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Laurel & Hardy Volume 1 – A Chump at Oxford and Related Shorts

The first volume in the 21 disk box set is A Chump at Oxford and Related Shorts.

A Chump at Oxford

Released in 1940, A Chump at Oxford sees our boys down on their luck and forced to take a job as maid and butler at a posh dinner party. Stan, as the maid ‘Agness’, is asked to serve the salad un-dressed. Of course our Stan dutifully does as he’s asked and emerges in his underwear. Later, as street cleaners, the boys stop a bank raid with a carelessly discarded banana skin, resulting in them being rewarded for their courage with an education at Oxford University. An initiation prank sees Laurel and Hardy spending the night in a maze, accompanied by a student dressed as a ghost. In the morning our boys are shown into the dean’s quarters instead of their own, and are settling in nicely when the dean returns and orders them to leave.  They think this is another prank and start a pillow fight with the dean, when they eventually realise the truth the real culprits are expelled. A valet recognises Stan as Lord Paddington, the university’s greatest scholar, who had left years earlier following amnesia caused by a bump on the head from a window frame. Stan and Ollie, believing this to be yet another prank, laugh off the valet. The boys are found guilty by the student body of snitching, which is a serious offence, and are in the process of making a hasty escape out of the window when Stan receives a bump on the head which causes Stan to revert to his previous persona of Lord Paddington and throws their attackers out of the window, along with Ollie and the dean. Lord Paddington takes Ollie on as his servant and christens him ‘Fattie’. Lord Paddington slips back into his former life quickly and regains his title of Oxford’s greatest student. Ollie quickly tires of his new life and decides to go back to America, but not before Lord Paddington gets another bump on the head and turns back into our Stan. The boys renew their friendship and all is well.

My other favourite films are the Star Wars series and I remember being amazed when granddad told me that Peter Cushing, who plays Govenor Mof Tarkin, was also in this Laurel and Hardy film.

From Soup to Nuts (1928, Silent)

A wealthy couple need waiters for their grand dinner party, but Laurel and Hardy are the best the agency can find. In the kitchen, Stan gets in a fight with the chef, with plates being smashed over heads. Ollie slips on a banana skin and fall face first into the large cake he is carrying, when Ollie throws the banana skin away, Stan also slips on it and covers the host in soup. When Ollie is asked to serve the salad without dressing, he is confused and tells Stan to serve the salad undressed, only for Stan to serve the salad in his underwear. The party is ruined and the host punches Ollie and sends him flying into another large cake.

Directed by Edgar Kennedy, who also appeared in Laurel and Hardy Films. Up until this point, Ollie had been appearing in other Hal Roach films, but as their popularity began to soar they were teamed up full time.

Another Fine Mess (1930, 3 reels, Talkie)

Vagabonds Laurel and Hardy are chased by the law into a mansion owned by Colonel Buckshot. The Colonel has instructed his staff to rent the house out, but they also decide to take a holiday. Thinking they’ve successfully given the police the slip, our boys are about to leave when a couple, having seen an advert, arrive to rent the house. Stan, at Ollie’s insistence, dresses up as the butler to tell Lord Plumtree that the colonel isn’t home. When Stan realises the police are still looking for them, he lets Lord Plumtree and his wife into the house, forcing Ollie to dress up as the master of the house. Things are going well until Lady Plumtree asks to see Agnes the maid. Cue Stan in a wig playing Agnes. Lady Plumtree is quite taken with Agnes and asks her to stay on when they rent the house, to which Stan agrees! While Ollie and Lord Plumtree discuss the terms of the rental, Stan gets back into the butler’s outfit. As the boys are about to leave the house, the colonel arrives back having forgotten his bow and arrow. Laurel and Hardy make their escape in the skin from the colonels hunting trophies (think pantomime horse) on a tandem cycle. The police give chase and the boys ride into a train tunnel just as a train enters the other end. they come back out from the tunnel now split into two and each riding a unicylce.

This film re visits the same themes as the earlier silent movie Duck Soup (the name was used before the Marx Brothers film). The title seems to add to the confusion over Ollie’s catchphrase.  Just as nobody ever said ‘Play it again Sam’ or ‘Beam me up Scotty’, Oliver never said the words ‘That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into’, instead using ‘nice mess’. I rarely see the need to get too pedantic over the mistake, but sometimes it’s nice to get things right.

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