March of the Wooden Soldiers
March of the Wooden Soldiers is the 1952 reissue title for Hal Roach's 1934 film version of Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy star as Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee, bumbling apprentices to the master toymaker of Toyland. This joyous fairy-tale community is populated by all the colorful Mother Goose characters we know and love; the one sour apple in the barrel is mean old Silas Barnaby (portrayed by Henry Kleinbach, aka Henry Brandon). Barnaby holds the mortgage on the outsized shoe where Widow Peep (Florence Roberts) and her daughter Little Bo Peep (Charlotte Henry) reside, and where Stannie and Ollie pay room and board. Bo Peep will be forced to marry the odious Barnaby if the rent isn't paid, so Stannie and Ollie try to raise the money by asking the toymaker for a raise. But the boys are fired when Stannie messes up an order from Santa Claus: instead of making six hundred toy soldiers one foot high, the dumb Mr. Dum makes one hundred toy soldiers six feet high. The wedding between Barnaby and Bo Peep goes on as planned--except that it's Stannie, disguised as the bride, who ends up walking down the altar. Publicly humiliated, Barnaby vows revenge. He steals one of the Three Little Pigs and places the blame on Bo Peep's boy friend, Tom-Tom the Piper's Son (Felix Knight). The penalty for pignapping is banishment to Bogeyland, a fearsome subterranean world populated by hideous bogeymen (look closely and you'll see the zippers on their costumes!) Stannie and Ollie expose Barnaby's perfidy and rescue Tom-Tom from Bogeyland, whereupon Barnaby rallies the bogeymen and leads an all-out attack on Toyland. Taking refuge in the toy warehouse, Stannie and Ollie activate the 100 6-foot wooden soldiers (a neat bit of stop-motion photography, courtesy of Hal Roach's "fx" wizard Roy Seawright), who vanquish the Bogeymen and save the day. One of the best of all the Laurel and Hardy features, March of the Wooden Soldiers has been a television holiday perennial ever since the cathode tube was invented. Only a handful of Victor Herbert's songs are utilized, but these lilting compositions more than compensate for the omissions (one song, "I Can't Do That Sum," is used as the leitmotif for the clueless Stannie and Ollie). For years available only in the 70-minute reissue version, March of the Wooden Soldiers has recently been fully restored to its full glorious 78 minutes. The parent property Babes in Toyland was remade by Disney in 1961 (with Gene Sheldon and Henry Calvin as Laurel and Hardy wannabes) and for television in 1986, with new songs by Leslie Bricusse.