With comedian Stan Laurel temporarily off his payroll due to a contract dispute, Hal Roach hastily put together a solo starring vehicle for Laurel's longtime partner Oliver Hardy. Digging into his files, Roach pulled out Zenobia's Infidelity, an H.C. Bunner story originally purchased as a vehicle for Roland Young. Hardy was cast in the semi-serious role of John Tibbitt, a 19th century Mississippi doctor whose heart is bigger than his bank account. At the insistence of travelling carnival man Professor McCrackle (played by former silent comedy star Harry Langdon, then under contract to Roach as a gag writer), Tibbitt tends to the Professor's ailing elephant, Miss Zenobia. Once cured, the precious pachyderm refuses to leave Dr. Tibbitt's side-whereupon McCrackle sues the doctor for alienation of Zenobia's affections! The ensuing scandal plays right into the hands of Mrs. Carter (Alice Brady), the town's richest and snobbiest woman, who has long opposed the romance between her son John (James Ellison) and Tibbitt's daughter Mary (Jean Parker). All problems are resolved during the climactic courtroom trial, despite occasional interruptions by Miss Zenobia and the dizzy interpolations of Tibbitt's wife (Billie Burke). The film's intended highlight, the recitation of the Declaration of Independence by black child Philip Hurlic, was obviously inspired by Charles Laughton's "Gettysburg Address" scene in Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). Evidently sensing that Zenobia was doomed from the start, producer Hal Roach stirred up some publicity by encouraging the notion that he was creating a new comedy team consisting of Oliver Hardy and Harry Langdon-even though the characters never function as a team in the course of the story. A major box office disappointment, Zenobia (British title: Elephants Never Forget) is a pleasant but utterly inconsequential effort; still, it's worth seeing once, if only for the quietly subdued performance by Oliver Hardy, who is very good indeed.
by Hal Erickson synopsis