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 Best Live Action Short (Comedy) in 1932. In 1997, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
In a music store, a woman (Hazel Howell) orders a player piano as a surprise birthday gift for her husband. 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 learn from a postman (Charlie Hall) 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, twice with Ollie in tow. During their first attempt, they encounter a lady (Lilyan Irene) 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 (Sam Lufkin) 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.
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 Theodore von Schwartzenhoffen (Billy Gilbert), M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F-F-F-and-F. He impatiently tells them to take the piano out of his way; he should like to pass. Ollie very reasonably and sensibly suggests he walk around, which sets off the Professor in a fit of Teutonic rage. He screams at Stan and Ollie to get the piano out of his way, and Stan knocks the Professor’s top hat down the stairs and into the street, where it is crushed by a passing vehicle. The outraged professor leaves, loudly 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 bell of 1127 Walnut Avenue, the piano rolls back down to the street again. They wearily drag it 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; they could have driven up the hill and stopped 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, after dropping it into the fountain and falling in themselves. They make a shambles of the living room while unpacking it. Meanwhile, the owner of 1127 Walnut Avenue is revealed to be Professor von Schwartzenhoffen, who 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 his wife returns home and tearfully tells her husband it had been a surprise birthday present. To apologize for his actions, the Professor signs the delivery receipt, but the pen Stan and Ollie give him squirts ink over his face. 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, M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F-F-F-and-F
Hazel Howell as Mrs. von Schwarzenhoffen
Sam Lufkin as police officer
Lilyan Irene as nursemaid
Charlie Hall as postman
William Gillespie as piano salesman