Tag Archives: 1930s Comedy Films

Way Out West

Directed by James W. Horne
Produced by Stan Laurel & Hal Roach
Written by Jack Jevne, Charley Rogers, Felix Adler & James Parrott
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
James Finlayson
Rosina Lawrence
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date April 16, 1937 (U.S.)
Running time 65 minutes
Language English

Way Out West is an old-fashioned film, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Like many comedies made in the 1930s it has dated a lot, yet even compared to its contemporaries it feels old-fashioned.  Even though it was made in 1937 and is a talkie (only Chaplin was still making silent movies at this time) it feels almost like a silent film, probably because there are so many cut shots to either James Finlayson or Oliver Hardy doing a take and mugging for the camera. This of course was something that was common in the silent era but it is something that becameoutdated as the 30s wore on. You’d rarely see Groucho Marx mugging silently at the camera after some minor tragedy had been bestowed upon him. (If the camera ever cut to Groucho he’d make sure he had a quip.) I don’t mean this as a criticism, just as an observation.

Having said that Way Out West is enjoyable if only because the two main stars of the film. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are so likable and work so well together that you have to laugh at their antics. They were both veterans of the cinema at this time and had worked together for over a decade. Here their great chemistry is on show in the skits, while their song Ballad Of A Lonesome Pine is a treat. You still have this feeling that this is all very old-fashioned, but in a good way. There is also a great chemistry that the boys have with their co-star James Finlayson, although I did think he spent too much time mugging for the camera. The movie is kind of short, at only 65 minutes long, so it never overstays its welcome either and is a good introduction for anyone who wants to watch the films of Laurel & Hardy.


International House


Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Produced by Emanuel Cohen Written by Neil Brant
Starring W.C. Fields
Bela Lugosi
George Burns
Gracie Allen
Cab Calloway
Rose Marie
Peggy Hopkins Joyce
Music by Ralph Rainger
Howard Jackson
John Leipold
Al Morgan
Cab Calloway
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) May 27, 1933
Running time 70 minutes
Country  United States

This is a relic of a movie featuring W.C. Fields. Basically the film is just an excuse to see the various performers from radio and vaudeville perform skits, most of which would have been quite dated even in 1933. The only real interests in the film lies in Fields’ performance, that of Burns and Allen and of Bela Lugosi turning in a comic part. Fields gets in a few quite dirty lines (this was made pre-code) and Allen plays the dumb nurse part well, while Lugosi’s portrayal of a jealous Russian general who generally causes chaos shows that he could play a comic role as well as horror. The only other point of interest is Cab Calloway singing the song Reefer Man and him saying that his  bass player is ”high on weed’. The movie is a bit of a nostalgic curiosity but it’s not that funny.

International House is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man and It’s A Gift. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


It’s A Gift

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Jack Cunningham,
Story Charles Bogle (Fields)
Starring W. C. Fields
Kathleen Howard
Jean Rouverol
Julian Madison
Tammany Young
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date November 17, 1934
Running time 73 min.
It’s A Gift is a really funny W. C. Fields comedy from 1934, and it surprisingly holds up well when viewed with 21st century eyes. It’s A Gift is less well-known than some of Fields’ other films such as The Bank Dick, but there are still a few laughs to be had while watching the film.

In the film Fields plays Harold Bissonette (pronounced Bisonay), a grocery store owner with a nagging wife and two rotten children. After the death of his uncle he decides to sell up his store and more to California to become an orange grower. The plot however is little more than a vehicle for Fields’ gags, many of which he had honed to perfection after years spent on the vaudeville circuit.

I think that the reason why I find the film so humourous is that I can empathise with Fields in some of the situations he finds himself in. Most married men know what it’s like to be nagged by their wife at times, and would find Fields portrayal as a henpecked husband quite amusing. Similarly most of us adults know just how annoying children can be and rather than show them as sweet little angels they are seen here as being the bratty little monsters that some children really are. This is why the gags are so successful for Fields and his henpecked husband character is much funnier to me than the obnoxious, drunken wise ass that he would play in later films. As well as a few good slapstick moments there are some really great one-liners from Fields that had me laughing quite a bit.

It’s A Gift is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man and International House . This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…