Zenobia
Elephants Never Forget
 
 
21 April 1939
United Artists
sound feature
8-reels (73 minutes)
 

Director: Gordon Douglas  Producer: A. Edward Sutherland  Executive producer: Hal Roach  Screenplay: Corey Ford
Cinematography: Karl Struss, Norbert Brodine  Editor: Bert Jordan  Sound recording: Warren B. Delaplain, William Randall

AVAILABLE ON DVD
(click images for Amazon.de)

Mississippi 1870: Mary Tibbett (Jean Parker), the only daughter of the town's doctor (Oliver Hardy), has just got engaged to Jeff Carter (James Ellison), the son of a very wealthy family.  Mary's somewhat unusual mother (Billie Burke) summons the mumbling black servant Zero (typecast Stepin Fetchit) to run into town to notify Dr. Tibbett that dinner will include extra guests... oh, and that his daughter just become engaged.
Zero arrives in town as the good doctor is concluding with a house call for a new-born baby and tells him to come home, though he cannot remember why.  Tibbett makes the dash home to find both his wife and his daughter cleaning the house excitedly.  It seems nobody wants to talk about what is going on, until Zeke (Philip Hurlic), the young black boy of the house, informs the doctor of the wedding.
The happy doctor consults with his daughter and the news is confirmed by the potential son-in-law Jeff, who asks his permission to marry her.  Everybody is happy, except Mary, who is concerned that Jeff's mother will not approve.
Dr. Tibbert: "I'm the happiest father in the state of Mississippi"
Mrs. Tibbert: "So am I"
The doctor is clearly offended that his daughter refers to him as "just a country doctor" and implies her family isn't as good as Jeff's.  Mary vents her frustration at her father for being in debt to everybody on account of his good nature and then he tells her about his faith in the Declaration of Independence which he has hanging on his wall and how he tries to be a decent man on account of it.
An argument over a missing punchbowl breaks out in the kitchen and Zeke is ordered to run along to retrieve it from the lady who borrowed it.  He stops by a circus where Professor McCrackle (Harry Langdon) is trying to sell some remedy to a small crowd.  The professor keeps an elephant (Zenobia) who appears to fall sick during the routine.  McCrackle calls for a doctor and Zeke runs home to fetch Dr. Tibbett.
Tibbett arrives to find the professor explaining about how "his patient" is over 100 years old and weighing more than half a ton!  Of course, the doctor soon realises the patient is in fact an elephant!  After a brief, but reluctant examination of the animal, Dr. Tibbett instructs Professor McCrackle to keep the animal warm...
MrCrackle: "How do I do that?"
Tibbett: "Well, that's your problem!"
The doctor urges Professor McCrackle to keep the treatment of his elephant a secret.  That evening, Mrs. Carter arrives with her son Jeff and friend Virginia (June Lang) and are (eventually) welcomed into the Tibbett house.  There is some debate and disgust over what food should be served to the guests (pork and chicken being off the menu after Mrs. Carter objects).  After some small talk between the host and guests, Dr. Tibbett arrives home and is immediately drawn into the akward argument that ensues over Mrs. Carter's refusal to allow her son to marry into a family with such a different background.
After faking a heart problem, the rude guest is escorted home by Jeff.  Mrs. Carter then comes up with a devious scheme to organise a party - with singing and invites Mary and her family along, knowing full well that Mary cannot sing.  If that wasn't bad enough, Professor McCrackle turns up at the Tibbett house and confesses he stiff has a problem with his "baby".
The doctor once again makes the trip to treat Zenobia and after an examination of the animal (and after being sat upon), the doctor realises that the problem is a knot in the elephant's tail.
Dr. Tibbett: "I'm not an elephant!"
Professor McCrackle: "Well, not exactly".
That night, Zenobia breaks free of her ankle chains and heads for the Tibbett residence, where the doctor explains to the boy servant Zeke about the difference between white and black people.  Dr. Tibbett offers the boy a quarter if he can memorise the Declaration of Independence (it's the film's scene-stealer when it comes up later).  


Favourite bit
Without any shadow of a doubt the scene steeler is Philip Hurlic reciting the Declaration of Independence speech.  In a scene which spans almost two whole minutes, you cannot help but offer applause to the performance and feel just a bit overwhelmed over how amazing he delivers it.

