Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Laurel and Hardy feature Bonnie Scotland (1935).
In this classic, the boys break out of jail and stowaway on a cattle boat to get to Scotland to collect Stan’s inheritance, left to him by his recently departed grandfather. After expending all their resources getting there, they learn that all he was bequeathed were some bagpipes and a snuffbox. After a further succession of mishaps (the best part of their movie), they are thrown out of their rooms and accidentally wind up enlisting in the British army, which sends them to India, where the bulk of the film is laid, making the the title of the movie a sort of bait and switch. In essence, we switch from a Robert Burns riff to a Kipling one, and the unfolding movie seems to parody The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, and to presage Gunga Din. It then unfortunately gets bogged down with a romantic subplot involving Laurel’s cousin Lorna MacLaurel (June Lang) and her beau (William Janney). Luckily, Sargeant Jimmy Finlayson is on hand to help liven up this section of the film, which is divided between this romance and the military/political intrigues in colonial India. It’s a bit of a bore actually, making us pine for the film’s early scenes. In the end, a big swarm of bees saves the day, and the movie, just barely.
To learn more about slapstick history please check out 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 find out more about the history of 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.