Director, James W. Horne; Screenplay, Charley Rogers & Felix Adler & James Parrott; Producers, Stan Laurel and Hal Roach; Cinematography, Art Lloyd and Walter Ludin
Cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Sharon Lynn (Lola Marcel), James Finlayson (Mickey Finn), Rosina Lawrence (Mary Roberts), Stanley Fields (Sheriff), Vivien Oakwood (Sheriff’s Wife)
Laurel and Hardy were one of the premiere comedy teams of the 1920s and 1930s. Though they had put together some fine features by 1937 (The Devil’s Brother and Sons of the Desert especially), their shorts work tended to be stronger. The Music Box (1932) and Another Fine Mess (1933) stand out and some of their silent work that is rarely seen today like Their Purple Moment, Two Tars, and The Finishing Touch all from 1928.
Way Out West is one of their best features, a silly but smart spoof on the Western genre. Stan and Ollie are charged with delivering the deed to a goldmine to Mary Roberts in Brushwood Gulch after her father dies. Never having seen the girl, and being trusting boobs, they deliver it to an imposter and her scheming boyfriend. When they discover that they’ve been duped, Stan and Ollie set out to get the deed back and give it to Mary, the rightful heir. In their way is the sexy imposter, a stubborn mule, and a disgruntled sheriff. The movie includes some great moments like when Stan gets a coach to stop by inching up his pant leg, a devilish nod to Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. Or their “impromptu” dance to the Archies’ toe-tapping ditty in front of the saloon. Watch it in the clip below.
Sure they get into another fine mess after another, but their almost childish goodwill wins us over every time. They aren’t cheats and swindlers. They’ve taken their lumps and they’re ready to take more, even for the benefit of someone else – maybe especially for someone else. They’re used to living at the bottom of the heap and, as much as they would like to get out of it, they wouldn’t at another’s expense. This dynamic is true of all their movies, but it comes across strongest in Way Out West, one of their best.