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Film / Big Business

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Batter up!

Big Business is a 1929 silent short comedy film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Laurel and Hardy.

Here, Stan and Ollie are going door-to-door, trying to sell Christmas trees in suburban Los Angeles. They bumble their way around until they wind up greatly irritating one particular homeowner (played by frequent L&H antagonist Jimmy Finlayson); Stan keeps getting his tree stuck in said homeowner's door, and they have to keep ringing the bell to get it out. When Stan rings the bell again and tries to get an advance order on a Christmas tree for next year, the homeowner snaps and wrecks their tree. Stan, in retaliation, vandalizes the homeowner's front door. The homeowner starts slicing up their clothes. This starts a rapidly escalating war of destruction in which Stan and Ollie set about wrecking the man's little bungalow and garden while the homeowner dedicates himself to annihilating Stan and Ollie's trees and their Model T Ford.

Big Business is one of Laurel and Hardy's best-remembered silent shorts. It earned a place in the National Film Registry.

For the Twin Switch comedy starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, see Big Business (1988).


  • Aside Glance: Ollie shoots one at the camera out of frustration, as he did many times in Laurel and Hardy films. In this one Stan does too, after incorrectly thinking that the homeowner is going to buy a tree.
  • Captain Obvious: The homeowner grows increasingly enraged after Stan gets the tree stuck in his door something like four times. Finally he picks up the tree and throws it. From this Ollie deduces, "I don't think he wants a tree."
  • Crocodile Tears: After the cop finally puts a stop to the orgy of destruction, Stan and Ollie burst into tears. This gets the homeowner and cop crying in sympathy. Stan and Ollie give the homeowner a cigar, and everyone parts as friends. However, Stan and Ollie burst into laughter when nobody's looking. The cop sees this and chases off after them. Then the cigar, which actually was a trick cigar, explodes in the homeowner's face. The End.
  • Escalating War: Played straight, and for hilarious effect. It starts with the homeowner chopping up Stan and Ollie's tree, followed by Stan slicing away at the homeowner's door with a knife. By the time they're done, Stan and Ollie have gutted the house and the homeowner has blown up Stan and Ollie's car.
  • Everybody Cries: Stan, Ollie, Houseowner and the Cop. After they blow a fuse.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Well, if you drop a lit match into the gas tank, then fine, maybe the car will blow up.
  • Explosive Cigar: Stan and Ollie's parting shot, supposedly a peace offering, which instead blows up in the homeowner's face as the film ends.
  • Logo Joke: One of many L&H films at MGM to put a cute lion cub in the closing title card instead of Leo the Lion.
  • Police Are Useless: A cop pulls up while Stan and Ollie are destroying the house and the homeowner is tearing Stan and Ollie's car apart. He watches, in apparent astonishment, jotting down notes without making the slightest effort to stop any of them... until Ollie accidentally whacks his foot with a shovel.
  • Road Trip Across the Street: Stan and Ollie park their car on the curb, attempt to sell a tree to the resident in the home behind the curb, and fail. They crank up their car and drive approximately 20 feet around the corner, to the next bungalow.
  • Spontaneous Crowd Formation: A large crowd quickly gathers to observe the conflict.
  • Tap on the Head: Ollie gets conked with a hammer after foolishly ignoring a "no solicitors" sign at one house.
  • Title Drop: "I've got a big business idea", says Stan, before attempting to get the homeowner to buy a tree for next Christmas.
  • Trash the Set: Laurel and Hardy wrecked a real Los Angeles house for this short, one that had already been scheduled to be demolished. An urban legend maintains that it was actually the wrong house, but this is most likely too good to be true.