A Chump at Oxford
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A Chump at Oxford, directed in 1939 by Alfred J. Goulding and released in 1940 by United Artists, was the penultimate Laurel and Hardy film made at the Hal Roach studios. Originally released as a streamliner featurette at forty minutes long, the original streamliner version was slightly reedited and twenty minutes of footage largely unrelated to the main plot were later added for European distribution and, ultimately, American distribution. A later reissue version was further reedited, jumping from Stan and Ollie's entrance into the employment agency to them sweeping the streets. A 20-minute version created for television distribution is entitled Alter Ego. The longer version is the one most often seen today. The title echoes the film A Yank at Oxford (1938), of which it is a partial parody.
|A Chump at Oxford|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfred J. Goulding|
|Produced by||Hal Roach Jr. |
|Written by||Charley Rogers |
Harry Langdon 
|Starring||Stan Laurel |
|Music by||Marvin Hatley|
|Edited by||Bert Jordan |
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|February 16, 1940|
|42:01 (streamliner version)|
62:41 (extended version)
Stan and Ollie are down to their last six bucks. They visit a job agency, where a call comes from Mrs. Vandeveer looking for a maid and butler to help at a dinner party she is holding that night. Ollie tells the receptionist they can fill the post. They arrive and Stan is dressed in drag, pretending to be the maid "Agnes".
At the dinner party, Stan is told to take the cocktails, but instead of clearing them away, he drinks them and becomes drunk. Mr. Vandeveer gets impatient with Ollie's incompetent attempts to seat the guests. When Mr. Vandeveer tells the drunken Stan to "serve up the salad without dressing", Stan serves the salad in his underwear. Mrs. Vandeveer faints at the sight of Stan, and Mr. Vandeveer chases Stan and Ollie out of the house.
Stan and Ollie then become road sweepers and wonder why they are always in the gutter. They decide to get an education because in Stan's words "we're not illiterate enough". They are sitting outside a bank building eating a packed lunch, while a robbery is taking place inside. They inadvertently catch the robber when he slips on a banana peel tossed on the sidewalk by Stan. A grateful bank manager offers them a job in his bank. When Oliver mentions they would not be much use since he and Stan do not have an education, the bank president expands on their goal to attend night school by saying, "If it's an education you want, you shall have the finest education money can buy." He enrolls Stan and Ollie at Oxford University in England, and they depart the U.S. for England by liner, arriving at Southampton then taking a steam train north to Oxford.
When Stan and Ollie arrive at the university, they are accidentally dressed for Eton College. The snobby undergraduate students, led by the mischievous Johnson (Gerald Rogers) decide to give them the "royal initiation," which involves a number of pranks. They are sent off into a maze and quickly became lost. One of the students (Henry Borden) dresses as a ghost to frighten Stan and Ollie, and while they sit on a bench to sleep, the ghost's hand comes through the hedge to help Stan smoke his pipe and cigar (substituting for Stan's actual hand).
Stan and Ollie finally exit the maze the next morning. Johnson poses as the dean and gives Stan and Ollie the real dean's quarters to live in. They make themselves at home until they are confronted by the dean and the prank is uncovered. Johnson is threatened with expulsion, but the students plan to drive Stan and Ollie away to stop them testifying. Meanwhile, the boys arrive at their real quarters where Meredith the valet recognises Stan as Lord Paddington, the "greatest athlete and scholar the university ever had". He says that Lord Paddington had lost his memory and wandered from campus after a window fell on his head. Stan dismisses the story, as does Ollie who insists that Stan is the dumbest guy he ever met.
The students arrive in a slowly chanting mob, in a parody of the "hazing" scene from A Yank at Oxford. They attempt to throw Stan and Ollie out the window, but the boys try to escape through the window into the next room. The window falls on Stan's head, which transforms him back into Lord Paddington. When the students call him a "dirty snitcher", he becomes angry and his ears wiggle (something that occurs whenever Lord Paddington becomes angry, according to Meredith's story) and he throws the students out of the window. Stan does not remember Ollie any longer and throws him out the window as well.
Lord Paddington takes pity on Ollie and employs him to be his personal valet. The transformed Stan is super-human in intellect and body: his mantle is covered with athletic trophies, and his advice is sought by Albert Einstein. He nicknames Ollie "Fatty" and criticises him, which makes Ollie so angry he quits his job and storms out. Stan hears students come to cheer him outside and as he looks out of the window it falls on his head once again, returning him back to his usual dumb self. Hardy storms back in, still in a tirade about the way Lord Paddington treated him and stops only when he realizes that Stan is now back to his old self. Ollie hugs his best friend, in an uncharacteristically happy ending.
Film production detailsEdit
- The dinner party scenes are those omitted from the original American release and are a partial remake of their silent film From Soup to Nuts (1928).
- The dinner party ends in the same way as in their film Slipping Wives (1927).
- As Lord Paddington, Stan Laurel employs an upper class received pronunciation accent, the only time he affected a voice different from "Stan" on film.
- Nash, J.R. (2019). The Encyclopedia of Best Films: A Century of All the Finest Movies, A-J. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 234. ISBN 978-1-5381-3413-9. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Aping, N. (2014). The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy: A Study of the Chaotic Making and Marketing of Atoll K. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-7864-5174-6. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Ward, R.L. (2006). A History of the Hal Roach Studios. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-8093-2727-0. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Kael, P. (2011). 5001 Nights at the Movies. Henry Holt and Company. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-250-03357-4. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
- Fetrow, A.G. (1994). Feature Films, 1940-1949: A United States Filmography. McFarland. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-89950-914-3. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
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