Way Out West

James W. Horne

T. It.: Allegri Vagabondi; Sog.: Jack Jevne, Charles Rogers; Scen.: Charles Rogers, Felix Adler, James Parrott; F.: Art Lloyd, Walter Lundin; Mo.: Bert Jordan; Scgf.: Arthur I. Roy- Ce; Mu.: Marvin Hatley; Int.: Stan Laurel (Stanley), Oliver Hardy (Oliver), Sharon Lynne (Lola Marcel), James Finlayson (Mickey Finn), Rosina Lawrence (Mary Roberts), Stanley Fields (Sceriffo), Vivien Oakland (Moglie Dello Sceriffo), James Mason (Padrone Ansioso), The Avalon Boys Quartet (Chill Wills, Art Green, Walter Trask, Don Brookins); Prod.: Stan Laurel Productions Per Hal Roach Studios, Inc. E Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Pri. Pro.: New York, 16 Aprile 1937; 35mm. D.: 64′. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Until the Sixties, all the great American comedians (with the sole exception of Harry Langdon) had at least once tackled the Western, the “American cinema par excellence”, celebrated by Bazin and Rieupeyrout in 1953. Way Out West is the only incursion of Laurel and Hardy into the genre, but it is a magisterial success, which manages, without apparent effort, to reconcile the habitual style of the two accomplices with a scenario which is a priori totally alien, without ever betraying either one or the other. The responsibility for this great success must be largely attributed to Stan Laurel, who, after a series of disappointing features, decided in 1936 to take the situation into his own hands, personally producing Our Relations and Way Out West for Hal Roach and MGM. The film also undoubtedly owes much to James Parrott (brother of Charlie Chase) who several years before had directed some of the team’s best shorts and who here works with them again as scenarist. Shrewdly, the film takes almost five minutes to establish its Western setting (a saloon, hostesses, Jimmy Finlayson as an irascible barman) before deciding to introduce our heroes, who appear more lost than ever. And the thirty-five minutes that follow play the game of Western conventions with detached conviction, with a stagecoach, cowboy singers (Chill Wills and the Avalon Boys), a sheriff, and a gunslinger. The final part, on the contrary, is concentrated only on Laurel and Hardy, and their hilarious efforts to break into a house by night merit a place in any history. Playing on the classic opposition between the greenhorns from the big city and the brutal customs of the still Wild West, Laurel and Hardy renew the formula, getting themselves ouf of every attempt to prove their superiority over circumstances. There is no question of their adapting themselves, except in superficial ways, as is at once clear from their choice to remain faithful (at the price of a few minor adaptations) to costumes that they have not hesitated to abandon in other films. But on the con­trary their ability to remain unalterably themselves is infinite, until the moment of their departure from their adventures in the finale, perfectly unaltered. Of all Laurel and Hardy’s features Way Out West is undoubtedly the most marvellously structured, but also the most coherently comic in its anxiety skilfully to alternate scenes of pure farce (the extaordinary laugh of Laurel tormented by being tickled until he surrenders) with the come­dy of the characters and with isolated gags of pure nonsense (Laurel lighting his thumb like a match for his pipe). Above all it remains unforgettable for those who cherish Laurel and Hardy as the occasion to discover the singing talents of the two (“The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”), and above all to see them dance a delicious pas de deux (“At the Ball, That’s All”), with the grace that comes only from innocence.

Jean-Pierre Berthomé

Copy From

Restoration funded by
Laboratory services by

Stanford theatre film laboratory

Preserved from a 35mm nitrate print and a studio work print