This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Laurel & Hardy classic March of the Wooden Soldiers. Originally released as Babes In Toyland on Nov. 30, 1934, the holiday perennial was based on Victor Herbert’s popular 1903 operetta. The film came out of Hal Roach studios and was co-directed by Gus Meins and Charles Rogers.
Here’s the trailer:
To celebrate this occasion, I present to you….
10 Things You May Not Know About March of The Wooden Soldiers
1) In addition to Babes In Toyland, the film was also re-released under several different titles, including Laurel and Hardy in Toyland and Revenge Is Sweet.
2) Although the 1934 film includes many of the characters in the original operetta, the plot is almost completely different. Six musical numbers from the original stage score are featured: “Toyland”, “Never Mind Bo-Peep”, “Castle in Spain”, “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” and the instrumental “March of the Toys”. Additionally, an instrumental version of “I Can’t Do The Sum” is used to underscore many scenes.
3) The villainous Silas Barnaby was played by 22 year old Henry Kleinbach. He later changed his name to Henry Brandon and appeared in over 100 films throughout his 60 year career.
Brandon played essentially the same character as an opera impresario who torments poor poor Alfalfa in Our Gang Follies of 1938.
20 years later he was Acacious Page in Auntie Mame.
Another fun fact: Brandon’s partner for the last 25+ years of his life was Mark Herron, who was briefly married to Judy Garland.
Bill Cassara and Richard S. Greene recently published a book about him.
You can also find out more about Henry Brandon here
4) The Little Rascals (aka Our Gang) also filmed at Hal Roach studios. Several of the gang appear as schoolchildren in Toyland, although not dressed as they appear in this photo sitting atop Mother Peep’s Shoe-house.
One of the most popular Our Gang / Little Rascals shorts, Mama’s Little Pirate was filmed the same year and has an extended sequence shot in the caves of Bogeyland. Gus Meins directed both films.
Another Our Gang connection: two graduates of the silent era, Johnny Downs and Jean Darling appear as Little Boy Blue and Curly Locks:
5) Felix Knight played romantic lead Tom Tom and fell in love with co-star Alice Moore, who played the Queen of Hearts. They were married the following year.
Knight also appeared with Laurel and Hardy in their 1936 film – The Bohemian Girl:
6) Marie Wilson makes an early film appearance as Mary Quite Contrary. Her later work in film, radio and television (most notably My Friend Irma) garnered her three stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
7) Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf? An instrumental version of this song is used to underscore scenes with the Three Little Pigs. However, the song is not from the original Babes In Toyland operetta – it was originally featured in the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs and (surprisingly) has been covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to LL Cool J.
8) About those pigs…. Elmer, the kidnapped pig was played by a little person – 2′ 11″ Angelo Rossito.
The two other pigs were played by child actors:
Payne B. Johnson played Jiggs. As of 2019, he is the last living major player from the film.
And THIS little piggy…. was a porn star! Willie was played by Edward Earle Marsh, later a Broadway performer known as Edward Earle. He then reinvented himself as Zebedy Colt, an out gay cabaret singer and porn star who appeared in both gay and straight movies through the 1970’s & 80’s.
Someone needs to write a book about this guy.
9) The film became a broadcast television staple on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the early 1960’s. I grew up watching the film on NYC’s WPIX Channel 11, which continues to air the film to this day. In 1990 they switched to the colorized version, and in 2018, due to viewer requests, they began airing both the restored black and white and colorized versions at different times during the day.
Some may remember a shorter version of the film airing on television years ago. A 73 minute version was broadcast for a few years in the 1980’s, with the opening “Toyland” song sequence trimmed and the “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” number cut completely. Any restored prints or colorized versions of the film run at the original 79 minute length.
If it isn’t broadcast in your area, you can watch the full movie here:
10) Keeping in mind that the source material is the original operetta and not this film, there have been numerous other versions of Babes In Toyland:
Between 1950 and 1960, there were three television versions, all broadcast during the Christmas season, including one featuring Barbara Cook and Dennis Day in 1955.
Walt Disney’s Technicolor 1961 film version starred Annette Funicello and Ray Bolger.
A 1986 made for television version featured Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves, with only two songs from the Victor Herbert score, a new plot, and many new songs by Leslie Bricusse.
An 1997 animated film version, with a new plot and only one of the original songs, featured the voices of Christopher Plummer and Lacey Chabert.
These other versions come and go, but none feature Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee…. nightmare-inducing pig masks …. a monkey dressed as a Mickey Mouse knockoff…. or poorly costumed Bogeymen with visible zippers and padding.
Join me in wishing a Happy 85th Birthday to a Hollywood Holiday Classic!
I have written about late photographer Don Herron’s Tub Shots photo series here and here. Every once in a while I come across one that I’ve never seen. Here is Tales Of The City author Armistead Maupin in 1978:
There’s a show on after the 11pm local news here in NYC called NBC Sports Night. To be honest, I only watch for the snacks. This was last Sunday: 10/20/19 – A discussion about football or rugby or something…. over a radiant bowl of fresh Nacho Doritos.
Neil Patrick Harris recently posted this photo of his injured hand. No word on whether that swelling has been attended to. 😮
You’ve probably seen Pulitzer Prize winning Ronan Farrow making the rounds to promote his new book, Catch And Kill. It’s a rare season that our handsome hero doesn’t make headlines with yet another reporting expose that rocks our world.
But when the dust clears after each bombshell revelation, one pesky rumor trails behind like exhaust fumes, winding its way through social media outlets: Speculation that Farrow is actually the son of Frank Sinatra. These posts are usually illustrated with side-by-side comparative pics of the two.
Here’s an idea: the next time you feel an urge to re-post or share a link perpetrating this improbable myth, consider looking at a photo of Farrow next to one of his own mother, actress Mia Farrow when she was young.
They look just alike.
I know. It’s shocking.
Ronan Farrow looks just like his mother.
Here’s another revelation: He strongly resembles her father, the dashing John Farrow.
As for the Sinatra resemblance… have you seen pics of Sinatra with Mia when they married in 1966? He was 30 years older than his bride. SHE looks like his kid. She looks more like his kid than his OWN kids. Ol’ Blue Eyes married a young blue-eyed pixie. Good genes all around.
In a 2013 Vanity Fair interview, Mia made a joke that Frank “maybe” was Ronan’s father. This vague statement was designed as a dig at Woody Allen, Ronan’s alleged biological father. The reality is that when Ronan was conceived, Sinatra was 72, over a decade into his marriage to his last wife Barbara, and reportedly had undergone a vasectomy years prior.
Vasectomy aside, for Sinatra to be Ronan’s father, Mia Farrow would have to have been sleeping with her ex-husband nearly twenty years after their divorce – while they were both in relationships with other people. Does this make Mia look good? Not at all. Is it more important for her to continue to make Woody Allen’s twilight years miserable? Definitely.
I can’t be the only one that feels that this sort of thing undercuts Ronan’s credibility on some level.
I’ll be honest – I lean toward Team Mia when it comes to most details involving Woody. But the whole “maybe” regarding Ronan’s paternity is unfair and disrespectful to Sinatra’s late wife and his biological children. And even though the Sinatra clan answered questions regarding this rumor years ago (respectfully and without mudslinging, I might add), those rebuttals don’t seem to accompany the re-posts that raise the question again and again… a rumor that will continue to resurface until Mia and her look-alike son stop playing coy and put the matter to rest.