Series: Laurel and Hardy feature

Director: James W. Horne
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Charles Rogers, Felix Adler, James Parrott
Story: Jack Jevne, Charles Rogers
Photography: Art Lloyd, Walter Lundin
Editor: Bert Jordan
Art director: Arthur I. Royce
Musical director: Marvin Hatley
Sound: William Randall

Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynne, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence, Stanley Fields, Vivien Oakland, The Avalon Boys
Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: 16 April 1937
Length: 6 reels
Production No.: F-14
Filming dates: August 27 - early November 1936
Rating: 8/10

Way Out West

Available on BLU-RAY & DVD:

Brushwood Gulch - a small dusty town in the middle of nowhere, is the setting for this Laurel & Hardy western-comedy.  Mickey Finn (James Finlayson) is the proprietor of "Mickey Finn's Palace", a saloon run by him and his deceitful mistress Lola Marcel (Sharon Lynn).  Immediately we get the sense that the establishment is illegitimate when some behind the bar till-tampering is evident.  In the kitchen area, Finn works his maids (one of which is a young beauty by the name of Mary Roberts, played by Rosina Lawrence) harder than he probably should; whilst out in the saloon the restless crowd are awaiting the on-stage arrival of their heroine Lola Marcel.
Lola takes to the stage after some fuss with Finn and woos the mostly all-male crowd.  Jealous wives tell their husbands off for flirting with her as she sings, dances and arouses them.
The following morning the boys are travelling on a dusty track with lazy Ollie trying to take a nap on a travois being pulled by their mule. When they come upon a large waterhole the bed becomes detached and Ollie finds himself up to his waist in water.  His attempts to cross through it on foot leads to further disaster as he disappears through an unseen hole in the middle!
They continue their journey with Ollie minus most of his clothes, which are now hanging upon a makeshift line, when they stop at a signpost pointing to their destination of Brushwood Gulch.  Stan tries to thumb a lift from a passing stagecoach but his pleas are ignored when Stan somehow loses his thumb (!) A second attempt (this time with thumb) is almost in vain until Stan proudly rolls up his trouser leg to display his flesh. The coach stops and the boys board.  They encounter a travelling woman (Vivien Oakland) whom Ollie takes an immediate liking to.  Some small talk leads to her feeling uncomfortable until they disembarked at Brushwood Gulch. The woman is greeted by her waiting husband - the town sheriff (Stanley Fields, replacing Tiny Sandford), who warns the boys to catch the next coach out of town to avoid his wrath.
Stan and Ollie tie up the mule outside Mickey Finn's Palace and become caught up in a soft shoe shuffle to the sound of "At The Ball", performed by The Avalon Boys who are sitting on the steps.  It's a beautiful moment and an historical scene for Laurel and Hardy.  (see Favourite bit, below)
Stan and Ollie enter the saloon and ask the barman (James C. Morton) for Mary Roberts, whom is to be the recipient of the deed to a goldmine they have been entrusted to deliver on the behalf of her late father.  Finn overhears their inquiry and takes over.  He senses the opportunity to con them into handing over the deed to his mistress and keeping it for themselves and offers to fetch 'Mary' for them.  Whilst Finn goes over the plan with Lola, the boys are awaiting at the bar.  Stan has long kept the goldmine deed safely in his shoe, which has a large hole in the bottom.  He addresses the issue by filling the hole with a discarded piece of meat which has been left by a disgruntled customer (Harry Bernard).
The boys are invited upstairs to meet with 'Mary'.  Her first question inquires if it is true that her father has passed away?  Stan, devoid of tact, announces "well we hope he is, they buried him!"  Ollie intervenes and offers some comfort to the 'grieving daughter'.  After handing over the deed to 'Mary' Ollie also remembers a second part of her father's will; a locket which he wears around his neck.  Attempts to take it off result in Ollie's clothes being wrecked by Stan.  After a miraculously fast re-dressing by Hardy in the bedroom, the boys are offered a free drink by Finn to send them on their way.  Cue "Trail Of The Lonesome Pine".
In the saloon, the guitarist whom the boys encountered on their way in is singing a melody when Ollie joins in the vocals, soon added to by Stan.  Ollie is doing just fine before Stan takes over with an adopted bass-like voice, followed by an operatic pitch which ends with him being clonked over the head with a mallet.
Upstairs the scheming Lola tricks Mary Roberts into putting her signature on the deed by telling her it is a legal document.  Back in the saloon Ollie removes the piece of meat from Stan's shoe and throws it to some dogs who are sniffing around them.  Finn bids a farewell to the boys and leaves just as Mary Roberts is coming back downstairs.  The boys say goodbye to her and are taken aback when she reveals her name.  Ollie smells a rat and after speaking to the real Mary Roberts, he decides to confront Finn but is afraid he will not hand back the deed.  Stan is so confident of getting the deed back that he offers to eat Ollie's hat should they not be successful.  The boys barge into the upstairs room and demand the deed back from Finn and his mistress, but as predicted, they refuse to hand it over.

