As is not unusual with Laurel and Hardy movies, the version that we now love so well is somewhat different to what was originally script: Mike Jones reports.
On the page on the main Beau Chumps Website that focuses on Way Out West, arguably Laurel and Hardy’s best feature, you will see that I can recall seeing a sequence as a child where a signpost to Brushwood Gulch spins in the wind. Well, I’ve never seen that sequence since and few, if any, that I’ve spoken to on the subject, can recall it either. I’ve always wondered…
Alan Kent, during one of his frequent forays on facetube put me onto something so I did a little digging. Did the scene exist?
Richard Bann’s 1975 book, ‘Laurel and Hardy’, was unchallenged as the best and most complete publication on the boys and was – still is – referred to as ‘the Bible’. In it, there is a great picture of Stan, Ollie and the sign, reproduced here, but no mention of the scene, though in fairness, the book concentrates on the screenplay rather than background information.
However, in Randy Skretvedts marvellous book, ‘The Magic Behind the Movies’, first published in 1988 and updated again last year we can read that:
“…an early scene in the script has the boys tramping along with their mule in the middle of nowhere, trying to find Brushwood Gulch. A signpost points the way but it keeps shifting direction with the wind. Stan argues that the town is in one direction, while Ollie maintains the other direction is ‘the right way’. This scene was filmed and remained in the edition that was screened for the trade press in a preview.
That print was 69 minutes long, four minutes longer than the film is today. Hal Roach dictated a memo to “tighten the business with the signpost and directions to town. Too slow”.”
However, film scholar William K Everson was adamant that he has seen this sequence during a screening after World War II. No copy is known to survive with this footage.”
So its not just me then it seems! I’m in pretty learned company with good old Billy Everson. I do recall reading somewhere that the sequence was only released in the UK, but I guess we’ll never know – unless it resurfaces. We live in hope…
Anyway, back to Mr Kent. Alan had – as he frequently does – sent me some screenshots from Facebook, and amongst them was details of a script. So, some more digging, and what I found is reproduced below. I’ve added photos here and there where relevant, but note that what you will read is without any ‘business’ that Stan would have worked out on the set.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I was intrigued by it:
An Alternative Way Out West.
Fade in to ‘Brushwood Gulch’ sign. Camera pulls back and we see the main street with cowboys whooping it up and firing their guns. Dissolve to ‘Honky Tonk Saloon’
INTERIOR SALOON – DAY
Line up of chorus girls on stage dancing behind ‘Lola’ who is singing. Cut to;
INTERIOR. KITCHEN – DAY
Mary washes dishes and is pushed around by waiter (Fin). An old woman cook disgustedly looks on. Fin exits. Cut to:
INTERIOR. DRESSING ROOM-DAY
Fin enters, views Lola’s next stage costume, steps on its train as she exits, resulting in it ripping off completely. Fin sends her off with an Ostrich feather fan to cover things. Cut to:
EXTERIOR. PRAIRIE ROAD – DAY
Laurel and Hardy enter scene. Ollie is asleep on a horse drawn sled. The stream sequence stays the same but Stan does not do the hanky drying Ollie gag. When they get to the other side of the stream they argue about the correct direction they should be taking as the ‘Brushwood Gulch’ sign seems to be pointing in the wrong direction, an Indian rides up to them, they asked his advice, (wind alters the sign’s direction) he points and off they go.
Next they meet with the sheriff who says go in another direction. Laurel and Hardy argue as to who was right, Stan pretends to pull off Ollie’s nose (thumb between fingers trick), Ollie threatens Stan with a rock to return his nose. Stan who is angry, draws his gun and fires, Ollie winces and ducks, Stan misses, Ollie lays down thinking has been shot. Re-enter the Sheriff, with a hole in his Stetson, he kicks Stan in the rear. Prunella the donkey does the same to the Sheriff who reels headlong into a cactus bush. NOTE: In the movie the Donkey was called ‘Dinah’.
The exterior saloon arrival sequence is the same but has no musical interlude. Inside, Fin’s false reading cash register is not mentioned. Laurel and Hardy have a conversation with Fin about their looking for Mary Roberts, Ollie searches his pockets for the ‘deeds’ while Stan unwraps a sandwich from his pocket (wrapped with the deeds). Fin exits. Enter Mary the kitchen girl, the boys now meet her for the first time, she is carrying a tray of sandwiches which Stan proceeds to devour. Cut to:
INTERIOR. SALOON APARTMENT – DAY
Fin enters and tells Lola of the deeds and his plan; she agrees to go along with it. The boys now arrive at the apartment and meet Lola for the first time. Lola on hearing of her supposed father’s death starts playing a sad lament on the piano which slowly leads the boys to a full flood of tears. Mary enters the apartment, and asks if the boys have dropped any papers (the deeds) Mary exits. The deeds are passed over to Lola. Fin suggests the boys stay at another hotel because his one has Ptomaine poisoning. Cut to:
Prunella slips her reins and wanders off.
