Barnum & Ringling, Inc.  
 
07 April 1928
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
silent short
2-reels

 

Director: Robert F. McGowan  Producers: Robert F. McGowan, Hal Roach  Dialogue: H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Art Lloyd  Editor: Richard C. Currier

 
AVAILABLE ON DVD

The Ritz-Biltmore Hotel caters for families, children and pets where a newlywed couple arrive to celebrate their marriage.  The gang are at the hotel trying to brighten up the place by turning it into a circus, with an elephant and hippopotamusses which they smuggle in via the service elevator.  When asked what mischief they are up to they reply they are discussing Sunday school.  The hotel manager advises a detective to keep an eye on the kids as they have been quiet for an hour.  The children chat amongst themselves as we cut away to see Jean (Darling), a cheeky young child in bed being waited on by her housemaid.  She pretends to be alseep but gives the maid a smack on the bottom when her back is turned.
Down in the lobby where the kids are hanging out the desk clerk rings the bell to signal his needed assistance, much to the annoyance of one of the children (Farina) who complains about the amount of bells in the hotel.  The clerk instructs the boy to go to the room of the little girl because she needs taking care of, but he is reluctant to do so because of the stories he has heard about her sticking pins in people previously.  Nevertheless he goes to her room, past the other children who have decorated a hallway full of banners and party stuff.
The young girl cheekily informs Farina that one day he can be her private chauffeur.  He tells her that if she continues sticking him with pins she will never grow up.  Just at that moment the two of them spot a pin on the floor.  He makes a run for it as she bends down to pick it up.  Out in the corridor the kids run past a flirtatious man with a maid.  When her back is turned she gets pricked by the young girl who runs past her.  Of course the lady doesn't see what happened and naturally thinks the man 'stabbed' her, so attacks him.  The kids assemble in a different corridor where Joe warns Jean that if she continues with her pin-stabbing routine then she can not be part of the circus.  When he turns his back she stabs him too.  The kids confirm they have an audience ready and willing and soon invite them to come flooding into the hotel when the way is clear.
On the stage the children are shown the 'exhibts' such as Little Egypt and Little Casino (two of the kids dressed up).  As the tour progresses the audience are introduced to a variety of comically arranged animals; two rabbits positioned in such a way that they resemble a 'kangaroo'.  A rattlesnake (with rat on the end of a long tube), a stork (a blackbird on stilts), a pelican (a duck with an egg around its neck), a peacock (duck with random feathers protruding from its body), a moose (donkey made up with various items including blown up rubber gloves), a snapping turtle (what looks like a dead parrot wearing a derby hat!), an african lion (the dog wearing a fur around its neck), an Arizona beaver (a cat with a hot water bottle), a 'raindeer' (dog with antlers), an 'alleygater' (sausage dog wearing a mack), 'artick seal' (same sausage dog wearing a pullover and a hot water bottle), single humped camel (a goat with a derby hat), a double humped camel (same as before but with the predictably-added second hat), a 'rinorsoris' and young (three pigs with baseball bats as noses), and finally a wild cow from 'barneo' (a dog wearing a coat, horns and a balloon for an udder).
The audience are then seated for the grand spectacle of a circus act featuring children performing in a ring, performing a variety of acts.  Jean's character is introduced as Madamozelle Rhubarba, as she rides into the arena on the donkey as one of the children attaches a rope from her to the blade of an overhead electric fan (a very risky stunt for the day especially as it involves a young child - they probably wouldn't get away with that today).  One of the kids then throws the switch and Jean goes spinning around the ceiling as the hotel detective (why did they need him I wonder?) enters the room.


The children scatter out into the corridor (well, apart from the poor girl who is left spinning around) as the detective follows after them.  As he begins to tell them off he is rammed by the animals who have escaped.  The assortment of animals scatter throughout the hotel, scaring two black janitors and the young newlyweds in their room as well as their maid (an extremely brief appearance by Edna Marion).  In the corridor a previously unseen 'giraff' (an emu it would seem) walks by a couple of ladies chatting in a doorway and gives one of them a nip on the backside before attacking one of the black men.  Soon after there is chaos with all the hotel guests being invaded, attacked and menaced by the animals.  The emu/giraffe wanders into the bathroom of one of the guests (a hilarious cameo from Oliver Hardy) as he is intoxicated from drinking.  Looking in the mirror he notices the enormous bird, does a double-take then goes stiff and faints, falling backwards (it's a good scene!)  The alcoholic drink spills into the wash basin as the bird pecks at it causing it to become under the influence also.  Mayhem continues throughout the hotel as the kids run down the stairs and hide.  The lobby is soon filled with birds, animals and guests as total chaos ensues.  It finally comes to an end as the hotel manager, detective (Eugene Pallette seen very briefly) and the children laughing at the now-drunk emu hic-cupping.

Favourite bit
The long sequence of animals being paraded as part of the children's show is really good.  An assortment of animals dressed up to resemble other animals whilst wearing various items of clothing, props and other random objects is quite ingenious albeit primitive for its day.  The best of these I think is the 'kangaroo' in which two rabbits are placed in such a position they do look quite funny.

Facts
•Production G-8 - Our Gang series.
•The 74th film in the series.
•Filmed December 21, 1927 to January 9, 1928.
•Copyrighted April 7, 1928.
•Released with a synchronized soundtrack.
•It was the 74th Our Gang short that was released and the first to have a synchronized musical and sound-effects track.
•It would be another 11 years before Hardy would appear in a film without Laurel.
•At the time of filming, Oliver Hardy, Dorothy Coburn and Edna Marion were simultaneously making From Soup To Nuts (1928).
•The title is a parody on a real American circus group called Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Did you notice?
•Jean Darling is in room 215.
•There are four hand-written signs (all with spelling errors) in the corridor that read; "Fresh lemonade", "Mane entrance", "Menagery" and "Tiket offiz".
•Edna Marion's entire performance lasts 2 seconds as the maid who enters the newlyweds room, sees the donkey then runs out again.
•Do you get the feeling that some of those animals were thrown down the stairs?
•The beautiful Dorothy Coburn has a cameo as the woman who is oblivious to the chicken who drops the egg down the back of her dress before she sits on it.

Oliver Hardy
Startled drunk
Dorothy Coburn
Lady who sits on egg
Edna Marion
Maid
Jean Darling
Jean
Allen 'Farina' Hoskins
Farina
Joe Cobb
Joe
Jackie Condon
Jackie
William Gillespie
Hotel manager
Eugene Pallette
Hotel detective
George B. French
Desk clerk
Charlie King
Newlywed husband
Patsy O'Byrne
Cleaning lady
May Wallace
Hotel guest
Symona Boniface
Hotel guest
Clara Guiol
Hysterical hotel guest
   
UNIDENTIFIED
Jean's maid
UNIDENTIFIED
Kid
UNIDENTIFIED
Kid
UNIDENTIFIED
Hotel guest in bed with pig
UNIDENTIFIED
Hotel guest #1
UNIDENTIFIED
Hotel guest #2
UNIDENTIFIED
Newlywed wife
UNIDENTIFIED
Hotel detective
UNIDENTIFIED
Amorous young man



Acknowledgements:
http://theluckycorner.com/rms/074.html (Robert Demoss/The Lucky Corner)
"The Little Rascals: The Life And Times Of Our Gang" by Leonard Maltin & Richard W. Bann (book)
Peter Mikkelsen  (title card)
Lou Sabini (identification of May Wallace and Symona Boniface)
Jesse Brisson (identification of Charles King as the newlywed)

Last updated on: 06 February 2017