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segunda-feira, 2 de novembro de 2015
Way Out West review: 'joyful'
Way Out West is one of Laurel and Hardy's greatest feature-length films and is being shown in high definition in cinemas across the UK in autumn 2015 and across the world in 2016
Spike Milligan once said: "From the moment I saw Laurel and Hardy on the screen I knew they were my friends." Friendship is at the heart of their 1937 spoof Western Way Out West, which contains one of the most charming dance sequences in cinema history.
The boys are in Brushwood Gulch when Oliver Hardy tips his bowler hat as he stands outside Mickey Finn's Palace before he and Stan Laurel start a soft-shoe shuffle-come-waltz as the Avalon Boys sing At the Ball, That's All. Ollie, then 45 and weighing 20 stones, dances with a light grace in a moment of genuine joyfulness. Unlike other celebrated double acts, they genuinely like each other and it shows in this scene as much as in any of the 106 films they made together.
Way Out West came five years after their Oscar-winning The Music Box, a version of the myth of Sisyphus done as comedy in which they try to deliver a piano up a steep flight of steps. But short films were out of vogue by 1937 and they were turning to feature-length pictures. Their best two are arguably Sons of the Desert and Way Out West. Way Out West, directed by James W Horne, was a slight spoof of DW Griffith's silent romantic film from 1920 called Way Down East, which starred Lillian Gish.
The plot of Way Out West is based around the fight to own the deed to a gold mine. Stan and Ollie are due to deliver the valuable deed to innocent young Mary Roberts (played by Rosina Lawrence) but they are duped by Lola Marcel (Sharon Lynne), a scheming bottle-blonde vaudeville singer who pretends to be Mary and who is aided and abetted by the devious Mickey Finn (played with great humour by Laurel and Hardy regular James Finlayson). Stan: "I think we've given that deed to the wrong woman. That's the first mistake we've made since that guy sold us the Brooklyn Bridge." Oliver: "Buying that bridge was no mistake. That's gonna be worth a lot of money to us someday."
The boys set about getting the deed back and of course with the hapless duo there is plenty of bickering and blundering as they do this. The chase for the deed involves a magnificent comic free-for-all (of snatching, losing, grabbing again, losing, and regaining) as they attempt to fight Lola and Mickey for the precious piece of paper. Laurel and Hardy never have a straightforward time with women. On the stagecoach ride into Brushwood Gulch, Ollie tries to impress the only female passenger (Vivien Oakland) with idle chatter which turns into meaningless non-sequiturs, causing her great unease. "A lot of weather we've been having lately . . . it's only four months to Christmas . . .do you believe in Santa Claus?" he says. Stan fares no better with the opposite sex, especially Lola's power of tickling. Stan Laurel, who played a part in the direction and production of the film, said of Way Out West that "our characters are dumber than usual and Hardy dominates to the point that every time I start to speak he stops me with one of those, 'That's all right, I know' sallies." He thought cinema-goers would react better in a long film to "less talk and more action". Along the way there are mishaps, donkeys and gun fire and there's even an "eat your hat gag" (and Stan Laurel carries the punchline off far better than Paddy Ashdown).
'That's the first mistake we've made since that guy sold us the Brooklyn Bridge'
And there is wonderful music, which earned an Oscar nomination for composer Marvin Hatley. As well as At the Ball, That's All, there is the lip-syncing comedy of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (a song which went to No2 in the UK charts in 1975) and the delightful I Want to Be in Dixie. Way Out West is being shown in cinemas across the UK and Ireland in June 2015to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Laurel's birth. He was English, of course, having been born in Ulverston, Cumbria. In Way Out West he is supposedly a Londoner, reflected in the lines:
Ollie: "Are you from the South?" Mary: "I sure am." Ollie "Well, fan mah brow, I'm from the South." Mary: "You are?" Stan: "Well, shut my mouth, I's from the South too." Ollie: "The south of what, sir?" Stan: "The south of London." Ollie (scornfully): "London. Well honey, we'll all go down to Dixie. Oh, for a slice of possum and yam." Stan: "Yes sir, and some good ol' fish and chips. I can smell 'em." Ollie (in disgust): "Fish and chips!"
Stan's daughters Lois Laurel and Ollie's daughter Lucille Hardy always insisted that Way Out West was the favourite film of both their fathers.