Laurel and Hardy exit from the saloon entrance and notice Prunella is not around and go to look for her. Around the back of the saloon they see Mary peeling carrots and feeding Prunella. Mary enquires on the name of the donkey and says her daddy had one with the same name and it could do tricks like sit down on the command ‘Squat’ and kick out on the command ‘Let em have it’. Laurel and Hardy now discover that Fin had lied so the boys plan a retrieval of the deeds. Dissolve to:
INTERIOR. SALOON APARTMENT – DAY
The boys enter the apartment and have a fracas with Fin and Lola. Lola locks the deeds in the safe and they have a gunfight in the apartment. A bullet ricochets around the room and starts up a ‘Victrola’ causing it to play the same groove over and over: “Massas in the cold, in the cold, in the cold,” etc. Stan has found refuge under a dining table.
Another stray bullet shatters a ketchup bottle which drips over Stan who lays down thinking he is about to die. Ollie fires at Fin and misses, hits a deer head trophy that falls down antlers first onto Fin’s backside. Fin swings around to fire another shot and his gun gets caught up in the chair springs. The boys see this and grab Fin and put his head through the half open door then put the door safety chain on. To stop Fin hollering Stan empties the entire contents of a soda bottle into Fin’s mouth. Fin then exudes the soda water in a constant stream all over Ollie. The sheriff now enters the apartment, chases the boys down the stairs and out into the street, he shouts after them to never return, Fin says “that’s it – let ’em have it”, enter Prunella etc. Dissolve to:
EXTERIOR. COUNTRYSIDE – DAY.
Laurel and Hardy are sprawled out under a tree talking about the deed retrieval, an Indian creeps up on them, Stan describes an idea to Ollie, the Indian says’ “How”, Stan explains again to Ollie, Ollie answers, The Indian says “How” again and a great deal of confusion ensues. On noticing the Indians presence Stan talks to the Indian in English but the Indian answers in sign language. Stan thinks he wants to do ‘handies’ so he shows him some ‘finger wiggles’ the Indian does not understand it so he beckons-come with me.
FADE OUT and FADE IN to:
EXTERIOR. INDIAN CAMP – DAY
Indians war dance around a fire, suddenly the drum beat stops. An Indian chief approaches the boys who have been watching the proceedings, the chief grunts and offers them three fighting knives, he grunts again and (quivering) they choose their weapons, Stan grabs the largest knife and Ollie grabs the smallest, the chief grunts again and then says “that one is $1 and that one is $2”. Dissolve to:
EXTERIOR. BRUSHWOOD GULCH – NIGHT
The boys, dressed as Indians creep along in the shadows, along comes the sheriff, the boys assume the pose of cigar store Indians, Stan has an arm raised holding a Tomahawk, Ollie is kneeling next to him, the sheriff stops nearby to light a cigar, he strikes a match under Stans raised arm causing Stan to bring the Tomahawk down on Ollie’s head, the match doesn’t ignite so the sheriff strikes again under Stan’s arm, this time it ignites, he lights his cigar, tosses the match and exits. The match lands on Ollie’s feather headdress which bursts into flame causing vast confusion and leaving Stan to put it out with his blanket. Dissolve to:
EXTERIOR SALOON – NIGHT
The boys approach the front entrance of the saloon, it has an expanding security gate which they peer through, Stan notices that it is not locked so opens it trapping Ollie’s nose in the slats. The doors are locked so they stack three barrels on top of each other which Ollie climbs. Using the handle of a rake, he attempts to pull himself up the last 2 or 3 feet to the balcony but the rake handle breaks and babe falls through the three barrels finishing Inside the bottom one which proceeds to roll down an Incline. Cut to:
INTERIOR. FINS BEDROOM – NIGHT
Fin wakes up, leaps out of bed and grabs an old musket, he then returns to bed after a quick inspection out of the window. Cut to:
EXTERIOR SALOON – NIGHT
Ollie has cleared himself of the barrel remains and searches around the saloon for another possible entry point when he sees a girder above an upper window, he finds a rope which he throws over the girder and then ties around his waist, unable to lift Ollie Stan ties the rope to Prunella and gives Ollie an extra piece of rope which Ollie puts the end of into his back pocket, what he doesn’t realise is it’s really a garden hose.
