Series: Laurel and Hardy
Director: James Parrott
Producer: Hal Roach
Photography: Len Powers
Editor: Richard C. Currier
Sound: James Greene
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Billy Gilbert
Released: 21 May 1932
Length: 3 reels
Production No.: L-7
Filming dates: January 18-26, 1932
Available on DVD:
Colonel Finn and his circus troupe are performing to a small audience under a big canopy. A variety of acts include a Peeping Tom, Lady Godiva, Destructo the cannonball king, and a two-man horse (Stan and Ollie) do their bit. After their costume horse runs out of the arena and collapses in a heap, Ollie (who is performing as the rear legs) complains that it is the last time he is going to be at the back.
Ollie: "Well that settles it. That's the last time that I'm going to be in [the rear] of the horse"
Stan: "Well I can't go in there"
Stan: "Well you look better in that end than I do."
The boys return to the circus floor dressed as bellboys, though Stan notices that Ollie is still wearing his horse costume on his legs and quickly helps relieve him of them - taking his regular trousers at the same time. Finn introduces the next act, Destructo, whilst Stan and Ollie assume their positions (albeit after a couple of mishaps with a plank of wood which the viewer could see coming a mile away).
After a third indignant shove by Stan and the plank, Ollie retaliates by punching Stan on the chin as he climbs atop of an erected wooden crate. Stan falls backwards onto the plank (which has been placed as a see-saw) and his weight releases the cannonball he had just put into place, sending it through the air and right down on Hardy's back, sending him through the structure and onto the floor. Destructo (Tiny Sandford in a caveman-type leotard) witnesses the whole spectacle and intervenes. After picking up the cannonball which Stan has already dropped on Ollie's toes, Destructo instructs Stan to hold the ball whilst he attends to dealing with Ollie but a wave of the hand from Stan signals he is not willing to comply. The whole set is thrown into chaos further when the loading of the cannon with gunpowder results in a premature vertical explosion, taking off the roof of the tent and ultimately bringing the show to its conclusion.
Later, the owner gathers the performers together to tell them the bad news: after seven weeks of continuous rains and no business, he has no alternative than to fold the show and offer parts of the circus to his members in lieu of their salary. Ollie is then seen building a crate and when asked why he reveals what he was awarded as payment - a chimpanzee named Ethel (actor Charles Gemora in the suit). Stan then reveals his reward - the flea circus. Hardy calls upon his creature to obey him but he is attacked, though the beast offers Stan a wink - which sends Ollie mental!
Stan manages to persuade the animal to get into the box just before the boys spot the circus lion which is on the loose. Having fled the scene, Stan and Ollie are looking for a place to sleep for the night when they find a hotel run by an agitated landlord (Billy Gilbert). Just prior to their arrival, the landord reveals to one of his tenants (Bobby Burns) that he is not happy that his wife has failed to come home at the late hour they now find themselves at. However, a knock at the door restores some hope but when he opens it, he grabs the arm of Ollie and drags him inside, believing it to be that of his missing wife. After apologizing for the incident, he offers Ollie a room for the night but when Stan runs in with the gorilla (after seeing the lion outside) the landlord emphatically states the creature must remain outside.
The boys take the chimp outside to discuss their plan on how to get it back into the hotel without being detected. Ollie decides that he should offer his clothing to the animal so that Stan can escort it into their room without suspicion and by doing so he can then undress the creature and throw the clothing back down to the waiting Ollie outside. The plan almost works except Ollie's trousers get stuck on a ledge. There is a humourous moment as the chimp makes a sarcastic wave to Stan as if to say "whatever" before stretching down to retrieve the clothing and falling out of the window, taking Stan with him. Stan locks the animal into a bunker and the boys finally make it into their bed.
Soon after, the chimp climbs the drainpipe and joins them. Stan, who has been unceremoneously shoved out of the bed he was sharing with Ollie, climbs into bed number two which leaves a space for the animal to snuggle up with Ollie. He believes it to be Stan and reprimands him over not cutting his toenails, but doesn't take kindly to being kissed on the cheek! When Ollie sees Stan across the room looking back at him it becomes apparent who (or what) is in the bed with him, and as such he tells the animal to go sleep in the cupboard. When the creature decides to take Ollie's blanket with her Ollie gives up and goes to sleep in Stan's bed, but soon discovers the flea circus has been let loose and causing both he and Stan to get back out of the bed. Meanwhile the landlord is still sulking over his absent wife, whom we see from a photograph shares the same name as the chimp in the next room, Ethel.
One of the tenants (Bobby Burns, whom we see earlier in discussion with Billy Gilbert) puts on a gramophone record to which the chimp springs to life and starts dancing around the room. A series of remarks made by Ollie can be heard through the thin walls which the landlord takes objection to. When the name 'Ethel' is mentioned, the landlord bursts in, believing it to be his wife but instead finds the frisky chimp lying in his bed (the adjoining door leads to the landlord's room and Ollie has opened the door and led the animal in there whilst the landlord is out in the hallway trying to get access to the boys' room). Gilbert declares his love for 'Ethel' in the bed just as his wife walks in, sees them all and the chimp reveals herself. Everybody freaks out, the chimp grabs the landlord's gun and starts firing off random shots as everybody clears the room.
After Stan has accidentally managed to hit Ollie three times with a plank of wood which was meant to be part of the Destructo cannonball act, Stan climbs to the top of a wooden crate where Ollie then smacks him on the chin. Stan falls back from the impact and hits the same plank of wood, which in turn releases the cannonball up into the air and down onto Ollie's back, sending him crashing through the structure and down to the ground.
• Copyrighted May 26, 1932.
• Stan's daughter Lois can allegedly be seen briefly in the audience of the circus (though I myself cannot locate her).
• The original print of the film sees the opening titles displayed through the drum being held by two clowns. Unfortunately, most DVD editions derived from the modified Film Classics print.
• During the film a photograph of the landlord's wife, Ethel is seen followed shortly by the woman herself. There are sources which give conflicting information as to who plays her. Some say she is Martha Sleeper, but in actual fact she is played by Dorothy Granger.
• The colorized version of the film uses an introductory card lifted from Pack Up Your Troubles. Also, the intertitle cards after the credits are in the wrong order.
• Until recently the only prints available of the film were quite dark and are missing the original opening title sequence. The 10-DVD set "The Essential Collection" has the original title card, original opening intertitles and the correct credits sequence restored.
• Part of Destructo's props include a 100lb and a 200lb weighted ball.
• Colonel Finn's description of Ethel as she rides by in the automobile at the beginning of the film: "Ethel, The Human Chimpanzee - she reads, writes, plays a piano, and milks a cow!"
• When Stan and Ollie are performing on the arena the audience can be seen applauding but cannot be heard. They can be heard laughing but their clapping is silent for some reason. Bad continuity.
• When Ollie loads the cannonball into the cannon notice the audience in the background are so motionless they could almost have been cardboard cut-outs.
• The official name of the troupe is Colonel Finn's Big Show.
• Ollie alternates throughout the film referring to the chimp as a 'him' and a 'her'.
• Why did Stan and Ollie share a bed when there were two available?
Joe the landlord
Destructo, the Cannonball King
Ethel, the landlord's wife
Tenant with newspaper
|William J. O'Brien
Ethel, the chimp
|CREDITS (click image to enlarge)
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|SHOT ON THE BACK LOT
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Laurel And Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Jorge Finkielman (stills)
This page was last updated on: 21 May 2023