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Sons of the Desert (1933)

Passed | | Comedy | 29 December 1933 (USA)
When Stan and Ollie trick their wives into thinking that they are taking a medicinal cruise while they're actually going to a convention, the wives find out the truth the hard way.


William A. Seiter


Frank Craven (story)

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Complete credited cast:
Stan Laurel ... Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy ... Oliver Hardy
Charley Chase ... Charley - Son of the Desert from Texas
Mae Busch ... Mrs. Lottie Hardy
Dorothy Christy ... Mrs. Betty Laurel
Lucien Littlefield ... Dr. Horace Meddick


So that he and Stan can sneak away to Chicago and attend the annual "Sons of the Desert" lodge convention, Ollie pretends to be sick, and gets a doctor (who turns out to be a veterinarian) to prescribe a long ocean voyage to Hawaii. Decked out in leis and strumming ukeleles, they return home only to learn that the ship supposedly carrying them has sunk. Their hastily- contrived tale of "ship-hiking" their way back cuts no ice with their wives, who've been at the movies watching a newsreel of the lodge's convention parade, starring... guess who? Written by Paul Penna <tterrace@wco.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


LONGER and LOUDER LAUGHS AS THESE HEN-PECKED HUSBANDS STEP OUT! (Print Ad- Advance-News, ((Ogdensburg NY)) 21 January 1934) See more »




Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

29 December 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Fraternally Yours See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hal Roach Studios See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies. See more »


When Lottie runs into the house to answer the phone, the camera tilts up just a bit too high, revealing the beams, wires, and mechanics of the studio ceiling at the top of the frame for a brief second. See more »


[first lines]
Sons of the Desert chorus: [the members sing "Auld Lang Syne"] And here's a hand, my trusty friend, and gie's a hand o' thine, / We'll take a cup of kindness now, for Auld Lang Syne.
Exalted Exhausted Ruler: [the song concludes, and the Exalted Ruler calls the meeting to order as he hits the podium with a gavel] Brothers, Sons of the Desert, we are all familiar with the business of this special meeting. This Oasis must meet the situation with determination.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The opening MGM lion has been removed from all available prints. See more »


Referenced in Doogie Howser, M.D.: Sons of the Desert (1992) See more »


Honolulu Baby
Written by Marvin Hatley
Sung by Ty Parvis and danced by Charita and others
Also Performed by Oliver Hardy (vocal and guitar) and sung a cappella by Stan Laurel
See more »

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User Reviews

Truth or Consequences
8 May 2007 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

SONS OF THE DESERT (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933), a Hal Roach feature presentation directed by William A. Seiter, starring the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, is not a foreign legion story set in the Sahara desert as the title might imply, but a domestic comedy with "Sons of the Desert" the name of a fraternity lodge brothers organization where Stan and Ollie are members, Oasis 13, Los Angeles, California.

As the story goes, Stan and Ollie (Laurel and Hardy), best friends ("two peas in a pod") and next door neighbors, both married (with their front doors reading "Mr. and Mrs. Stan Laurel" and "Oliver Hardy and Wife"), are introduced as late arrivals to the "Sons of the Desert" fraternity meeting where the exhausted ruler announces the club's 87th annual convention to take place in Chicago, where all members are expected to attend. After the swearing-in ceremony and singing of "We Are the Sons of the Desert," guilt-ridden Stanley tells Ollie he's afraid to ask his wife, Betty, if he could go. Oliver, strong-willed on the outside, fearfully henpecked on the inside, insists Stanley let Betty know that he's "king of his castle." Easier said than done considering Mrs. Laurel (Dorothy Christie) is an avid duck hunter who never misses her target with her rifle. As for Oliver's spouse, Lottie (Mae Busch), whom he affectionately calls "sugar," she's caring to her husband's needs, but at the same time, is quick-tempered and domineering. After learning about the convention, she makes it clear to Oliver that she has her heart set on going to the mountains and is not permitted to attend. Since Betty has granted Stanley permission to go, Oliver comes up with a scheme pretending to have a nervous breakdown, and with Stanley's help, hires an animal doctor, Horace Merrick (Lucien Littlefield) to make a house call, examine Ollie (like a dog) and suggest an ocean voyage rest cure to Honolulu. Since Lottie doesn't like the ocean and claims to be a poor sailor, it is suggested Stan "accompany" him. The plan works, and the boys go to the convention, having the time of their lives. They even get to meet up with a loud-mouth club member named Charlie Chase, who turns out to be Mrs. Hardy's long-lost brother. On the very day the boys are to return home, the wives receive news that the Honolulu steamship has sunk. Unable to acquire the names of the survivors, the girls wait it out by attending a picture show at a local theater. While there, they watch a newsreel presentation of the "Sons of the Desert" convention with Stan and Ollie in full view marching in the parade, mugging their faces into the camera. How will the boys be able to explain this now that the wives are fully aware they've been tricked? With this being a favorite among Laurel and Hardy devotees, it seems natural the film's title be adopted for the Laurel and Hardy fan club. Movies such as this were probably an inspiration to future TV shows, particularly "The Honeymooners" starring Jackie Gleason (fat) and Art Carney (skinny) as Laurel and Hardy counter-parts. With numerous battle of the sexes comedies featuring henpecked husbands being common place either in short subjects or feature length films, even when knowing how this will all turn out, viewers familiar with this formula will still want to see the results, and find out whether the boys will fess up to the truth or face the consequences from their wives. As with Gleason and Carney caricatures in "The Honeymooners," the overweight is over confident, full of ideas that backfires on him, and married to a woman who's one step ahead of him, while Laurel, the thin one with a cry of a child, is weak yet sensible, and highly influenced by his friend, married to a loving spouse who knows the wrong he does is not of his own choosing. While deceiving and lying are never solutions to anything, Stan sums it up best with his own philosophy, "Honesty is the best politics."

The current success of SONS OF THE DESERT relies on its fine script, witty dialogue and clever gags, sometimes violent, thrown in. Mae Busch as Hardy's wife is as fine casting as Kathleen Howard is for W.C. Fields in three notable films. Busch's Lottie has a vicious laugh (HA!) added to her hot temper, leading to the result of smashing a vase over her husband's head and everything else that goes with it. While spouse abuse doesn't wear well with today's society as comedy, this was common practice with the Laurel and Hardy formula. Dorothy Christy as Mrs. Laurel, is charming, but makes herself clear at one point with her stern sounding voice in telling Lottie, "Stanley would never lie to me. I'd hate to think of what might happen, if he, ev-err DID!" With many classic scenes too numerous to mention, the film does take time for a brief musical number, "Honolulu Baby" sung by a male vocalist, with overhead camera shot of dancing Hawaiian girls doing formations in the Busby Berkeley tradition.

Distributed on video cassette from various companies during the early days of home video (1980s), SONS OF THE DESERT played on various cable networks throughout the years: The Comedy Channel (late 1980s) , American Movie Classics (1994-96) and finally Turner Classic Movies (where it premiered April 1st, 2005). It continues to be a perennial favorite Laurel and Hardy film. In spite of its age, the film still holds up today, and at 67 minutes, plays like an extended comedy short. If not their best comedy, SONS OF THE DESERT definitely ranks their best in the domestic sense. (***)

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