Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Laurel and Hardy comedy classic A Chump at Oxford (1940). This was the team’s next to last picture for Hal Roach and it shows them in as fine a form as ever, making the dreadfulness of their pictures at Fox at MGM all the more readily apparent. In this one the boys are rewarded for foiling a bank robbery with (an attempt at) an Oxford education (just go with it). The culture clash of these two in this scholarly setting would be enough fodder for good comedy, but the movie’s real lure is the benefit of seeing Stan Laurel in a vastly different role. For in A Chump at Oxford Laurel also plays one Lord Paddington, a rich, educated man who speaks (of course) with an Oxford accent. It’s a delight to watch and a clue to what a genius Laurel was — the character couldn’t be less like his familiar comic persona. Also in the cast are Roach regulars Jimmy Finlayson and Anita Garvin, and in one of his first film roles, none other than Peter Cushing! The screenplay is by Harry Langdon, Felix Adler (whose best known for many Three Stooges scripts) and Charley Rogers and directed by Keystone vet Alfred Goulding.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy film history don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.