FILMS… A Chump at Oxford (1939)



Some slapstick fun with Laurel and Hardy…

Our favourite bowler hatted comic pairing of yesteryear in a story set on both sides of the Atlantic. 


A Chump at Oxford TRAILER, audio VISUAL

Now a celebration of the work of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in the movies with this film, A Chump at Oxford (1939). This was as I was interested in how Oxford would look in this film made in the late 1930s.  Oxford being an English town, I lived in for a year about 20 years ago (eek).

It’s also the location of a guilty pleasure Brat Pack film Oxford Blues (1984).  In learning more about the film, Wikipedia states that this film is a parody of A Yank at Oxford (1938). This a film I thought I’d seen before and starred Bing Crosby, my gran’s favourite crooner.

Crosby stars – and acts – in my fave musical, High Society (1956) and those Road To movies – with Bob Hope – that Seth MacFarlane parodies so well. Dallas fans will also know Crosby as the father of Mary Crosby who as Kristen Shepard shot JR Ewing in the 1980s most famous whodunnit and cliffhanger.

But on reading more on A Yank at Oxford it does in fact star Robert Taylor as the American, with Vivien Leigh also in this cast. And the film I was thinking of, with another American (Crosby) finding himself in in fact Ye Olde England.  As the film was in fact A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949).

By a bizarre twist of fate, I also learned that A Yank at Oxford was remade in the 1980s with the Brat Pack starring Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy in the form of the previously mentioned Oxford Blues. This to be reviewed parody film did remind me of on numerous occasions particularly with its scenes of Oxford, terribly Posh English accented stereotypes and an early role, for a now well-known name. But more of this later.

This review is of the final version of A Chump at Oxford as there have been several scenes and about 20 minutes of the film added over the years. So on with the review of this classic movie. The film starts with this famous bromance’s signature tune that you’ll easily recognise. It was a lovely start to watching one of their movies.

On a side note, the tune is named The Cuckoo Song, Ku-Ku, or The Dance of the Cuckoos. The opening scene has our much loved Bowler hatted duo, Laurel and Hardy sitting in the back of a swanky car. Hardy – the one with the moustache – smoking a cigar with Laurel, his long time film partner.  All is not how it seems as the pair have hitched a lift and on arrival in town, a second possible lift pranks them. With some great visual slapstick scenes along the way.

The almost penniless pair arrive at an employment office looking for work with the only work available being for a butler and a maid. Cue Laurel, in drag as Agnes in what can only be described as a Mary Poppins outfit and a curly wig last seen on The Greatest American Hero (1981-83). Seeing this All American travesty recently via the Internet after confessing I liked the theme tune.

Definitely a case of the great theme tune, shame about the show. Anyway back to the film. This job is not a success for the hapless pair and it all goes downhill rapidly after Laurel Agnes’ knicker elastic breaks and he she literally undresses for salad. Hardy calls all for dinner using a xylophone, and in a well-coordinated scene where he reorganises the numerous dinner guests by barking orders at them.

A task that Captain Von Trapp – from The Sound of Music (1965) –  would have completed much more quickly. So after many fun chaotically fun scenes and double meanings taken the wrong way,  the bowler-hatted pair are chased out of their job to the sound of a gunshot.

So the pair are now road sweepers who on their lunch break signalled by an alarm clock (!), assist a man who collapses in front of them. Coincidentally, this man had just robbed a bank, tying up the manager. The cops apprehend him immediately and the manager as a thank you honour the boys’ wish to improve their education.

So it’s off to Oxford University, England we go… by boat, by steam train and horse and carriage. Darlin Husband told me that there was a petrol shortage and it was rationed in Britain at this time which explains the horse and carriage. And it certainly adds to the humour of stereotyped England –  which reminded me of another two American characters in a stereotyped England with actors, in 3 Men and a Little Lady (1990) which featured Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg in a Mini.

The opening scenes in Oxford are a delight, with our pair dressed for their new student role with cape and mortar. A group of fellow male students, with a dark side, decide to prank the newcomers. They tell them they are dressed for Eton, not Oxford. This “induction” is the norm for new students in the movies.

More film examples are Class (1983), another Brat Pack film where Rob Lowe (again) convinces new student Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) to don some ladies’ undies, convincing him this is the done thing at their University.

Laurel and Hardy are then sent to the Dean’s office via a maze by these villains. This leads us to some fantastic storytelling, as daylight turns to night and the pair are haunted by a “ghost”, one of the villainous students in a sheet and top hat (of course). And I’m already imagining a parody of these scenes intercut with the maze scenes involving Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) from The Shining (1980).

In a fantastically choreographed scene with fantastic timing, Laurel is slowly convinced he has an extra hand as the “ghost” and his buddies play havoc with the pair. This band of scoundrels reminded me so much of Julian Sands and Cary Elwes and their band of merry men fellow thesp buddies – and correct me if I’m wrong but sure I saw Cumberbatch in this clique – in Oxford Blues.

Laurel and Hardy eventually find their quarters for the night after instruction from these reprobates and settle down for the evening. Not realising they have been fooled again. The Dean enters his apartment. The remainder of this film plot can be found in the usual way, but be prepared for an excellent twist in the tale showing Laurel with a plummy English accent – and monocle –  and more on that famous name in eerier than comic scenes.

I am adding this to my now growing list of fantastic films discovered through blogathons. I loved the visual slapstick scenes and the amusing script. The scenes between Laurel and Hardy showed a great rapport and friendship, each allowing the other their share in the limelight in their individual scenes and yet sharing it in their joint scenes.

I’m not a big fan of slapstick tbh, but here it enhanced rather than distract you from the storyline. I’m surprised – and relieved – they hadn’t made a remake of this Laurel and Hardy movie into a by the numbers 1990s bromance movie with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.  It would have been a total travesty to do this to this fun, original parody. And therefore also should be thankful this film was overlooked in favour of the original film for Oxford Blues.

Finally, it was interesting to see the early appearance of an English actor that may horror-ify you. But keep your eyes peeled, as the length of time he appears is much less than his Top Secret (1984) appearance. He can be spotted in some of those more foreboding scenes, as the students chant to bring their form of justice to Laurel and Hardy after their villainy has been discovered.

In scenes, this actor would later encounter in his many Dracula themed scripts.  As I don’t want to hammer home about his particular role in this wonderful endearing Laurel and Hardy movie, it’s Peter Cushing. And now knowing this, you’ll be looking out for this all too brief appearance of this fish out of water. Which is how I felt as a Scot in Oxford watching a Trainspotting (1996) at the cinema. With subtitles.


Weeper Rating  😦 😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating:    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  🙂/10

Hulk Rating: ‎  mrgreen/10


blogathonThe Nuts in May Blogathon 2017, No 18

I entered A Chump at Oxford (1940) in Movie, Movie, Blog, Blog‘s the Nuts in May blogathon. I’ve not reviewed any other films with Laurel and Hardy. However, Peter Cushing stars in my reviews of Top Secret, Asylum and Dracula AD 1972.




11 thoughts on “FILMS… A Chump at Oxford (1939)

  1. This is a fantastic post, and I love your Oxford film throughline, I will definitely check out this film, it sounds like a hoot!

    PS No shame in digging The Greatest American Hero theme. 😉 I love to sing that song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks sweetie, will review it properly one day I’m sure. Good to know that someone has a guilty pleasure telly theme music taste like me. Was convinced it was Barry Manilow x


    • I’ve not watched any of their films since I was a kid, but love Oxford Blues and after hearing this was a parody of the film Oxford Blues was a remake of(!) thought it might be fun. Happily I was proved right x

      Liked by 1 person

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.