IN BRIEF - The boys take an oath at their
lodge, pledging that they will attend the annual
convention in Chicago. Unfortunately, their wives
won't let them go. So Ollie pretends that he's
sick, and the cure is a sea voyage...accompanied by
his best friend Stan, of course. They sneak off to
the convention, returning home to find that the
ship they were supposed to be on has been lost in a
typhoon...and their wives think they area among the
THE COMPLETE STORY - Stan and Ollie are
members of the Sons of the Desert, a fraternal
organization spoofing the American Legion, Elks
Club, and the like. Upon their late arrival to a
meeting, they find that the 87th annual convention
of the Sons of the Desert is about to take place in
Chicago. The Exalted Ruler demands that their lodge
be represented 100% at the convention and makes all
members take an oath. Stan resists, because he
doesn't know if his wife will let him go. But Ollie
reasons with Stan, and explains that his wife will
have to let him go...because he took the oath.
Upon returning home, Ollie finds that it is his
wife who won't let him go to the convention. She
wants him to take her to the mountains instead. On
the other hand, Stan is given permission by his
wife to go to Chicago. So a plan is concocted, to
convince Mrs. Hardy that her husband has suffered a
nervous breakdown. Stan calls a veterinarian to
make the bogus diagnosis. He says that what Ollie
needs is a trip to Honolulu. Because Mrs. Hardy
doesn't like the sea, Stan must accompany his
The rouse works, and the Boys are off to
Chicago. They march in parades, go to parties, and
really live it up. At the convention, they meet a
fellow conventioneer from Texas. His name is
Charley, and he's a regular "good time Charley."
When he finds out that Stan and Ollie are from Los
Angeles, Charley decides to call his wife...who
also lives in L.A. Ollie is put on the phone to
speak to Charley's lovely sister, only to realized
that it's his very own wife! He quickly hangs up
the phone and narrowly avoids being caught.
Unfortunately, the ship that they told their
wives they were sailing on, is caught in a Typhoon.
The boys arrive home, moments after their wives
rushed off to the shipping line to find out their
fate. While waiting for their wives to return, they
discover a newspaper and realize what has happened.
Stan and Ollie try to leave, just as their wives
are returning home. They quickly hide in the attic.
To calm their nerves as they wait to find out
their husbands' fate, Mrs. Laurel and Mrs. Hardy go
to the movies. To their astonishment, they see
their husbands in newsreel footage from the
convention in Chicago!
At home, the boys are preparing to spend the
night in the attic. After a loud crash, their wives
come up to check things out. The boys slip out a
hatch onto their roof, into the rain. Stan wants to
go downstairs and tell the wives the truth, but
Ollie convinces him that that would be a mistake.
Instead, Stan suggests that they slip down the
drainpipe and check into a hotel for the night.
Waiting at the bottom of the drainpipe is a cop,
who promptly returns the boys to their wives.
They tell the wives an unbelievable story, which
Ollie insists it true. Mrs. Laurel is able to get
the real story out of Stan, and rewards him for his
honesty. Mrs. Hardy is not as happy with her
husband's deceit. She lets him have it, with
anything she can throw his way. Ollie learns from
Stan that honesty is the best policy.
Behind the Scenes
CULVER CITY, CA - Sons of the
Desert was shot in order (with minimal
rehearsal), as were most of Laurel and Hardy's
films. Filming was completed in just three weeks,
during the month of October in 1933. But months of
preparation went into the film, starting with Frank
Craven's script. Of course, the script was always
susceptible to changes made during production.
In the directors chair was William A. Seiter. A
friendship between Seiter and Laurel was
established prior to the film, and as a fellow
golfer, it must not have taken long for Hardy to
establish a good relationship with his director.
However, this was his first and only time working
with Laurel and Hardy...which seems unfortunate,
considering both the critical and financial success
of this film.
The opening sequence takes place in a legion
hall. As extras, the studio employed real members
of Hollywood's American Legion Post. When it came
time to film the parade sequences (which are shown
to the wives as part of the newsreel footage), over
1000 extras were called in. This included American
Legion drum and bugle corps and a drill team.
Members of the Santa Monica Elks Lodge also
appeared in the parade sequence.
Seiter was unsure how to realistically portray
the goings on at the convention. He had no
experience as a conventioneer, but he knew that
much of his audience did...and if the convention
scenes did not appear authentic, the film would
suffer. So the director called a meeting of
everyone who was working on the film and asked for
their input. Then, taking it one step farther,
Seiter, Laurel, and Hardy actually went to a nearby
convention of a real lodge. With this first hand
knowledge, they returned to Culver City ready to
take their oaths.
But it was not Culver City where the convention
was to take place on the big screen. One setting
was a street in Chicago, with hundreds of
spectators watching a big parade. As previously
noted, there were over one thousand extras employed
for this parade scene (an industry record, at the
time). But where could they film this scene, and
accommodate such an enormous cast?
The streets of Los Angeles apparently did not
closely resemble those of Chicago in the '30s, and
the cost of using another studio's backlot would
have been too high. Roach had a "New York Street"
on his own backlot, but it was not contemporary. So
the decision was made to modernize and expand this
set, at a cost of $25,000 (some sources say
$15,000). There was only one hitch; it had to be
complete in under ten days, to be ready in time to
start filming. Four crews worked around the clock
to complete more than 500 feet of new facades. They
got the job done, and in record time.
Of course, the Sons of the Desert was not a real
organization until the 1960s, when John McCabe and
friends founded the organization in honor of Stan
Laurel and Oliver Hardy. But, during the time of
the filming, the cast and crew started their own
fraternal lodge of the same name. Stan was the
"High Factotum" and Babe was the "Good Knight."
William Seiter was elected "Sergeant Without Arms."
Sons of the Desert opened in theaters
December 29, 1933. In England, the film was
released as Fraternally Yours.