To admirers of the film comedy of Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, there was a time when their movies seemed to be in the very air you breathed. I wasn't even born until long after their heyday and a few years after the death of "Babe" Hardy (his off-screen nickname). Yet their movies were broadcast regularly in the 1970's, seemingly everywhere -- including a Saturday-morning kids' show in Illinois, which is where and how I became entranced with them.
When I first started reading books about (and criticism of) Laurel & Hardy, I often heard the word "padding." Critics used to carp about their feature films being too full of padding. As a kid, I imagined some film editor sitting at a kitchen counter as though he was a chef, stuffing the film full of padding like a Thanksgiving turkey. Of course, as used by critics, the term actually meant "filler" -- extraneous plotlines and musical numbers to fill the movie out, while we waited for Stan and Ollie to come back and do their thing.
In my humble opinion, the sole Laurel & Hardy feature film that can be called padding-free is Way Out West. (Many L&H buffs opt for Sons of the Desert to win this title, but that movie's nastily assertive women kill a lot of the fun for me. No hate mail, please -- we like what we like.)
Way Out West is Laurel & Hardy done to perfection -- taking a modest plotline and gently nudging it up to the finish line, without having to wait for the sub-plotted lovers to finish their cooing. Off-screen, Stan Laurel was regarded as the creative talent behind the camera. One can just imagine Stan spreading the script out before him like a map, looking for every piece of comic business than can be milked out of handing over a priceless gold-mine deed (practically on a silver platter) to Stan and Ollie's enemies, and then looking for a way to break back into the enemies' saloon at night to recover the deed.
All I can say is, Mission accomplished.
You'll notice that there's no plot-synopsis page on this website, which might seem strange for a tribute to a particular movie. My feeling is that the movie's story has already been told, re-told, and dissected far enough. If you're already an L&H buff, you know the plotline like the back of your hand. If you're a newcomer to Laurel & Hardy, you're best off experiencing its joys for yourself. (However, at the risk of self-promotion, if you really gotta know what the movie is about before you see it, click here to read my review of it, at my primary Laurel & Hardy website. Plug! Plug!)
(Or, if you're really dying to find out what the movie is about, click here to read a transcript of the entire movie. And you thought you had too much time on your hands.)
Secondly, some web-surfer is bound to complain about how much of this site is taken from other sources. I hereby freely admit that about 90% of the material herein was first posted elsewhere, which is why this site's links page provides weblinks to every site from which I "stole" the information. I don't claim to have spent years researching one of my favorite movies; I just decided to put all of the juiciest information in one place.
Wherefore Way Out West?
Happily, DVDs of Laurel & Hardy movies are far more easily available than they used to be. You can purchase a DVD of it that was released in 2005 -- not a restored version, by any means, but passable enough. If you're willing to shell out some serious cash, you can:
* purchase the American DVD set of Laurel & Hardy's (fully restored) sound films released in 2011, which includes Way Out West; or
* do as I did many years ago -- buy an international DVD player, and then partake of Britain's lavish DVD box set of L&H movies. This set also includes Way Out West, as well as nearly all of L&H's sound and silent movies produced by the Hal Roach Studios.
Either of these alternatives will set you back a few bucks, for certain -- but if you enjoy Laurel & Hardy as much as I do, it will pay itself back in no time. The British set is available through amazon.co.uk; the other two options are available at amazon.com.
In the meantime, I hope I've done justice to a classic comedy that doesn't always get its due. Enjoy!
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