A chase ensues and Stan is pursued into the bedroom by Lola whilst Finn holds off Ollie outside with a gun.
The sheriff arrives and upon realising who he is Stan quickly snaps out of his laughing fit.  The boys are reminded that they were expected to be gone on the next coach out of town, which left ten minutes ago.  Stan and Ollie run for their lives.
That night they sit out under the stars and discuss how they are going to get the deed back when Stan casually lights Ollie's pipe by using his thumb.  Ollie is reminded of Stan's earlier boast.  He removes his hat and 'feeds' it to Stan, who apparently enjoys it a little too much.
Later that evening the boys return to Brushwood Gulch and attempt to break into Finn's saloon; first through the main doors and then Ollie attempts to climb up onto the roof before crashing through.  A third attempt sees Ollie hoisted up using a block and tackle but when Stan needs to spit on his hands for extra grip guess who ends up on his back in the dirt!  After Stan gets a rope smacked on his hat for his carelessness, a fourth attempt is made to hoist Ollie up onto the balcony but instead the mule makes the trip.  Ollie's crash landing sends him through the cellar, which is now the only viable way to gain access to the building.  Stan comes up through a hatch in the floor but is seen by Mary.  Her screams make him drop the hatch onto Ollie's head and also brings Finn, armed with a rifle, jumping into action upstairs on the landing.
Stan quickly hides Ollie's head under a bucket before going into a side room to explain everything to Mary.  The boys are about to make their way upstairs to the safe when Stan has a chance bit of luck on a roulette wheel and Ollie ignites his thumb into a flame trying to emulate Stan!
The boys climb inside a grand piano in the saloon when they hear Finn coming but their movement gives them away.  They fall through the piano when Finn starts playing it but Ollie manages to sieze Finn's rifle and march him upstairs to the safe.  They grab the deed, tie him up and flee with Mary.
The next morning the three arrive at the crossroads with Mary riding the mule and walk off into the distance singing "Way Down In Dixie" before Ollie takes his third and final plunge through the water hole.

Favourite bit
Surely no Laurel & Hardy fan could deny that the best scene they ever appeared in has to be this one.  Although I have seen it to death, the soft shoe shuffle outside the saloon to the tune of The Avalon Boys' "At The Ball" is truly a defining moment in their acting careers.  It's eye-pleasing, gentle and beautifully choreographed to the most minute detail.  Stan and Ollie dance together, hold hands, cuddle and enjoy the moment in what I can only describe as the most affectionate on-screen moment between them over the course of over 25 years. And just top top it all off for perfection - the entire routine from start to finish lasts exactly 100 seconds!

