Way Out West - Location Shooting

The interiors and exteriors for Mickey Finn's Palace (featuring the Singing Nightingale direct from San Francisco, Lola Marcel, "Serio-Comic Entertainer") were shot on an elaborate set inside Stage 2 at Hal Roach Studios.

The town of Brushwood Gulch was actually the old Monogram Ranch in Newhall, California, about 30 minutes north of Los Angeles in an area called Placerita Canyon. Even the stock footage and rear projection process scenes show the Monogram town.


Explaining his fondness for western parodies, Stan Laurel once told his closest friend, Booth Colman, "I always believed the funniest guy in pictures -- ever -- was someone who never knew it: William S. Hart!" Pioneer western star William S. Hart was the first to film on the Monogram street with a drama called THE DISCIPLE in l9l5. Through the years Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Tex Ritter, John Wayne, Johnny Mack Brown, Buck Jones and Whip Wilson all shot scenes there on the main street bringing justice and peace to the wild west. The supremely eminent singing cowboy, Gene Autry, bought the place in l952 and renamed it Melody Ranch, after his radio program. Autry filmed his many Flying "A" productions there -- THE RANGE RIDER, ANNIE OAKLEY, DEATH VALLEY DAYS (but before Ronald Reagan's involvement). l950s television programs WAGON TRAIN, WYATT EARP, and HOPALONG CASSIDY leased the property for lensing too. GUNSMOKE filmed its famous opening shoot-out on this same street seen in WAY OUT WEST. Then Melody Ranch burned down in l962.

The opening and closing prairie road and countryside scenes travelling to and from Brushwood Gulch were filmed about an hour's drive from Hal Roach Studios in the western section of Los Angeles County. More specifically, it was south of Thousand Oaks (that's what Rosina Lawrence remembered about the location: all the oak trees) in Sherwood Forest, above Lake Sherwood. The area was so-named for its use as the principal location in the original l922 Douglas Fairbanks Sr. version of ROBIN HOOD. The l938 remake with Errol Flynn photographed secondary scenes there, as well. As did M-G-M's opulent TARZAN, THE APE MAN (l932) and TARZAN AND HIS MATE (l934). Further north in the vicinity of Simi Valley and Chatsworth were the two principal locations for western filmmaking, Corriganville and the Iverson's Ranch. After WAY OUT WEST was made, a second "Sherwood Forest" was named for a section of Corriganville. And evidently just to cause confusion, which it has.

The real Lake Sherwood (sometimes called Sherwood Lake) can be seen in the original Universal FRANKENSTEIN (l93l) where The Monster happens to meet a little girl, gathering daisies, too innocent to fear him. The nearby stream which Laurel & Hardy attempt to ford in WAY OUT WEST was man-made, and not a natural tributary of Lake Sherwood. The studio rented a steam shovel to dig out the river bed, then 25,000 gallons of water were borrowed from Lake Sherwood to irrigate this ditch for Babe Hardy's inevitable multiple soakings. Another happy result -- a pastoral idyll of the west we can enjoy over and over again every time WAY OUT WEST is screened. Which is the only place we can enjoy it since that locale is much changed today and no longer quite so inviting.

-- by Richard W. Bann --