Facts
•This film was made during the infamous contract dispute between Stan Laurel and producer Hal Roach.
•Production F-23 - feature with Oliver Hardy and Harry Langdon.
•Copyrighted April 11, 1939.
•Previewed as "It's Spring Again".
•Also known as "Elephants Never Forget".
•Filmed between November 1938 - January 1939.
•Interestingly, Jean Parker plays Oliver Hardy's daughter in this movie - she also played Hardy's love interest in the same year, in The Flying Deuces (which was also made during a contract break between Laurel and Roach).  The other connection is A. Edward Sutherland, who directed The Flying Deuces, and also produced Zenobia.
•This was May Wallace's last film.  She died during filming.  It is not known whether all her scripted scenes were completed at the time of her death.
•Two of the leading ladies of the film would go on to appear in two of the most famous films ever made later the same year - Billie Burke (as Glinda the Witch of the North in The Wizard Of Oz) and Hattie McDaniel (as Mammy in Gone With The Wind, for which she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress).
Did you notice?
•The story takes place in Carterville, Mississippi, 1870.
•Mr. Dover, the gentleman who is the proud father of a baby boy at the beginning of the film, already has six daughters (hence the line from Hardy - "if at first you don't succeed....."  I guess that now means Mrs. Dover can have a much-needed rest!!
•When Dr. Tibbett offers his services for free for the proud father, he receives not one word of thanks.
•Dr. Tibbett's ride home from town with Zero on the back of the cart is against a rear-projection.
•I think it is quite rude that Jeff continues to badger Dr. Tibbett about wanting to talk to him, even though Tibbett repeatedly tells him to wait.
•In an obvious attempt to not have his character of Dr. Tibbett compared with his 'Laurel & Hardy' character, Babe has grown his moustache outwards so that it looks more mature.
During the film, Jean Parker (Mary) calls her father "Doc" four times.
•Harry Langdon and Zenobia's first scene in the film comes after 13 minutes.
•Zenobia is 104 years old and weights approximately 6,172 lbs, according to Professor McCrackle.
•The credit roll in the film lists the family name as Tibbett, but the hand-written note from Mrs. Carter seen in the film spells the surname Tibbitt.
•Listen out for a brief rendition of a song called "I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls" from Hardy.  This was a song originally featured in The Bohemian Girl (1936).
It would appear that both Hardy and Langdon are right-handed.  When they are doing their "zone" marking on the elephant, both men use their right hand to mark the spots with their chalk.
In the scene where the elephants supposedly sits on and squashes Oliver Hardy, there was a real person underneath it (probably not Hardy).  Watch as the elephant gets back to her feet, a man can be seen moving underneath.  Probably a stunt double.
When Hardy is on top of the elephant in the barn, the chalk marks which are on the animal's side have been erased and re-marked yet at no time do we see them being erased.
•Zenobia, in case you missed it, is the name of the elephant!

Oliver Hardy
Dr. Henry Tibbett
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Harry Langdon
Professor McCrackle
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Billie Burke
Mrs. Bessie Tibbett
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Alice Brady
Mrs. Emily Carter
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
James Ellison
Jeff Carter
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Jean Parker
Mary Tibbett
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
June Lang
Virginia Reynolds
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Olin Howland
Attorney Culpepper
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
J. Farrell MacDonald
Judge
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Stepin Fetchit
Zero
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Hattie McDaniel
Dehlia
 
Philip Hurlic
Zeke
 
Clem Bevans
Sheriff
 
Tommy Mack
Mr. Miller (the butcher)
 
Robert Dudley
Court clerk
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Harry Myers
Party guest who didn't mind
 
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/ Hobart Cavanaugh
Mr. Dover
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
Fay Holderness
Townswoman
 
Jack George
Harpist
 
Hall Johnson Choir
Themselves
DVD screencapture - Lord Heath - Laurel & Hardy - Another Nice Mess - http://www.lordheath.com/
     
UNIDENTIFIED
The six daughters of Mr. Dover

TOWNSMEN

William Bakewell (at Zeke's recitation)
Nigel De Brulier (at Zeke's recitation)
Al Thompson (at Zeke's recitation)
Luke Cosgrove
Wade Crosby
Joe Cunningham
Rankin Daugette
Jack Egan
Mark Hamilton
Bert Howard
Sydney Jarvis
Sam Lufkin
John McCollum
Robert McKenzie
Edwin Richey
Cyril Ring
Colonel Robinson
Rene Stone
Arthur Thalasso
William Worthington
TOWNSWOMEN

Jessie Arnold
Helen Brown
Marie Engel
Mary Foy
Edna Hall
Olive Hatch
Mary Kornman
Amy Busby Roy
Kathryn Sheldon
Louise Squire
Toni Tree
May Wallace

PARTY GUESTS
Babe Green
Winifred Harris
Ralph Brooks
Otto Malde
Kathleen McCormack
Getrude Messinger
Peggy Moran
Edmund Mortimer
Paul Power
Doris Rankin
Suzanne Rhoades
Marie Wells
OTHER

Jack Baxley (Barker)
Edward Broadley (Servant)
Chester Conklin (Farmer)
Bud Geary (Courtroom spectator)
Walter Lawrence (Barker)
Leila McIntyre (Mrs. Langhorn)
Edward McWade (Minister)
William J. O'Brien (Barker)
Laura Treadwell (Mrs. Barrett)

JURYMEN
Jim Farley
Joseph W. Girard
Bob Perry
Thomas Pogue
Malcolm Waite

UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTERS
Jack Egger
Wilfred Lucas
Raymond Rayhill Powell



Acknowledgements:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032158/ (IMDb.com)
"Laurel OR Hardy" by Rob Stone (book)
Randy Skretvedt (help and information)

This page was last updated on: 08 April 2015