Tit for Tat (1935 film)

Tit for Tat is a 1935 short comedy film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It is the only direct sequel they made, following the story of Them Thar Hills, which was released the previous year and includes the same two supporting characters, Mr. and Mrs. Hall, portrayed by Charlie Hall and Mae Busch.[2] This "two-reeler" is notable too for being nominated for an Academy Award as Best Live Action Short Film (Comedy) of 1935, although it did not win.[3] It also has a central theme similar to the comedy duo's 1929 silent short Big Business. In the opening scene of Tit for Tat, Oliver places a sign in the front window of his and Stan's electrical store. It reads "Open for Big Business", an allusion to the escalating revenge and "reciprocal destruction" common to both films.[4][5]

Tit for Tat
TitforTat 35poster.jpg
Directed byCharles Rogers
Written byStan Laurel
Frank Tashlin
Produced byHal Roach
StarringStan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
CinematographyArt Lloyd
Edited byBert Jordan
Music byLeroy Shield
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
January 5, 1935[1]
Running time
CountryUnited States


Laurel and Hardy establish an electrical goods store, Laurel and Hardy's Electrical Supplies, next door to Charlie Hall's grocery store. They go next door to introduce themselves.

Hall, still sulking and suspicious from their previous encounter with the liquor-spiked well water in Them Thar Hills, mistakenly thinks that Hardy is trying to romance his wife (Mae Busch). While Stan and Ollie are out a customer helps himself to an electric clock, greeting them as he leaves.

An accident with a ladder and a raising platform in the pavement lands Ollie on Mrs Hall's bedroom window when he tries to replace light bulbs in their sign. Mr Hall confronts Ollie. Ollie complains to Stan that his character has been "smirched" and he goes to Mr Hall to demand an apology. He gets hit on the head with a spoon and Hall follows them back to their shop. He grabs Ollie by the nose with hot hair tongs.

The two business partners now leave their shop, again without closing its door, to retaliate in Hall's grocery. They spring lemon meringue pie into his face.

Meanwhile, the shoplifter (Bobby Dunn) continues to remove items from their electrical store, later taking more and more as their confrontations with Hall escalate. At first the thief openly carries items out by hand; but since Stan and Ollie are distracted by their conflicts with Hall and largely ignore him, the shoplifter begins using a wheelbarrow to take away merchandise. Ollie fills Hall's till with syrup: Hall uses the meat-slicer to take off the top of Ollie's bowler hat. They then stick a huge tin of lard onto Hall's head. Hall starts to wreak havoc in their shop. Stan and Ollie cover Hall with eggs.

A policeman finally arrives and halts all the personal assaults and retaliations, getting them all to shake hands. Laurel and Hardy return to their store and find it virtually empty. The shoplifter has returned yet again, although this time with a large truck to haul away all the remaining items. As Stan and Ollie watch in silent disbelief, the shoplifter greets them cheerfully and strolls out of their store carrying a lamp, which he puts in the back of the truck.




The short was popular with audiences in 1935 and was generally well received by critics and theater owners. Variety, the entertainment industry's leading trade paper at the time, gives the film high marks in its March 27 issue.[6] In its review of Tit for Tat, the paper also alludes to news reports that Laurel and Hardy's partnership had recently ended due to Stan's recurring disputes with producer Hal Roach:[7][8]

Newest L&H short, and perhaps the last, since they split recently, is another topnotch two-reeler with a sufficiency of laughs and novel situation accompaniment...Stan and Oliver are in the electric business...One bit neatly worked up is a man walking in and out of the electric store and walking out with increasingly large bundles. The fat boy and his thin partner are too busy fighting with their neighbor to bother with him and for a tag finish the crook comes up in a truck to clean out what little is left.[6]

The Film Daily, another widely read trade publication in 1935, was impressed by all the "Grand Laughs" in Tit for Tat.[9] In its March 23 review, the paper welcomes what it views as the comedy duo's return to broad physical comedy and, like Variety, draws special attention to the shoplifter's role in the film:

This Laurel and Hardy funfest gets back to the good old slapstick technique of their earlier pictures, and is one of their best...A very funny running gag has a stranger entering their store and walking out with valuable electric appliances for the home. Each time the partners return to the store they encounter the thief, but are so occupied with their row with the grocer that the pay no attention to him....[9]

Motion Picture Herald, yet another influential trade publication in 1935, gives the film a somewhat restrained, clinical assessment in its March 10 issue, describing the short as a "Good Comedy" with "numerous laugh-provoking situations".[10] In addition to providing reviews and news about the film industry, Motion Picture Herald regularly published the reactions of theater owners or "exhibitors" to the features and shorts they presented. Their reactions to Tit for Tat were mixed, although most were very positive. "A lot of laughs", reports Roy Irvine, owner of the Ritz Theatre in Ritzville, Washington, while H. G. Stettmund of the H. and S. Theatre in Chandler, Oklahoma, describes it "the best these boys have made for a long time."[11] Some theater owners, however, considered the film to be a mediocre production and only a modest box-office draw. C. L. Niles, the owner of Niles Theatre in Anamosa, Iowa, was not impressed with the short. In the April 20 issue of Motion Picture Herald, he grades it "Just fair" and remarks that his theater simply "got by" in screening it, suggesting that the film, as least in Anamosa, had not been very successful in boosting ticket sales.[12] In Eminence, Kentucky, the owner of that town's cinema, A. N. Miles, found it to be a decidedly weak comedy. "Not a good laugh in the whole two reels", he complains in the July 13 issue of Motion Picture Herald.[13]


  1. ^ a b "THE RELEASE CHART: SHORT FILMS / METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER / Tit for Tat", official release dates and running times of films released in 1934 and part of 1935, Motion Picture Herald, February 16, 1935, p. 94. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  2. ^ Fristoe, Roger (2019). "TIT FOR TAT (1935)", Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Time Warner, Inc., New York, N.Y. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  3. ^ "The 8th Academy Awards (1936) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  4. ^ Harness, Kyp. The Art of Laurel and Hardy: Graceful Calamity in the Films. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2006, pp. 172-173. ISBN 0-7864-2440-0.
  5. ^ Brehe, S. K. (2005). "Oliver Hardy (1892-1957)", New Georgia Encyclopedia, Georgia Humanities and University of Georgia Press, Athens. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Kauf (1935). "TALKING SHORTS: LAUREL and HARDY / 'Tit for Tat'", review, Variety (New York, N.Y.), March 27, 1935, p. 15. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  7. ^ "Laurel-Hardy Split Up Old Comedy Team", Motion Picture Daily (New York, N.Y.), March 16, 1935, pp. 1, 3. Internet Archive. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  8. ^ "Laurel-Hardy Split Ends Comedy Team", The Film Daily (New York, N.Y.), March 16, 1935, p. 1. Internet Archive. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "SHORTS / Laurel and Hardy in 'Tit for Tat'", review, The Film Daily, March 23, 1935, p. 4. Internet Archive. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  10. ^ "Tit For Tat (MGM)", review, Motion Picture Herald (New York, N.Y.), March 30, 1935, p. 46. Internet Archive. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  11. ^ "MGM / TIT FOR TAT", "WHAT THE PICTURE DID FOR ME", section with reports and comments on films by theaters owners, Motion Picture Herald, June 8, 1935, p. 109. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  12. ^ "MGM / TIT FOR TAT", Motion Picture Herald, April 20, 1935, p. 71. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  13. ^ "MGM / TIT FOR TAT", Motion Picture Herald, July 13, 1935, p. 85. Retrieved May 27, 2019.

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