AIR RAID WARDENS (director: Edward Sedgwick; screenwriters: Martin Rackin/Jack Jevne/Charles Rogers/Harry Crane; cinematographer: Walter Lundin; editor: Irvine Warburton; music: Nathaniel Shilkret; cast: Stan Laurel (himself), Oliver Hardy (himself), Edgar Kennedy (Joe Bledsoe), Jacqueline White (Peggy Parker), Stephen McNally (Dan Madison), Russell Hicks (Major Scanlon), Nella Walker (Millicent Norton), Howard Freeman (J. P. Norton), Donald Meek (Eustace Middling), Paul Stanton (Capt. Biddle), Henry O’Neill (Rittenhause), Don Costello (Heydrich); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: B.F. Zeidman; MGM; 1943)
“Sub-par Laurel and Hardy comedy, as it lacks freshness and the material is too thin for a feature.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The acclaimed comic duo of the English born Stan Laurel and the American born Oliver Hardy are free from their long-time contract with Hal Roach and sign with 20th Century Fox. MGM’s top comedy director Edward Sedgwick (“The Flying Deuces”/”You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man”/”The Cameraman”) is asked to direct; their long-time writers Jack Jevne and Charles Rogers are included as part of the writing team. Unfortunately, this is a sub par Laurel and Hardy comedy, as it lacks freshness and the material is too thin for a feature. It would have served them better as a two-reeler.

Stan and Ollie are bankrupt businessmen who try to enlist after Pearl Harbor, but the patriots are turned down by all the services. When the boys return to their small-town of Huxton they are about to lose their bicycle shop, but town newcomer Eustace Middling (Donald Meek) generously offers to share the store’s space with his radio shop. Stan and Ollie are recruited to become air wardens and have a series of misadventures that include wrecking the gymnasium and during an air raid drill instead of properly bandaging the influential banker J. P. Norton (Howard Freeman), playing a victim, they give him a concussion and send him to the hospital. When the boys are accused of being drunk on the job and wrecking Joe Bledsoe’s home (Edgar Kennedy), Dan Madison (Stephen McNally), the town newspaper editor and the one in charge of the Huxton civilian defense program, is forced to fire the boys as wardens.

By accident the crestfallen boys learn their new business partner is a German spy and though they are bumblers, they somehow prevent the nest of German spies from blowing up a valuable magnesium plant during a town civil defense drill.

In their aim to get more freedom in their work by leaving Hal Roach Studios, the boys should only be able to say “now look what you have done!” It turns out to be another fine mess they had gotten themselves into off camera, as they now even had less creative freedom than before and this film signals their glory days since the silents was coming to an end.