It Happened in Hollywood (1937)

ithappenedinhollywood_5It Happened in Hollywood (1937)
AKA Once a Hero

Starring Richard Dix, Fay Wray, Victor Kilian, Franklin Pangborn, Charles Arnt, Granville Bates, William B. Davidson, Arthur Loft, Edgar Dearing, James Donlan, Bill Burrud

Directed by Harry Lachman

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


It Happened in Hollywood may be the title that this film released with, but the film’s original title of Once a Hero (which for some reason is the on-screen title featured on the DVD release), is much more apt to describe the work at hand. Sam Fuller called this film his “first real screen credit,” and while it eventually led to bigger and better things for Fuller, It Happened in Hollywood feels like it contains even less of a Fuller influence than Hats Off did. But that’s OK, as this one is a much more cohesive and enjoyable film overall.

Like a great many films throughout the ages, It Happened in Hollywood is about a silent film star that has trouble making the transition to talkies. Unless I’m forgetting something major, this is the earliest film I’ve seen to use this somewhat common story framing device. I suppose this could be linked to Sam Fuller’s effervescent love of focusing on things relevant and topical before other filmmakers jump on the bandwagon.

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Way Out West (1937)

Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynn, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence, Stanley Fields, Vivien Oakland, The Avalon Boys, Chill Wills

Directed by James W. Horne

Expectations: One of my most treasured films as a child. Let’s see how it holds up.


As expected, I still love this movie unconditionally. Growing up we didn’t have cable TV most of the time, so our small VHS collection was always getting played and re-played. Way Out West was one of the first tapes we owned and it quickly became one of the most watched as well, with good reason. Even though it was a colorized version, the power of the duo’s comedy shone through, and later when I knew it was originally black and white I’d turn down the color and watch it as intended. The film was released on April 16, 1937, just recently celebrating its 75th birthday, but not a shred of the humor or the charm has worn off of this gem. Clearly, there’s some nostalgia associated with the movie for me, so your mileage may vary if you’ve never seen it, but for me this is truly one of the best classic comedy films of all time.

Stan and Ollie play a couple of guys entrusted to bring a deed for a gold mine to a resident of Brushwood Gulch. Things go wrong in only ways that Laurel and Hardy can manage, and that’s where Way Out West is best. My favorite scene has always been the chase scene inside of James Finlayson’s bedroom, as Laurel, Hardy, Finlayson and Sharon Lynn all fight and scramble over each other to acquire the deed. It’s hilarious and still managed to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it a multitude of times. There’s even a small bit of wirework in one small moment that raises the level of incredulity and hysterics to new heights.

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