Zenobia (1939)

“I’d rather do something for somebody that needs a doctor — even if they can’t pay their bills!”

Synopsis:
A kind country doctor (Oliver Hardy) successfully treats the depressed pet elephant (Zenobia) of a traveling medicine man (Harry Langdon), only to find that the grateful Zenobia won’t leave him alone afterwards. Meanwhile, his daughter (Jean Parker) hopes to marry a young man (James Ellison) whose snobby mother (Alice Brady) wants nothing to do with the “lowly” doctor and his family.

Genres:

Review:
Originally developed as a feature for comedic duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Zenobia ultimately teamed Hardy with silent screen legend Harry Langdon when Laurel had a falling out with Hal Roach studios. The result is a well-meaning but decidedly tepid comedy, one which admirably shows Hardy’s talents as a “leading man” yet fails to deliver many genuine laughs. The title character — a testy female elephant named Zenobia — is the film’s primary claim to uniqueness, yet Zenobia’s relentless attachment to Hardy unfortunately takes a back seat to the rather dull primary drama about cross-class romance and Southern snobbery. With that said, film fanatics will likely appreciate seeing Alice Brady in one of her final roles before she succumbed to cancer later that year; she looks frail but still manages to invest her character with gumption and energy.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Oliver Hardy in a rare role without Stan Laurel by his side
    Zenobia Hardy
  • Alice Brady in one of her final screen roles
    Zenobia Brady

Must See?
No, though fans of either Laurel and Hardy or Langdon will likely be curious to check it out.

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One Response to “Zenobia (1939)”

  1. First viewing. In total agreement; not a must.

    It’s interesting to see Hardy going solo, and he manages some nice shadings in role removed from his Laurel/Hardy persona.

    As well, I do like the scene of subtle suspense at a very public gathering, in which Parker proves she hasn’t been shown up. It’s a delight and a highlight.

    Sadly, overall the film is kind of a drag, tho the heart of it does seem in the right place.

    Director Gordon Douglas had a long and varied career – and would go on to give us, ‘Them!’, ‘Young at Heart’, the cult film ‘Sylvia’, ‘In Like Flint’, and the gay-themed ‘The Detective’.

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