Copyrighted April 9, 1937.
Reissued in the early 1950s as a two-reeler entitled "The Whacky West".
The song The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine was released as a record in the UK and peaked at number 2 in the charts in 1975.  The bass vocals were performed by Chill Wills, whilst the woman's singing was done by Rosina Lawrence.
The mule's name is Dinah and is credited accordingly in the credits.
The RHI Essential Collection features two separate audio commentary tracks recorded by Richard Bann and Randy Skretvedt.
Marvin Hatley's score was nominated for an Academy Award.
Original titles considered for the film were "Tonight's The Night", "You'd Be Surprised", "In The Money" and "They Done It Wrong".
The location of the waterhole and surrounding dusty track was shot in Sherwood Forest.  The water that Ollie ends up in was man-made by the Hal Roach Studios.  The exact location is somewhere between north of Lake Sherwood and south of Thousand Oaks.
Laurel and Hardy's first scene in the movie is after nearly 6 minutes. This entire footage was cut from the original VHS print released by Virgin in the UK back in the early 1990s.
The scene where Stan tries to attract the attention of a passing stagecoach before showing his leg off, is parodied from the Frank Capra movie "It Happened One Night".
Tiny Sandford was originally cast as the Sheriff but was replaced by Stanley Fields shortly after filming began. According to legend, Sandford lost the role due to the poor state of his teeth which caused an impairment when he spoke. If you look closely, you can see Sandford in one very brief scene dressed as the Sheriff as the boys arrive in Brushwood.
The hat which Stan eats was made of licorice.
In the opening shot of Brushwood Gulch, the sign advertising Lola Marcel states that she is "The Singing Nightingale, from San Francisco". The sign above the door reads "First Class Entertainment".
In the establishing indoors shot of the saloon, James Finlayson is seen in the center of the picture at the bottom, smoking a cigar.
There is a large star on Lola's dressing room door.
When Ollie falls through the unseen hole in the waterhole he is underwater for 7 seconds.  It is clearly him doing the stunt and there are no cutaway edits.
The wagon which Stan thumbs a lift into Brushwood Gulch is operated by Wells Fargo & Co. Express.
In the coach, Ollie remarks that it's only four months to Christmas.  Given that production began in August 1936, this would have been accurate at the time of his statement.
Griano, the rarest of wines, is sold at Mickey Finn's establishment.
Lola is reading a newspaper/magazine called Police Gazette when Finn goes to tell her about the goldmine.
During the course of the film, both Mickey Finn and Lola Marcel smoke.
Mary Roberts had an opportunity to realise her wealth earlier in the film when she kindly picks up the deed and delivers it to Finn upstairs.  Her honest nature and not being nosey by reading it almost cost her a fortune.
Stan's voice during the singing of Trail Of The Lonesome Pine is dubbed by Rosina Lawrence for the end part.
There are five dogs that fight over Stan's piece of meat in the saloon.
James C. Morton is the barman. He hands Ollie a large mallet to hit Stan with during their song.  Morton also played a barman with a large mallet in their previous film, Our Relations.
Stan and Ollie genuinely believe they are the owners of the Brooklyn Bridge.
There is a piano in the upstairs room at Finn's Palace.
It's obvious that Sharon Lynn broke character during the bed tickling scene with Stan.  On more than one occasion she is seen laughing.
There is a very brief moment after the bedroom scene when Stan is laughing so hard that he stands in the doorway and willingly hands over the deed to Lola Marcel.  Her facial reaction as she takes it from him is a look of surprise (although obviously scripted) which is just a really great little moment.  Blink and you will miss it.  On the RHI Collection print it is at 38mins 37secs into the film.
I have to admire Ollie's agility when Stan pushes him up onto the roof at Finn's place.
Given that the mule and Ollie are tied to opposite ends of the rope, when Stan dismounts the animal it shoots up into the air which would indicate that Ollie weighed more than the mule.
When Stan and Mary Roberts talk in the kitchen area room towards the end of the film there are pieces of meat and sausages hanging from the ceiling.
Stan's random chance winning streak continues from Men O' War (when he won with one spin of a fruit machine) as he hits the jackpot with one spin of a roulette wheel.
Now, at the end of the film when Finn is tied up to the light fixture he shouts the line "what are you going to do, what are you going to do? You'll suffer for this..." Some hopeful fans have (wrongly) convinced themselves what they actually hear him say is "You son of a bitch". The emphasis is on the word "suffer", which you hear very clearly. Those who think they hear the phrase "son of a bitch" are simply nerds.
In the final scene, watch as the mule deliberately walks to the right, so as to avoid the gaping hole in the water which Ollie falls through.
My opinion
It's a great film, make no mistake about it. But it's not perfect. I think this deserves a proper opinion, which I shall offer in due course...

Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
James Finlayson
Mickey Finn
Rosina Lawrence
Mary Roberts
Sharon Lynne
Lola Marcel
Stanley Fields
Tiny Sandford
Vivien Oakland
Sheriff's wife
Flora Finch
Tex Driscoll
John Ince
Audience member in saloon
James C. Morton
Harry Bernard
Man eating at bar
Sam Lufkin
Stagecoach baggage handler
Frank Mills
Mary Gordon
May Wallace
Jim Mason
Patron who fires gun
Dudley Dickerson
Sammy Brooks
Brushwood Gulch citizen
Art Rowlands
Solitaire player in saloon
Bill Wolfe
Brushwood Gulch citizen
Floyd Baker
Brushwood Gulch citizen
Jack Hill
Finn's employee
Lester Dorr
Man at saloon
Chill Wills
Singer, The Avalon Boys
Walter Trask
Guitarist, The Avalon Boys
Art Green
Singer, The Avalon Boys
Don Brookins
Singer, The Avalon Boys
The Avalon Boys
Laughing Gravy
Dog in saloon
Victor Adamson
Hank Bell
Eddie Borden
Ed Brandenburg
Fritzi Brunette
Saloon girl
Fred Cady
Ben Corbett
Bobby Dunn
Carol Holloway
Saloon girl
Helen Holmes
Matronly woman
James Horne, Jr.
Young man
Cornelius Keefe
Mickey Finn's employee
George Miller
Art Mix
Frank Montgomery
William H. O'Brien
Saloon waiter
Harvey Parry
Dave Pepper
Cy Slocum
Saloon audience member/
Oliver Hardy's stunt double
Cap Somers
William Sundholm
Blackie Whiteford
Jay Wilsey
Stage performer #1 in saloon
Stage performer #1 in saloon

CREDITS (click image to enlarge)

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Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies by Randy Skretvedt (book)
Jack Tillmany (identification of Dudley Dickerson as the janitor - and not Fred 'Snowflake' Toones as previously published elsewhere)
Robert Winslow (identification of Bill Wolfe, Floyd Baker, Art Rowlands)
Jerry Murbach (several high resolution stills)
Peter Aberle (stills)

This page was last updated on: 23 October 2023