Filmsite Movie Review
Way Out West (1937)
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Background

Way Out West (1937) is one of the best Laurel and Hardy comedy films, their only western spoof. Again, they reprise their most familiar roles - Stanley, the thin, meek simpleton, and Ollie, the fat, pompous one.

Aside from their classic Sons of the Desert (1933), Laurel and Hardy appeared in many films, notably The Flying Deuces (1939), A Chump At Oxford (1940), and the comedy short The Music Box (1932). This film was nominated for the Best Score Academy Award.

The Story

Brushwood Gulch is a wild western town. At Mickey Finn's Palace, the boisterous saloon of the town, a serio-comic entertainer/dancer Lola Marcel (Sharon Lynne) "The Singing Nightingale, direct from San Francisco" is billed as the entertainment for the restless patrons. Mickey Finn (James Finlayson), the larcenous saloonkeeper, is married to the equally greedy, brassy blonde showgirl Lola: "Say, if we ever get enough money together, we'll get out of this one-horse tank." Lola spices up the drinking establishment by singing flirtatiously: "Will You Be My Lovey Dovey?" and then dancing in front of her dance troupe.

Stanley (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy), with their faithful mule Dinah, are on their way to Brushwood Gulch. Ollie relaxes on a sled pulled by the mule while Stanley guides the mule. When the animal proceeds to cross a shallow creek, Ollie is separated and left lying on the sled in the water. He almost drowns when he steps and drops into a large pothole and is swallowed up by the unseen hole. In the next scene, Ollie is wrapped in a blanket and riding on the sled - on which he has constructed a make-shift line to dry his clothes.

They are on their way to Brushwood Gulch (only two miles away). Stan fails to stop a buckboard by hitching a ride with his thumb. To stop the next vehicle - a stagecoach, Stan parodies It Happened One Night (1934) by showing his leg to the stagecoach driver. On the stagecoach ride to town, Ollie tries to impress the only female passenger (Vivien Oakland) with small talk and meaningless non-sequiturs, causing her discomfort to grow very quickly:

A lot of weather we've been having lately...It's only four months to Christmas. Do you believe in Santa Claus?

In town, they discover that the lady's husband is the sheriff of Brushwood Gulch (Stanley Fields), telling him about her fellow passengers: "They've done nothing but annoy me, all the way in." He warns the two misfits to leave town as soon as possible:

Sheriff: Fiddlin' huh? Well, we don't like your kind around these parts. And there's one thing we don't allow. And that's messin' with our women. Now, if you want to stay healthy, you better catch the next coach out of town.
Ollie: (While tie-twiddling) Why yes sir. We'd be glad to, just as soon as we've finished with our business.
Sheriff: And if you miss the next coach, (he draws his gun) you'll be riding out of here in a hearse.

Outside the Mickey Finn Palace Saloon, they are transported into an eccentric, but cute and charming soft-shoe dance routine to the 1905 hit tune: "At the Ball, That's All," sung by cowboys (the Avalon Boys Quartet). It is one of the most lyrical moments on film.

The pair are in town to deliver the deed of a gold mine to a pretty young Mary Roberts (Rosina Lawrence), the orphaned daughter of their recently-deceased prospector partner. Inside the bar, they inquire of the bartender about the girl's whereabouts and are overheard by Mickey Finn. Stan stupidly divulges the reason for their visit to Finn:

Finn (deceitfully): Oh, I'm Miss Roberts' guardian. What do you want to see her for?
Ollie: Why, we have some very important news for her.
Finn: Oh? What's it about?
Ollie: Well, I'm sorry sir, but we're not supposed to discuss that with anyone but her.
Stan: Yeah, you see, it's private. Her father died and left her a gold mine and we're not supposed to tell anybody but her. You see, didn't we Ollie?
Finn: A gold mine?
Stan: It's the biggest thing...
Ollie (glaring at Stan): Now that he's taken you into our confidence, (he slaps him on the shoulder) you might as well know the rest.

So the delighted bartender rushes upstairs to prepare Lola to substitute herself for Mary and claim the valuable deed from the two "desert rats." She eagerly cooperates: "For a gold mine, I could be Cleopatra." He takes the boys upstairs and tricks them by having them present the deed to his wife instead of to the real Mary Roberts, his demure kitchen maid. Lola melodramatically pretends to be terribly upset and shocked at the news of her Daddy's death:

Lola: Tell me, tell me about my dear, dear Daddy. Is it true that he's dead?
Stan: Well we hope he is. They buried him.
Lola: Oh it can't be. What did he die of?
Stan: I think he died of a Tuesday. Or was it Wednesday? (turning to Ollie) Do you remember?

Ollie attempts to make "Mary" smile, exhorting her: "Remember, every cloud has a silver lining." Stan adds: "That's right. Any bird can build a nest, but it isn't everyone that can lay an egg. Is it Ollie?" Ollie presents the deed of "one of the richest gold mines in the world" to the wrong "Mary," giving it to her with a flourish: "Signed, sealed, and now delivered." Stan must practically undress Ollie to get one of "Mary's" family heirlooms - a golden locket - from around his neck. Stan tells her:

Now that you've got the mine, I'll bet you'll be a swell gold digger.

Down in the bar, Finn serves them "the best in the house" (champagne) and they join a cowboy to sing: "Trail of the Lonesome Pine." Mary is tricked into signing away her rights to the deed, thinking that she is signing other legal papers.

Casually as they are about to leave, the pair meet the real Mary Roberts and she tells them her name. When they realize their mistake - that they have given the gold mine deed to the wrong person - they find Mary slaving away in the kitchen:

Ollie: Well, who's that woman upstairs? (He points upward and Stan follows the direction of his finger)
Mary: That's Lola Marcel. Mr. Finn's wife. She's my legal guardian now.

Stan and Ollie discuss their predicament:

Stan: I think we've given that deed to the wrong woman. That's the first mistake we've made since that guy sold us the Brooklyn Bridge.
Oliver: Buying that bridge was no mistake. That's gonna be worth a lot of money to us someday.

Determined to retrieve and reclaim the deed, Stan boasts and bets - something that he will soon regret:

Stan: We'll get that deed or I'll eat your hat.
Ollie: (Shaking his hand) That's what I call determination.

They have a fast-paced free-for-all (of grabbing, snatching, losing, regaining, losing, and regaining) as they attempt to fight Finn and Lola for the deed. In one of his best routines, after Stan recovers the deed, he is isolated and locked in Lola's bedroom, where he is cornered, wrestled and tickled to death. She reduces him to helpless laughter when she gets the deed from its hiding place in his vest. Lola ends up with the deed, but the Stan and Ollie think the timely appearance of the Sheriff will help them, but they are wrong:

Sheriff (grimly): I thought I told you two dudes to catch the next coach out of town.
Ollie: (meekly) Yes sir.
Sheriff: Well, it left ten minutes ago.

They are pursued by gun-fire as they flee the town, creating a swirling dusty cloud that follows behind them. In minutes, they are back at the creek, where disaster-prone Ollie disappears again into the same watery pothole.


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