Hal Roach Studios ( 1928 ) Two Reels
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Anita Garvin, Tiny Standford, Edna Marian, Otto Fries, Ellinor Van Der Veer
Producer: Hal Roach
Directors: Edgar Kennedy
The Culpeppers are a newly rich couple. Mrs. Culpepper ( Anita Garvin ) wants to become part of the high society and to do so hosts a fancy dinner party, although her husband ( Tiny Standford ) tells her he would rather be sitting on their back porch barefoot. Mrs. Culpepper’s attempts to be sophisticated are thwarted by her fancy tiara which keeps falling down over her eyes. And as if the tiara is not embarrassing enough the two waiters she asked the agency to send over ( Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy ) are not what she had hoped for. After breaking her doorbell they hand her a letter that reads: “Dear Mrs. Culpepper: These two boys are the best that we could furnish on such short notice. They are experienced waiters, but their experience has been in railroad eating houses. With apologies, H.A. Bra” And when she goes into the next room to greet her guests Ollie stairs at her butt and comments to the man next to him that she is a wiggler, that man happening to be her husband. Ollie is also trying to prove his sophistication. Ever since he entered the house he has chastised Stan for wearing his hat indoors, which is bad manners. After several times yelling at Stan to remove his hat they enter the kitchen where Stan notices the chef is wearing a chef hat. Stan removes it and tells the chef that Ollie does not like it when anyone wears hats in the house. Stan goes to get some plates and when he returns the Chef has put his hat back on. Stan removes it again and the chef defiantly puts it back on. Outraged Stan grabs the chef’s hat, throws it on the floor, and kicks it across the room. The chef retaliates by smashing a plate over Stan’s head. Stan retaliates smashing two plates over the chef’s head and the chef retaliates with four plates over Stan’s head. Stan picks up his entire stack of plates and smashes them over the chef’s head and finally Ollie steps in to break up the fight.
In the dining room the guests have sat down at the table and begun eating the first course which is a fruit cup. Mrs. Culpepper, ever trying to be sophisticated, can not figure out which one of the many different spoons she is suppose to use and by trial and error keeps picking up the wrong one until she sees one of the guests using the correct spoon. She then tries to eat her fruit cup but is unable to keep the cherry on her spoon and she eventually starts chasing it around her plate. Meanwhile her dog has found a banana and has crawled between a female guests legs so he can eat it under the table. The guests turns to Mr. Culpepper and elbows him telling him to act like a gentleman. With Stan’s help Mrs. Culpepper finally gets the cherry on her spoon but then her tiara falls over her face when she tries to eat it. Stan and Ollie have brought in the next course, soup. While Ollie places empty soup bowls on the serving table Stan who is still holding the canteen of soup pours it onto Ollie’s foot. Ollie tells him to put the canteen down but he can’t because the serving table has a huge cake on it. Ollie removes the cake and begins to carry it away when he slips on the banana peel the dog left behind, falling face first into the cake. Angry, Ollie throws the banana peel across the room. Stan opens the canteen and goes to serve the soup when he drops the ladle into it. Unable to retrieve it from the hot soup Stan simply dips the individual soup bowls into the canteen and fills them up. While bringing the bowl of soup to the table Stan slips on the banana peel and spills it all over Mr. Culpepper. After getting yelled at Stanly throws the banana peel across the room in anger where it lands at the kitchen door. Ollie has cleaned himself up and is bringing out another large cake when he slips on the banana peel and falls face first into it. Ollie cleans off and brings out a third cake, this time taking no chances it is on a serving trolley. Mrs. Culpepper tells him to serve the salad without dressing and Ollie tells Stan that he has to bring in the salad undressed. Stan misunderstands the order. In the kitchen he begins to cry at the idea of serving the salad in the nude. He tells the maid that the mistress wants him to serve the salad undressed and she tells him that is the way it is always served. So Stan strips down to his underwear and brings the salad out. He manages to serve half the table without anyone noticing when Mrs. Culpepper sees him and screams. Ollie quickly takes off his jacket and puts it on Stan turning to Mrs. Culpepper and saying ” – Hows that – perfect? – “. Mrs. Culpepper does not think so and punches Ollie in his face for ruining her fancy dinner. Ollie falls over face first into the large cake.
While Laurel and Hardy had been an official team for the past six movies they were still being released as part of the “Hal Roach All-Star” series, and would continue to do so for the next three movies before Hal Roach officially began the “Laurel and Hardy” series with “Should Married Men Go Home?” While most of the All Star movies Laurel and Hardy made as a team centered around their characters, “From Soup to Nuts” was a rare exception. Here Anita Garvin and Tiny Sandford’s characters are allowed to steal some scenes with their own gags and sub plot as if it was one of the earlier pre team offerings. even more interesting while this movie was being made Oliver Hardy was asked to go to the Our Gang set for their movie “Barnum & Ringling, Inc” and play a drunk. This would seem to have been a regression. Could Hal Roach have been thinking of disbanding the Laurel and Hardy team? Counting the Pathé distributed “Do Detectives Think?” that had been held back and released after “The Second Hundred Years” credited as a Laurel and Hardy film, only three of their movies had actually been released to the theaters by the time “From Soup to Nuts” went into production. While “Hats Off” had been a breakout hit there was no way of knowing yet that the new Laurel and Hardy team had legs. I suspect it was half way through the production of “From Soup to Nuts” that Roach decided that Laurel and Hardy had graduated from an experiment to a permanent team, which would explain why the fourth Laurel and Hardy credited movie that was being released that month, “Putting the Pants on Phillip”, was credited by Hal Roach as their first official movie. In the weeks before this decision was reached Roach had temporarily reverted his team back to supporting actor status, perhaps just to see if it could still be done. Now all Roach had to do was sell M.G.M. on distributing a Laurel and Hardy series, but in the meantime would still distribute their movies as part of the All-Star series.
This movie went through a little revision prior to release. It’s original ending had Ollie pull off Anita Garvin’s dress mistaking it for a shawl, which he uses to cover up Stan’s nudity. After seeing that he has stripped his mistress down to her slip Ollie faints and falls on the cake. The ending was filmed, screened, and inevitably rejected. The new ending has Ollie using his own jacket and passing out because he is punched by Anita. This film was remade twenty years later with some ideas from “Duck Soup”/”Another Fine Mess”. It was after “A Chump at Oxford” had been released as a streamliner. Roach had abandoned short subject movies because theaters were more interested in booking full length double features. The streamliners were 40 minute shorts that were long enough to be booked as part of a double feature, or so Roach thought. When trying to release “A Chump at Oxford” overseas Roach realized that by adding an extra twenty minutes he would be able to book the movie at the regular feature film fee rather than get a short movie fee for the streamliner. Laurel and Hardy were asked to come up with an additional 20 minutes and they decided to simply remake one of their 20 minute silent movies. The first twenty minutes of “A Chump at Oxford” is considered by many Laurel and Hardy fans as being unofficially their last two reeler.