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  Way Out West No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Year: 1937
Director: James W. Horne
Stars: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynn, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence, Stanley Fields, Vivien Oakland, The Avalon Boys
Genre: Western, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 2 votes)
Review: Tavern owner Mickey Finn (James Finlayson) has a pretty good thing going with his business, with the place packed to the rafters whenever his wife Lola Marcel (Sharon Lynn), known as The Singing Nightingale, performs on the stage. One of his staff, the lowly Mary Roberts (Rosina Lawrence), is much neglected as a general dogsbody there, but she has good news on the way as Stanley (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy) approach the small town in the West where she resides. They have the deeds to a lucrative gold mine to hand over - but with these two fellows, nothing is every as simple as it sounds.

There has been some debate, lasting decades, over which of Laurel and Hardy's comedy features is the better, Way Out West or Sons of the Desert. They both have their merits, but this western spoof and vehicle for the boys' brand of humour probably sees their double act at its most perfectly realised. Bravely, the film does not allow them to appear for over five minutes, opting to set up the storyline in its place and offer a musical number for Sharon Lynn's scheming showgirl, but when they do arrive, it's as if they've never been away.

Before they even reach the town Stan and Ollie are getting into trouble, with what will become a running gag as Ollie disappears under the water of an apparently shallow creek. As ever, even though they both act like idiots, it doesn't make them any the less endearing as we can see they're really the only people in the world who they are perfectly suited for, and with both stars utterly unafraid to look ridiculous the results can be as golden as they are here. With films like this one, you can see why they're possibly the most beloved big screen double act in history.

When they do get to town, they climb off the stagecoach with the woman they have been trying to charm only to meet her unimpressed husband who tells them to get out of town on the next one. Little do the know that this husband is also the local Sheriff, although they will find out at the worst possible moment, naturally. Before the plot can progress, the duo become enchanted by the sounds of The Avalon Boys (a country harmony group who included future character actor Chill Wills among their ranks) and perform a little dance for us.

Is there any greater joy in Hollywood movies than watching Laurel and Hardy dancing? Maybe hearing them sing, too, as this is the film where they performed "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" in their inimitable fashion - back in 1975 this was a top ten hit in Britain. But what of the plot? Well, Finn and Lola fool Stan and Ollie into handing them the deeds, and when they find out the truth from the real Mary, it's up to the boys to save the day. Wisely, the scriptwriters supply the stars with plenty of bits of business to keep the momentum skipping along whether it's Stan lighting a candle with his thumb or eating Ollie's hat as penance (then finding it's pretty tasty), or having Ollie get his head stuck in a cellar door - the cartoonish level of many of the gags adds to the lightness of the humour. Some of their short films may have equalled Way Out West, but Laurel and Hardy never bettered it, this is still as bright and fresh as a spring morning. But funnier.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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