Way Out West (1937) – A Review
By 1937 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had been a comedy team for ten years. Audiences were already familiar with the duo, their individual characters, quirks, their theme song and what would happen whenever the pair ventured anywhere.
They seamlessly made the transition from silent film to the advent of sound and their voices were the perfect accompaniment to their already established characters. I mean, I can’t envision them sounding any other way!
The boys were given all sorts of jobs, traveled to different countries and dropped into varying time periods throughout their screen adventures, so it’s not surprising that they would eventually find their way into a western.
Stan and Ollie are sent to deliver a deed to a gold mine from a recently deceased prospector to his daughter Mary (Rosina Lawrence). Poor Mary is enduring a hard life at the hands of her guardians Mickey Finn (James Finlayson) a saloon owner and Lola (Sharon Lynn) a singer.
They’re both really bad eggs who mistreat Mary and fortuitously learn of her good fortune that’s about to be bestowed on her. They work out a charade where Lola pretends to be Mary as our hapless heroes hand over the deed right into their greedy hands. Once the boys get wind of what’s happened it’s up to Stan and Ollie to get that deed back and save Mary.
So the plot is not complicated. It’s basically – ‘we have to get the deed back from these bad guys’. That premise is more than enough to sustain the approximately one hour running time, so there’s never any dead spots.
The bulk is taken up by Stan and Ollie getting into all sorts of problems, having awkward encounters, a little dance number and of course slapstick, things breaking and mayhem being caused, usually with Ollie getting the brunt of it.
I’ve always loved Laurel and Hardy. Just the pair sitting at a table interacting by themselves could make me laugh. Laurel’s bizarre antics and childlike ignorance along with Hardy’s prim and proper demeanor being worn down to exasperated hopelessness is comedy gold. I just can’t help but laugh when I hear their theme song and see them coming down the road.
Actually their mode of travel we first see them in kind of reminded me of Terence Hill’s entrance in They Call Me Trinity. It’s a very similar sort of makeshift horse-drawn bed. I wonder if there was any inspiration there.
There’s the awkward meeting between the lying Lola as the boys try to give their condolences on the passing of her father. Of course Stan can’t say anything right.
Meanwhile, Finlayson is constantly doing vigorous double takes – that seemed to be his specialty. He was a regular player in Laurel and Hardy movies, so fans will instantly recognize him. He has such an animated face, a bald head, a big mustache that would constantly be twitching. He’s almost like a live cartoon, which fits right into the Laurel and Hardy movies. He was the perfect adversary.
I have a soft spot for whenever Laurel starts breaking into hysterical laughter too. Whether he was drunk or being tickled, when Laurel let loose and got into a laughing fit I can’t help but laugh along with him.
Maybe it was because most of the time he was such a soft-spoken character. But seriously it really looks like the guy is about to pee himself from losing it so bad.
We get the boys trying to break into the saloon late at night and of course being the loudest burglars ever. It must of been so much fun to be an audience member watching this in 1937.
There’s a point when Stan ties a rope around Ollie on this pulley and plans to use their mule to lift him up to the second floor balcony. As Stan starts tying it around his arms Ollie gives one of his classic slow gazes at the camera and at the audience. Everyone knows this is not a good idea. They must of been in hysterics and just anxious as hell to see what was going to go wrong.
Probably the most famous and memorable scene is the boys breaking into a soft shoe dance before heading into the saloon.
It’s a fun little pause in the movie. It’s a sweet, gentle little scene that’s nicely choreographed (the guys supposedly really worked hard on the routine before filming it). They perform it in front of a plainly obvious rear-screen projection of the western town, but it doesn’t detract from the charm of the pair enjoying this random moment.
It’s strange to think that this 100 second little moment from this movie has become one of their most famous quintessential scenes from their entire partnership. I’ve seen song re-mixes of the scene done throwing all sorts of songs on the soundtrack the boys are shaking their footsies to, but even after seeing all those the original scene still doesn’t lose anything after all these years.
I can’t say it’s my favorite Laurel and Hardy film, but it is plenty entertaining and continues to be one of their better longer onscreen adventures.