Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

A Chump at Oxford (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

A Chump at Oxford (1940)

In Hal Roach Studios and director Alfred J. Goulding's full-length Laurel and Hardy slapstick campus comedy (at 62 minutes) - their first film released by United Artists; it was a parody of the earlier British-MGM comedic drama A Yank at Oxford (1938) starring Robert Taylor:

  • in the opening sequence (a tacked-on segment resembling the same material in the duo's short From Soup to Nuts (1928)), two perpetually poor, down-on-their-luck and unemployed partners were temporarily hired by the Sterling Employment Agency to serve at a lavish dinner party at the snooty Vandeveres: Mr. "Baldy" Vandervere and his wife (James Finlayson and Anita Garvin); the two met the qualifications for being hired by masquerading as a married couple - a butler (Ollie) and maid named "Agnes" (Stan in drag disguise)
  • the dinner party was a disastrous fiasco - Stan ate the hors d'oeuvres on a tray he was carrying and spilled its entire contents on Mrs. Vandevere's lap; Ollie summoned everyone to dinner with musical bells: "There's everything from soup to nuts, folks. Come and get it" and then turned fussy about changing all the seating arrangements; meanwhile, "Agnes" misunderstood Mr. Vandevere's instructions and drank all the contents of the left-over cocktails and became completely inebriated; when told by Mr. Vandevere to "serve the salad without any dressing"; he complied wearing only his underwear; the occasion ended up with the exasperated Mr. Vandevere throwing them out by threatening them with a shotgun
  • they had to resort to lowly street sweeping "in the gutter" literally, and during a 12 noon lunch break, the suddenly self-aware Stan explained what their problem was - and why they had never succeeded in life or had solid jobs: ("You know what the trouble is, don't you? We've never had no education. That's what's the matter. You see, we're not illiterate enough....You see, if we went to school like other people, we-we would learn our three Rs, and today there'd be no job too small for us. Believe me"); they decided to attend night school to get ahead and remedy their illiteracy
  • after inadvertently foiling a theft by a robber (Rex Lease) as he fled the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Commerce and slipped on Stan's discarded banana peel on the sidewalk, the two were offered a job at the bank as repayment by the grateful bank's president (Forbes Murray); however, Ollie declined the offer: "You see, we haven't got any education. Have we, Stan?"
  • instead, the duo (who were considered "diamonds in the rough") were presented with an all-expenses-paid educational scholarship at England's Oxford University: ("If it's an education you want, you shall have the finest that money can buy"); the two traveled by ocean liner from New York to Southampton, and then took a steam-powered train north to Oxford
  • the two misfits or "chumps" became the subject of numerous hazing (or "royal initiation") pranks pulled on them by four younger bullying students led by Student Johnson (Gerald Rogers), partially because they arrived mistakenly dressed as Eton College students (an entirely different public school in Berkshire, England); Stan misunderstood when told: "You're dressed for Eton" and he replied: "Swell, we haven't eaten since breakfast"

Students at Oxford Plotting a "Royal Initiation" for Stan and Ollie ("chumps")

