20 November 2005 | Vincentb341
Stan, the English lord
In 1940, Laurel and Hardy made their last two movies for Hal Roach, A Chump At Oxford and Saps At Sea. Oxford is the better film, but both are entertaining. In any case, this was the last time the pair had any creative input regarding their own films. (At MGM and Fox, they were handed a script and told to do it "the studio way.")
A Chump At Oxford is really two movies in one. The opening shot shows Stan and Ollie hitchhiking to an employment agency. The only job that's open requires a maid and butler team, so for the second time in his career (the first was in Another Fine Mess), Stan plays Agnes the maid. What follows is a partial re-make of another short, From Soup to Nuts (in fact, as dinner is about to be served, Ollie announces, "We've got everything from soup to nuts.") Stan once again serves the salad undressed, but he is also drunk, having taken Mr. Vanderveer's (Jimmy Finlayson) instruction to "Take all those cocktails" a bit too literally. He chases them out of the house with a shotgun, shooting a policeman in the derriere along the way.
In the next scene, Ollie and Stan are sweeping streets. Ollie, usually the eternal optimist, is more depressed here than in any L & H film. "Well, here we are, right back down in the gutter. We're just as good as other people, but we don't advance ourselves. We never get anywhere." They decide to attend night school, but their fortunes change sooner than they expect. Like W.C. Fields in The Bank Dick, they (quite accidentally) capture a couple of bank robbers. As Ollie explains that they have no education, the bank manager rewards them with the finest education money can buy, at Oxford University.
Arriving in England, our friends are preyed upon by a dreary crowd of students, among them old nemesis Charley Hall and a very young Peter Cushing. They play childish pranks on the boys, getting them lost for hours in a weird-looking maze, and dressing up like a ghost to scare them to death. Soon after they arrive, Stan makes it very clear that he is out of his element.
Johnson (Peter Cushing): Haven't you come to the wrong college? You're dressed for Eton (the famous British prep school).
Stan: Why, that's swell, we haven't eaten since breakfast, have we Ollie?
The worst prank of all is when Johnson disguises himself as the dean and directs them to the real dean's rooms, telling them that these are their quarters. When the dean (Wilfred Lucas) returns and the students are caught, he tells them they will all be expelled. They vow to take revenge against Stan and Ollie.
Shown to their proper quarters, the boys meet their valet Meredith (Forrester Harvey). He refers to Stan as Your Lordship, stating that before a window came down on his head and he wandered away, he was the greatest athlete and scholar in the history of Oxford, and "oh, what a brilliant mind." When Ollie hears this, he bursts into laughter. "Why I've known him for years and he's the dumbest guy I ever met."
Meanwhile the expelled students are heading for their lodgings singing a bizarre "chant of revenge." As Stan looks out the window, it crashes down on his head, and he becomes Lord Paddington. As the students enter his room, His Lordship fights them all, throwing them all out the window (in a rather cruel weight joke, he throws Ollie out, too, and he makes a huge crater in the ground when he lands.)
A certificate on the wall informs us that Lord Paddington has been reestablished as the leading scholar/athlete at the University. He speaks like a cultured English gentleman, and Ollie is now his valet. (This is not too hard to understand when you consider that Stan was the creative genius of the team, writing many of the gags we see in the films.) Ollie is now a humiliated figure, and no other actor can use camera looks to express humiliation like Oliver Hardy. At one point, the dean comes in to tell Paddington that Professor Einstein has arrived from America and is a bit confused about his theory. Could he straighten him out? Ollie is incredibly shocked, muttering under his breath, "If it wasn't for that bump on the head, he wouldn't know Einstein from a beer stein." But he's helpless to do anything about it.