Way Out West
Made by Hal Roach, but distributed through MGM. Like Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy were not treated well when they moved to the big studios. No one there understood the sort of creative process used by these geniuses, they wanted everything to be scripted, no improvisation, and they released the movies as B-pictures, not the A treatment they deserved. Stan Laurel (the creative side of the team) managed to get a lot of his control back, but a lot of the fun had gone out of it. Nevertheless, this is one of their best features. Babe is getting fatter and fatter, but is still wonderfully light on his feet, as if he’s filled with helium instead of blubber.
There are several noteworthy bits here, but I’ll only mention two, because funny as the other stuff is, it is variations on schticks they have used before. But each time the boys sang and danced, it was a unique experiences. Their first number is a dance to the lovely little tune of “At the Ball.” If you had to save just one L&H scene that summed up their sweetness and genius, I think this one would be it. The second is a duet singing “On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” Oliver Hardy got his start in show biz as a singer, and he’s quite good. Naturally there is a joke in it, at the end, when Stan goes from a deep bass to a trilling soprano, much to Hardy’s bafflement. Stan always lived on a slightly different plane of reality from the rest of us, as in the scenes where he stuffs tobacco into his fist and lights it with a flame from his thumb. It drives Ollie nuts. He tries it himself, and of course it doesn’t work … until it does, and he howls because his finger is burning! Trivia: The boys were reunited in this picture with the co-star of their most famous short. No, not James Finlayson or Billy Gilbert. It’s Dinah the mule from “The Music Box.”