bits to be found. He is up and down those stair countless times, while Hardy never leaves his room. Too bad, because Hardy could certainly have used the cardio workout.
Oliver Hardy in One Too Many.
There's definitely room for some comedy in the set up of this short. Patrick, you once referred to silent shorts as the first sitcoms and I could definitely see the situation Hardy finds himself in here being the plot to a certain type of sitcom. I could see Jack Tripper, for instance, getting his friend Larry to hire him a baby. I have to imagine though that the writer's of Three's Company, might actually make it funny, which is something that eludes the makers of this short, who simply fallback on the old silent movie standby of having a bunch of people run frantically around.
Eric, I had a similar thought to you when the mothers started handing over the babies for cash. The black mother selling her baby to a white man for money was particularly striking.
As is often the case with these older movies, I find the story of the actors more interesting than the story in the film. For example, I knew nothing about Oliver Hardy before I did some reading after watching this short. He began as a projectionist in a movie theater where he would often tell people that he could do better than the actors in the movies he was showing. He often played the heavy in his shorts and he didn't become a double act with Stan Laurel until 1927 when he was 35 years old.
If he hadn't gone on to find such great success, it's doubtful this short would even be remembered. There's not much else of interest in it.
Photos © Copyright Vim Comedy Film Company (1916)