The Music Box
Written and filmed January-February, 1932. Released by MGM, May, 1932. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by James Parrott. Three reels.

Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert, James Finlayson, Charles Gemora, Tiny Sandford.    

STORY: Stan and Ollie work in a rundown circus, which boasts more performers than spectators. The circus goes broke, and owner Finlayson is forced to divide its assets among the company in lieu of payment. Stan gets the flea circus, Ollie gets Ethel the gorilla. They take the animal back to their boarding house and attempt to hide it from their landlord.


JL: I used to dismiss this one as a minor effort, but repeated viewings have revealed its charms. A partial remake of Angora Love and Laughing GravyThe Chimp can't hope to match the heart of either of its earlier incarnations.  No cold winter night, no cute little pup to tug at your heartstrings here.  Instead, we get Hollywood's #1 gorilla impersonator, Charles Gemora, prancing around in ape drag and acting silly.  But "silly" is the operative word here, and The Chimp emerges as an above-average short due to its breezy, cartoon-like silliness. You just have to suspend your disbelief a bit more here than in most L&H films.

JB: Everything about this film is seedy. The circus is a run down, ramshackle mess, the boarding house nearly eclipses the apartment they had in They Go Boom, Billy Gilbert needs to visit his barber and tailor ASAP and the circus music sounds like it has asthsma.  

     The relationship among Stan, Ollie and the guy in the gorilla suit is pretty nifty, though. And at one point near the beginning, when Ollie is trying to lure Ethel into a cage, he makes the funniest noise I've ever heard him make --- a kind of "baaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!" when Ethel chases him. I like this film - not a personal favorite, but good for some, as you say, silliness.

JL: Movies with guys in monkey suits usually operate on the Stooges level, but Laurel and Hardy have some fun with the premise by making Ethel the gorilla as human as possible.  Some of the best laughs in the picture come from Ethel's little shrugs and nods, and Stan and Ollie interact well with her.  Good laughs also found in Finlayson's Cheesiest Show on Earth, as well as the sight of Stan spilling his flea circus in bed.

Copyright © 2012 John Larrabee, John V. Brennan

The Sound ShortsNext Film