The Mazelike Hedge

Ghost's Hand Reaching Through the Hedge to Help Stan Light and Smoke His Pipe
  • during one of the students' practical jokes on their first day, they were directed into a mazelike hedge and became thoroughly lost; inside the maze, Ollie proposed a way to get out: "Now, you go to the left and I'll go to the right. And whoever finds the exit first, comes back and gets the other one"; after they separated and Stan found the exit, he shouted out to Ollie, who then responded: "Where are you?" - Stan replied: "I'm here! Where are you?"; Ollie answered: "I'm here!", but Stan was flabbergasted: "How can you be here if I'm here?"; he told Ollie that he would come find him after locating himself: "I will as soon as I can find myself...I can't be in two places at once"
  • still lost at midnight in the dark and "haunted" hedge maze, they both decided to sit down and attempted to sleep on a bench; the two became spooked by one of the students dressed up as a Ghost (Eddie Borden) who reached out through the hedge and became a third hand to annoy Stan; nonchalantly, he told a disbelieving Ollie: "I just saw three hands" before the additional hand helped him to light and smoke his pipe and (exploding) cigar!; Ollie dismissed the phenomenon as one of Stan's "dizzy spells" but then, both suffered a fright when the Ghost sat down next to them and chased after them
  • the next morning at 9 am, the two "chumps" were fooled by Johnson who claimed he was "Dr. Ramsbottom," but was impersonating the University's Dean Williams (Wilfred Lucas); the two duped first-year students thought they were being escorted in an elaborate procession to their dorm room, but actually were offered the Dean's own residence: ("Well, gentlemen, these are your quarters. Now, don't be afraid to make yourselves at home"); both Stan and Ollie were impressed by their new "swell joint": (Stan: "Lovely. No wonder people go to school. A nice place to live in like this, and no flies or nothin'")
  • when the real Dean was astonished to find the pair in his bed, he overheard them making desultory comments about his portrait of the Dean on the wall, calling him an "old buzzard" and "old cockroach" with a monkey face; Stan and Ollie continued to insult him, squirted him with seltzer water, and hit him with a pillow (and sent feathers flying into the air) when he ordered them to "get out of my quarters, I tell you!"
  • to escape punishment for themselves, the two reported on their mischievous classmates, and the Dean threatened to expel them: ("This is the most disgraceful outrage ever perpetrated at Oxford"); the students plotted revenge against the "dirty dogs" to coerce them to not testify against them: ("We'll see they're not here tomorrow to testify. Snitchers have no place in Oxford")
  • after the Dean's valet Meredith (Forrester Harvey) helped the boys to new quarters, he described how Stan resembled a former Lordship at the university - "the greatest athlete and scholar this university ever boasted of"; Stan refuted the claim as did Ollie who couldn't picture his pal Stan as a Lord who was talented in both athletic abilities and scholarship: ("Why, I've known him for years and he's the dumbest guy I ever saw")
  • Meredith continued to explain that years earlier, the aristocratic, erudite but snobbish academic Oxford scholar and athlete Lord Paddington suffered a blow to his head from a window in that very room, became an amnesiac, and wandered off from the university: ("When you came to, you'd lost your memory and wandered away from the university. We never saw or heard of you from that day to this"); Meredith hoped to restore Stan to his past self: "Oh, if I could only bring your memory back. Maybe one of these days, some of your peculiar mannerisms may show up" - a reference to Lord Paddington's outstanding ability to wiggle his ears when he became angry and was able to "fight like a demon"
  • when an angry group of students arrived, they were chanting revenge: "Fee, fi, fo, fum We want the blood of an American....We'll cut their throats and take out their tongues, We'll chew them up like chewing gum"; Johnson instructed the group to assault the chumps: "We'll go up and make them jump out of the window, and if they won't jump, we'll take off their breeches and throw them out!"
  • while escaping, the simple-minded, loveable and bumbling Stan suffered a blow to his head ("cranium") while trying to exit a window, and was instantly transformed into his haughty, brilliant and arrogant alter ego - earlier described by Meredith; the valet became ecstatic about the change: "You've got your memory back. You know me!... Oh, it's a miracle! A miracle!"
  • "Lord Paddington" confronted the students and demanded an apology; he also turned angry, wiggled his ears, and fought "like a demon" by physically tossing each student out of the window into a blanket-net below that catapulted them into a nearby pond; Ollie - who was unrecognizable to Stan ("Lord Paddington") also suffered the same fate; afterwards, with regal bearing as he stuffed his hankie into his sleeve, Paddington ordered Meredith to bring tea and crumpets
  • Ollie was incensed when his old pal Stanley didn't know him and treated him unfairly: "Who is this coarse person with the foreign accent?"; when Ollie asked: "Why Stan, don't ya know me?", Stan replied: "KNOW you? Why, I never saw you before in all my life"; after Ollie reminded him of their past: "Don't you remember? We used to sweep the streets together," Stan was dismissive: "Sweep the stree...? How DARE you! How DARE you make such slurring remarks! Meredith, show this common person the egress and eject him forcibly"; Ollie had no choice but to agree to become His Lordship Paddington's personal manservant-valet with the name "Fatty"
  • Ollie was continually treated with condescension and called slovenly (a "dummy," "horribly stupid" and "rather thick") by Lord Paddington; His Lordship was considered such a genius that brilliant Princeton professor and scientist Albert Einstein, who was "confused" and requested a lunch meeting to ask for advice about his theory, was told that Paddington's schedule was too busy until the following Wednesday; Ollie became upset by continued insults, musing to himself: "If it wasn't for that bump on the head, he wouldn't know Einstein from a beer stein"
  • the last straw was when Ollie was ordered to march around the room with his "chins up" while carrying a tea tray: ("Well, uh, you don't seem to have the dignity becoming of a lackey. Uhh, no poise. Uh, you don't walk right or something there. Uh, let me see, uh... uh... Pull in your stomach. That's better. Now, now throw... throw your shoulders back. That's fine. Now, uh, chin up. Chin up. No-no-no-no. Both of them. Both"); as a result, when Ollie walked around, he stumbled over a hassock and dropped his tea service tray, while Paddington reprimanded him: "Now look what you've done, clumsy!"
  • after being treated with only criticisms by his vain employer, the resentful Ollie finally lashed out: ("I've had enough! When I knew you, I had more brains in my little finger than you had in your whole carcass, even with your overcoat on!...I'm through! You can take your lordships, your Oxford and your Paddingtons and do what you like with them!...And there's one more thing too! I didn't like that double chin crack!")
  • at that moment, Paddington stuck his head out the window and experienced another head injury when the window sill suddenly dropped down; he was transformed back into his nit-wit self as Stan; meanwhile, Ollie was packing his bags and threatening to leave: ("I'm gonna get my clothes and catch the first boat back....Back to America for me!"); Stan begged, whimpered and cried as he saw Ollie getting ready to leave: "Aren't you going to take me with you?"; Ollie happily hugged and was reunited with his old friend ("Stan, you know me!"), as Stan replied: "Of course I know you. What's the matter? You got one of those dizzy spells?"

Stan and Ollie at an Employment Agency

Masquerading as a Married Couple - a Butler and Maid at the Vandeveres

Stan Serving the Salad - In His Underwear

Stan and Ollie Foiling a Bank Robber

Arrival at Oxford, But Dressed for Eton

Ollie Confronted by Ghost in Maze

Stan and Ollie Relaxing in the Dean's Bed in His Residence

Confronted by the Dean in His Bedroom - and Striking Him With a Feather Pillow

Stan Transformed into Lord Paddington After A Bump on the Head from a Window

"Lord Paddington" Confronting the Vengeful Students - Wiggling His Ears and Fighting Like a Demon

Ollie to Stan: "Why Stan, don't ya know me?"

Ollie Treated with Condescension by His Lordship, as a Tea Tray-Carrying Valet Named "Fatty"

Transformed, Whimpering Stan to Ollie: "Aren't you going to take me with you?"


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