The Soilers (1923)
Director: Ralph Cedar
Cast: Stan Laurel, Ena Gregory, Mae Laurel
Synopsis: During the Alaska gold rush, a miner hits the mother lode, but a corrupt sheriff jumps his claim, leading to a tremendous fight.
Before he became one half of cinema’s most famous comedy double act, Stan Laurel made a number of parody movies for Bronco Billy Anderson. These movies were comedies in which he lampooned popular hits of the day (other parodies included Mud and Sand (1922), which ripped-off Rudolph Valentino’s Blood and Sand, and Dr Pyckle and Mr. Pryde (1925)) and The Soilers was a take on The Spoilers, a popular adaptation of Rex Beach’s novel.
The comedy is pretty mild, to be honest, with most of the laughs reserved for the final prolonged fight between Laurel and James Finlayson (who would later provide a regular foil for Laurel & Hardy) as a crooked sheriff who has cheated Stan out of a gold mine claim. Perhaps the funniest thing about this sequence isn’t the antics of Laurel and Finlayson, though, but the performance of George Rowe, a frequent performer in Laurel’s movies, who portrays what is surely cinema’s campest cowboy. As Laurel and Finlayson roll around on the floor bashing seven shades of stuffing out of one another, Rowe minces around totally oblivious to the ruckus taking place. His performance is a truly hilarious one, and provides the main reason for watching The Soilers.
(Reviewed 30th November 2013)