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Bonnie Scotland marks a turning point in the career of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy because, after four years of mixing an occasional feature film with their output of comedy shorts, the team now turned exclusively to features. Produced by MGM and the pair's mentor, Hal Roach, this eight-reel comedy proved to be Laurel and Hardy's most profitable film to date.
The plot has the boys stowing away to Scotland aboard a cattle boat so Stan, the American black sheep of a Scottish clan, may collect an inheritance from his grandfather, the late Angus MacLaurel. To the pair's disappointment, said inheritance turns out to be nothing more than a snuff box and a set of bagpipes. After wandering into a recruiting line, the guys are forced to join the Scottish Army and are shipped off to India. Despite the movie's title, much of the story takes place there, as the boys try to adjust to military life and eventually help a fellow soldier (William Janney) put down an Arab uprising.
A separate storyline, which is never resolved, involves Janney's love affair with a pretty girl (June Lang) from the MacLaurel clan and her family's efforts to keep the lovers apart and secure the family fortune. Some observers have complained that there seem to be two separate movies at work, with a busy plot intruding upon the hilarious comic routines.
Bonnie Scotland, made five years before Laurel and Hardy's break with Roach, finds them at the peak of their form. As usual, they stick to their well-known character types, with Stan the uncomprehending innocent and Ollie the pompous one who suffers all manner of abuse.
A comic highlight comes early in the film when the boys try to cook a fish in their Scottish hotel room and practically burn down their lodgings. Two other classic moments: Stan goes out of step during a marching scene, convincing the rest of his regiment to break stride and keep pace with him; and the kilt-clad boys, to the annoyance of their sergeant (James Finlayson), perform an impromptu dance to the tune of "A Hundred Pipers."
For the Scottish scenes, the production utilized sets from The Little Minister (1934). Bonnie Scotland was later reissued theatrically as Heroes of the Regiment, and was distributed to television in four separate, abridged versions, each running approximately 20 minutes.
Producer: Hal Roach
Director: James W. Horne
Screenplay: Frank Butler and Jefferson Moffitt, with uncredited assistance from Stan Laurel, Albert Austin, Wilson Collison, James W. Horne and Charley Rogers
Cinematography: Art Lloyd, Walter Lundin (uncredited)
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase (both uncredited)
Original Music: Marvin Hatley, Leroy Shield (both uncredited)
Editing: Bert Jordan
Cast: Stan Laurel (Stanley MacLaurel), Oliver Hardy (Oliver Hardy), June Lang (Lorna MacLaurel), William Janney (Allan Douglas), Anne Grey (Lady Violet Ormsby), Vernon Steele (Col. Gregor McGregor), James Finlayson (Sergeant Major).
by Roger Fristoe