Prunella is led forward and as Ollie rises the hose catches on the faucet and turns it on which proceeds to fill Ollies trousers with water while he swings in the air. Stan sees the predicament and leaves Prunella while he turns off the tap Ollies weight now causes Prunella to be dragged backwards and Ollie descends rapidly down into and through a slanting cellar door. The donkey is now left hanging in mid-air. Stan goes over to Ollie and undoes the rope which catches around his arm resulting in the donkey dropping down and Stan going up in the air. Ollie quickly undoes the rope from Prunella and he lowers Stan to the ground. Furious Stan grabs a piece of 2×4 and tries to hit Ollie, Ollie ducks and the 2×4 smashes the downstairs window of Mary Roberts bedroom. Cut to:
INTERIOR. MARY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
The boys climb through the broken window and explain to Mary why they have returned, suddenly Fin is heard approaching, the boys hide. Fin enters Mary’s Bedroom and steps on a mouse trap, hopping mad he tells Mary to go to bed and stop making so much noise.
FADE OUT and FADE IN
INTERIOR. KITCHEN – NIGHT
Laurel and Hardy creep through the kitchen, Stan sees a Tomato and stops to salt and PEPPER it, Ollie watches, then slaps at Stan who inadvertently shakes pepper in Ollies face and they have a big sneezing session, the sneezing continues as they move into the main saloon where a number of musical instruments get BANGED, TOOTED & YANKED causing lots of noise. When all of the noise has settled down, they go upstairs to Fin’s bedroom door to check if all is clear but off-screen Stan is banging something, it causes Ollie to return quickly, Stan is attacking the safe with a hammer and chisel. They decide to take the safe downstairs on Ollies back but he trips headlong down the stairs with an enormous crash. Cut to:
INTERIOR. FIN’S BEDROOM – NIGHT.
Fin awakes in his bed, Lola (in her bed) tells Fin to get back to sleep. Cut to:
INTERIOR. SALOON STAIRS – NIGHT.
Ollie is seen with his body stuck halfway inside and through the back of the safe. Stan opens the safe door to reveal Ollies despondent face. “What are you doing in there” he asks. Ollie gives his ‘woe begone’ look. Stan closes the door in Ollies face. Cut to:
INTERIOR. SALOON STAIRS LANDING – NIGHT.
Fin appears on the landing with a lantern (Stan hides under a piano), Lola yells at Fin to return to bed. Cut to:
INTERIOR. SALOON STAIRS – NIGHT.
Stan returns from under the piano and helps Ollie out of the safe and they try to find the deed in the dark by a lighted match which soon goes out so they ignite a piece of paper which Ollie quickly sees are the deeds. Cut to:
INTERIOR. SALOON LANDING – NIGHT.
Fin appears again on the landing, he now has a lantern and gun, he trips and goes headlong downstairs. Suddenly he hears a sneeze from inside the piano then the sound of the strings being touched. He goes up to the piano and puts his gun muzzle under the piano lid right at Ollies head. Fin now sits at the piano and plays the notes until he finds a ‘dud’ one then proceeds to bang the keys very hard; we see the boys getting a serious pounding to the face. Shortly, Fin is joined by Lola, Fin grabs the gun again and orders the boys out of the piano. The boys don’t respond so he lets them have both barrels and the piano collapses along with the boys into a big tangle of strings. Lola rushes in and grabs the deeds. Cut to:
EXTERIOR. SALOON – NIGHT.
Indian warriors approach the saloon, one Indian at a window fires an arrow which hits Fin in the backside, Fin drops the lantern and in the darkness the boys rush out to the kitchen where they meet Mary, they continue through to the back door where they encounter more Indians, returning they rush back through swing doors into the saloon meeting Fin and Lola en route. Fin and Lola crash onto the floor. Stan, Ollie and Mary continue through the bar, Stan grabs a couple of bottles which he throws at Fin out of shot, he misses and they hit a harp by a broken window and rebound into Ollie nearly knocking him out. Ollie has an idea and they position the harp so that when the Indians appear at the window Stan hands Ollie a bottle which he places in the strings and shoots it bow and arrow style to good effect. Fin and Lola mean-while escape through the kitchen chased by an Indian. Lola climbs into a big refrigerator. Fin gets cornered by an Indian who is approaching menacingly with a tomahawk, afraid of being scalped Fin takes off his toupee which he gives to the Indian, the Indian is so dumfounded that he rushes through a window to the outside. Fin climbs through another window on to the back of Prunella and tries to ride her away. Meanwhile, Stan and Mary are handing bottles as fast as they can to Ollie and many Indians fall unconscious. Eventually, the Indians rush to the saloon and search for the boys, they see a piano start to move, its legs are doing funny contortions. Mary, Stan and Ollie are in different corners of the piano acting as legs and as it dashes out of the saloon the Indians scatter in all directions. Cut to:
EXTERIOR. SALOON – NIGHT
The piano careers out of the saloon and down the main street followed by a large group of Indians firing arrows and hitting the piano. Cut to:
EXTERIOR. SMALL CLIFF – NIGHT.
The Piano hurtles towards a cliff, unable to see where they are going the Piano runs off the cliff, tumbles through the air and lands upside down on the water. We see three pairs of legs stuck in the air as it drifts downstream.