Series: Oliver Hardy

Director: Buster Keaton
Producer: Louis Lewyn

Stars: The Original Sing Band and a Galaxy Of Stars (including Oliver Hardy)
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 28 May 1938
Length: 1 reel
Production No.:
Filming dates:
Rating: 4/10

Hollywood Handicap


Colonel Canfield's Racing Stables for thoroughbred horses is the setting for an exciteable auctioneer to make his attempts to sell some animals to a less-than-interested crowd of gatherers. After a brief performance he turns to the colonel and asks him if he would be willing to sell 'Susie Q', his valuable horse, but he flatly refuses "not at any price". The members of the musical band who are performing close by express their appreciation that rather than selling the horse, the colonel offers to give her away instead - to them. The colonel tells the boys that he now he has made up his mind to quit the racing game, he is rewarding them with the horse, which will make a good handicap. The gesture is met with much enthusiasm from the group.
The clarinet player from the band approaches the auctioneer and asks if he would help auction off their instruments. The auctioneer holds a big double bass in his hand and asks the crowd if there are any takers for this Kentucky ukulele? A gentleman offers $2 as the bidding begins. A representative from the Turf Club (Lester Dorr) approaches the Colonel and offers to make it worth their while if the band can perform at his establishment later that day; the colonel promises to tell them. With the successful sale of their instruments, the band members rejoice with being able to use the money for the entrance fee in the horse race but when the auctioneer takes his fee out of it they are left no better off than when they started. The colonel then proposes to the band of the gig planned for them unbeknownst they no longer have their instruments to perform with. The band improvise with their last remaining instrument, a guitar, and perform accapella to accompany some dancing couples close-by. The end of the song brings about a round of applause from the dancers whilst the barbeque chef tells everybody to go back to their places as food is soon to be served.
Whilst he attends to his ribs the singers perform another song in harmony. Those without instruments improvise and mime. The guests, all seated at a long table in the shade of a tree, start throwing coins on the ground for the band. This generous donation means the boys can now enter their horse in the handicap race.
We cut to the racetrack where an radio announcer introduces some special guests who have turned up to watch/bet on the race.
In order of appearance: Charles Ruggles, Mickey Rooney, Stuart Erwin, June Collyer, Charles Butterworth, Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Edgar Bergen, Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby, Robert Montgomery, Edmund Lowe, Warner Baxter and Oliver Hardy.
The commentator talks us through the guests and the horses as they begin to make their way out onto the racetrack. The beloved horse, Susie Q, ridden by Red Jones, is impatient to get going and soon after the race is under way, with her trailing the field after a slow start. The camera cuts away occasionally to the guests in the crowd to see their reactions as the race unfolds. When the band realise their horse is long one of them gets an idea to sing a song in an attempt to encourage the animal to win. It works, and the horse starts to steam through the field on the outside but when it reaches the singers the horse suddently stops and begins acting strangely, dancing to their tune and ultimately costing them the race. Shortly afterwards the race is won by Rhythm King. But it's not all bad news, after the race finishes a circus representative offers the band a contract if they will let the horse appear at his shows. Everybody is happy.

Favourite bit
Well this should be obvious! He's only on-screen for five seconds and doesn't speak, but seeing Oliver Hardy out of character, wearing glasses and a cap rather than his usual L&H attire is always a rarity on film. So for this reason I nominate this brief scene as my favourite part.

Copyrighted June 2, 1938.
Filmed at the Santa Anita Park and Racetrack, which is located at 285 West Huntington Drive, Arcadia, California, USA.
Two of the racetrack spectators are Stuart Erwin and June Collyer. They were real-life husband and wife at the time.
There are ten members in the band if you include the conductor.
The area where couple are dancing is surrounded by a wall in the shape of a horseshoe.
The horse Susie Q is ridden by Red Jones and is wearing the number 3 jacket.
Oliver Hardy's cameo is after 7 minutes 25 seconds and lasts a whole 5 seconds. At first he is looking at the racing guide and then turns to the camera, raises his hands and smiles before looking back down.
Some of the horses in the race are: Schnazzle, Rhythm King, Rosealie, Leading Lady, Yes Man and Super Visor.
The film can be found on a 3-DVD Deluxe Special Edition of Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer".
What the experts say
"A curiosity of a film with some interesting appearances but a storyline which is flatter than the racetrack seen in it." ~ Lord Heath.

Oliver Hardy
The Original Sing Band
Don Brodie
E. Alyn Warren
Colonel Canfield
Lester Dorr
Turf Club representative
Charles Ruggles
Mickey Rooney
Stuart Erwin
June Collyer
Charles Butterworth
Al Jolson
Ruby Keeler
Edgar Bergen
Dorothy Lamour
Bing Crosby
Robert Montgomery
Edmund Lowe
Red Jones
Himself (jockey)
Warner Baxter
Frank Mayo
Laughing man in crowd
Wanda Perry
Party guest



(click any image to enlarge)

Jesse Brisson (identification of Wanda Perry)

This page was last updated on: 06 February 2022