(director: Gordon Douglas; screenwriter: Corey Ford/story by Walter De Leon & Arnold Belgard; cinematographer: Karl Struss; editor: Bert Jordan; music: Marvin Hatley; cast: Oliver Hardy (Dr. Henry Tibbett), Billie Burke (Bessie Tibbett), Stepin Fetchitt (Zero), Hattie McDaniel (Dehlia), Harry Langdon (Professor McCrackle), Jean Parker (Mary Tibbett), Alice Brady (Mrs. Carter), James Ellison (Jeffrey Carter), June Lang (Virginia), J. Farrell MacDonald (Judge), Olin Howland (Lawyer), Phillip Hurlic (Zeke); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: A.E. Sutherland; United Artists; 1939)
“A very funny comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The only film Oliver Hardy performed without Stan Laurel. It came about due to a festering dispute between Stan Laurel and Hal Roach. The b/w film titled after an elephant, is a very funny comedy and Hardy excels. Though it bombed at the box office. Gordon Douglas (“In Like Flint”/”Them!”/”Rio Conchos”) directs with a flare for zany comedy. Corey Ford bases the screenplay from a story by Walter De Leon & Arnold Belgard.
It’s set in 1870, in the small-town of Carterville, Mississippi, where Dr. Henry Tibbett (Oliver Hardy) is a big-hearted struggling country doctor, who turns away patients who are hypochondriacs even if they are rich like Mrs. Carter (Alice Brady). She’s a snobbish dowager. The town is named after her renown political family. When her gentle son Jeff (James Ellison) wants to marry the doctor’s sweet daughter Mary (Jean Parker), mom objects as she wants her son to marry someone wealthy from the upper-class.
Itinerant carnival barker Professor McCrackle (Harry Langdon) comes to town and his pampered elephant named Zenobia gets sick, and Dr. Tibbett treats her. The elephant shows the doctor she’s grateful and embarrasses him by following him everywhere. The snarky Mrs. Carter convinces the carny to sue Tibbett over his treatment and the case goes to court. When Jeff shows he’s a man and tells mom off, she relents. The couple marry and the elephant gives birth.
Love it or hate it for stereotyping blacks, nevertheless Stepin Fetchitt steals the pic with his usual slow-witted antics. Also a riot is Billie Burke, doing her usual zany bit as Hardy’s daffy wife.
REVIEWED ON 6/18/2015 GRADE: B