Black and White, 65 minutes. Released April 16, 1937
Stan and Ollie arrive in Brushwood Gulch, looking for the daughter of an old friend. They find their way into Mickey Finn's saloon, and let it slip to the crooked proprietor that they have a deed to a gold mine, to be delivered to a young woman by the name of Mary Roberts. Because neither Stan nor Ollie know what Mary looks like, the saloon owner passes his girlfriend off as the woman they are looking for. Of course, the boys have no reason to believe that they have been lied to ... until they encounter the real Mary Roberts, who also works in the saloon. When they realize their mistake, they try everything they can to steal the deed back.
This was the first and only time Laurel & Hardy made a western film together. The film contains many traditional elements found in this genre; a victimized young heroine who is exploited by her unscrupulous boss and his girlfriend ... not to mention an imposing sheriff who wishes to run the boys out of town! However, this is far from a traditional western. Stan and Ollie are not forced into the roles of cowboys. Instead, they are out-of-towners, out of place in the west ... just as Laurel and Hardy are out of place in a western film. They are just a couple of innocents, in a rough and tough western town. They somehow manage to save the day, in spite of themselves. This juxtaposition between the boys and the traditional western creates some great moments of satire.
Behind the Scenes
Apparently Laurel and Hardy worked well when their personal lives were in turmoil. As noted at our Babes in Toyland web site, both Stan and Babe encountered numerous problems from the women in their life, as well as their boss ... "The Boss."
Hal Roach always kept Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy under separate contracts. This was an important negotiation strategy, because the boys could not leave for another studio...at least not as a team. Babe would renew his contract first, leaving Stan the opportunity to go off on his own (with a possibility of failure) or remain at Roach as part of a popular team that was a proven success. Stan and Hal Roach would use the trade papers as grounds for this war, with a startling announcement of a break-up one day, followed the next by a retraction from the other party. During the filming of Way Out West, Stan let the trades know that he was considering leaving Roach for a career on his own; the next day, he reported that all was well in Culver City. Of course, it was in the interest of Laurel, Hardy, and Roach to remain a team ... and so they did, for the time being.
More distracting during the making of Way Out West were the problems that both Stan and Babe encountered with their past and present wives. Ruth Laurel filed for divorce only days after shooting had begun; Myrtle Hardy filed for divorce near the end of the shoot. In addition, Mae Laurel had returned from Australia, claiming that Stan was her common-law husband and that he owed her alimony. Babe's first wife Madelyn also returned, claiming that Babe owed her years of back alimony. In the end, Ruth was granted a divorce from Stand and Babe was granted a divorce from Myrtle; Mae and Madelyn settled out of court. Stan would later remarry Ruth, only to end in divorce once again. Yet somehow, these problems did not interfere with their work; they still managed to make a great film.
For More Information...
There are many great books on Laurel and Hardy, which are highly recommended to all L&H enthusiasts. Please see the Way Out West Tent's book list for reviews and additional information about books on Laurel and Hardy.