Laurel and Hardy Piano Delivery in "The Music Box" and Trivia
The Music Box is a Laurel and Hardy short film comedy released in 1932. It was directed by James Parrott, produced by Hal Roach and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film, which depicts the pair attempting to move a piano up a large flight of steps, won the first Academy Award for Live Action Short Film (Comedy) in 1932. In 1997, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In a music store, Mrs. Theodore von Schwartzenhoffen orders a player piano as a surprise birthday gift for her husband, Professor Theodore von Schwartzenhoffen. She tells the manager her address — 1127 Walnut Avenue — and he hires the Laurel and Hardy Transfer Company to deliver the piano in their freight wagon.
The duo soon realize that the home is at the top of a very long stairway. Their attempts to carry the piano up the stairs result in it rolling and crashing into the street below several times, often with Ollie in tow. During their first attempt, they encounter a lady with a baby carriage trying to go down the steps; in trying to let her pass, they knock the piano back down the stairs. After the lady laughs at them, Stan kicks her in her backside, causing her to punch him back and hit Ollie over the head with a milk bottle. Stan and Ollie then heft the piano back up the stairs. The angry lady tells a policeman on the corner, who kicks Ollie twice and hits Stan with his truncheon after the latter suggests the officer is "bounding over his steps" (i.e. "overstepping his bounds"). Meanwhile, the piano has rolled down the steps again. Yet the two doggedly persist in carrying the piano up the stairs for a third time. Halfway up, they encounter the short-tempered and pompous Professor von Schwartzenhoffen, who in a fit of German rage screams at Stan and Ollie. Stan knocks the Professor's top hat down the stairs and into the street, where it is crushed by a passing lorry. The outraged professor goes off, threatening to have the two arrested.
Finally, Stan and Ollie get the piano to the top, where Ollie falls into a fountain. As they ring the house's bell, the box rolls back down to the street again. They wearily drag the piano back up the stairs, and meet the postman by the house, who informs them they did not have to lift the piano up the stairs, but only had to drive up the hill and stop in front of the house. Stan and Ollie promptly carry the piano back down the stairs, put it back in their wagon and drive it up the hill to the house.
Finding no one home, they finally succeed in getting the piano in the house, making shambles of the living room while unpacking it. Meanwhile, the owner of 1127 Walnut Avenue — Professor von Schwartzenhoffen — returns and is outraged at what he finds, as he hates pianos. He attacks the piano with an axe, destroying it, but regrets his actions when Mrs. Von Schwartzenhoffen returns home and tearfully tells her husband it had been a surprise birthday present. To apologize for his actions, the Professor signs the check, but the pen Stan and Ollie give him happens to be a prank pen that squirts ink on the target (as a means of getting revenge). Furious, Schwartzenhoffen blows his temper again and makes the duo run away.
- Stan Laurel as Stan
- Oliver Hardy as Ollie
- Billy Gilbert as Professor Theodore Von Schwarzenhoffen
- Charlie Hall as postman
- Lilyan Irene as nursemaid
- Sam Lufkinas police officer
- William Gillespie as piano salesman
- Hazel Howell as Mrs. von Schwarzenhoffen
The steps which were the focal point of The Music Box still exist in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles, near the Laurel and Hardy Park. The steps are a public staircase, and connect Vendome Street (at the base of the hill) with Descanso Drive (at the top of the hill), and are located at 923-935 Vendome Street near the intersection of Del Monte Street. A plaque commemorating the film was set into one of the lower steps between in the 1990s at .
The steps can also be seen in the 1925 Charley Chase silent comedy, Isn't Life Terrible?, during a scene in which Chase is trying to sell fountain pens to Fay Wray.
Contrary to popular belief, the long staircase is not the same one used by The Three Stooges in their 1941 film An Ache in Every Stake. Those stairs (147 steps in length) are approximately two miles northeast, located at 2212 Edendale Place in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles.
The film is a partial remake of their silent short Hats Off (1927), which was filmed at the same location and is today considered a lost film. Hats Off was itself remade by Edgar Kennedy in 1945 as It's Your Move, utilizing the same set of steps.
Hal Roach Studios colorized The Music Box in 1986 with a remastered stereo soundtrack featuring the Hal Roach Studios incidental stock music score conducted by Ronnie Hazelhurst. The film was later released on VHS along with a colorized version of Helpmates.