Harold Eugene Roach
January 14, 1892
Elmira, New York, U.S.
|Died||November 2, 1992 100) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, New York|
(m. 1915;died 1941)
(m. 1942;died 1981)
|Children||6, including Hal Roach Jr. and Margaret Roach|
Harold Eugene "Hal" Roach Sr.(January 14, 1892 – November 2, 1992) was an American film and television producer, director, screenwriter, and centenarian, who was the founder of the namesake Hal Roach Studios.
Roach was active in the industry from the 1910s to the 1990s known for producing a number of successes including the Laurel and Hardy franchise, the films of entertainer Charley Chase, and the Our Gang short film comedy series.
Roach was born in Elmira, New York, to Charles Henry Roach, whose father was born in Wicklow, County Wicklow, Ireland, and Mabel Gertrude Bally, her father John Bally being from Switzerland. [ citation needed ]A presentation by the American humorist Mark Twain impressed Roach as a young grade school student.
After an adventurous youth that took him to Alaska, Roach arrived in Hollywood in 1912 and began working as an extra in silent films. Upon coming into an inheritance, in 1915 he began producing short film comedies with his friend Harold Lloyd, who portrayed a character known as Lonesome Luke.[ citation needed ]
In September 1916, Roach married actress Marguerite Nichols, who worked as an actress in the 1930s and 1940s, and died in March 1941. They had two children, Hal Roach Jr., who followed his father as a producer and director, and Margaret Roach.
Roach married a second time, on September 1, 1942, to Lucille Prin, a Los Angeles secretary. [ citation needed ] Jeanne Alice Roach (born October 7, 1949), and Kathleen Bridget Roach (born January 29, 1951).They were married at the on-base home of Colonel Franklin C. Wolfe and his wife at Wright-Patterson Airfield in Dayton, Ohio, where Roach was stationed at the time while serving as a major in the United States Army Air Corps. Roach and Lucille had four children, Elizabeth Carson Roach (December 26, 1945 – September 5, 1946), Maria May Roach (born April 14, 1947),
Unable to expand his studios in Downtown Los Angeles because of zoning, Roach purchased what became the Hal Roach Studios from Harry Culver in Culver City, California. During the 1920s and 1930s, he employed Lloyd (his top money-maker until his departure in 1923), Will Rogers, Max Davidson, the Our Gang children, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon, Thelma Todd, ZaSu Pitts, Patsy Kelly and, most famously, Laurel and Hardy. During the 1920s, Roach's biggest rival was producer Mack Sennett. In 1925, Roach hired away[ clarification needed ] Sennett's supervising director, F. Richard Jones.[ citation needed ]
Roach released his films through Pathé Exchange until 1927, when he struck a distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He converted his silent-movie studio to sound in late 1928 and began releasing talking shorts in early 1929. In the days before dubbing, foreign language versions of the Roach comedies were created by reshooting each film in the Spanish, French, and occasionally Italian and German languages. Laurel & Hardy, Charley Chase, and the Our Gang kids (some of whom had barely begun school) were required to recite the foreign dialogue phonetically, often working from blackboards hidden off-camera.[ citation needed ]
In 1931, with the release of the Laurel & Hardy film Pardon Us , Roach began producing occasional full-length features alongside the short subjects. Two-reel comedies were less profitable than features, and Roach phased most of them out by 1936. When the Our Gang feature film General Spanky did not do as well as expected, Roach intended to disband Our Gang entirely. MGM still wanted the Our Gang short subjects, so Roach agreed to supply them in single-reel (10-minute) form.
In 1937, Roach conceived a joint business venture partnering with Vittorio Mussolini, son of fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, to form a production company called "R.A.M." (Roach and Mussolini). Roach claimed the scheme involved Italian bankers providing US$6 million that would enable Roach's studio to produce a series of 12 films. Eight would be for Italian screening only while the remaining four would receive world distribution. The first film for Italy was to be a feature film of the opera Rigoletto .
This proposed business alliance with Mussolini alarmed MGM, which intervened and forced Roach to buy his way out of the venture. This embarrassment, coupled with the underperformance of much of Roach's latest feature-film output (except Laurel & Hardy titles and the 1937 hit Topper ), led to the end of Roach's distribution contract with MGM. In May 1938, Roach sold MGM the production rights and actors contracts to the Our Gang shorts. Roach signed a distribution deal with United Artists at this time.
From 1937 to 1940, Roach concentrated on producing glossy features, abandoning low comedy almost completely. Most of his new films were either sophisticated farces (like Topper and The Housekeeper's Daughter , 1939) or rugged action fare (like Captain Fury , 1939, and One Million B.C. , 1940). Roach's one venture into heavy drama was the acclaimed Of Mice and Men (1939), in which actors Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. played the leading roles. The Laurel and Hardy comedies, once the Roach studio's biggest drawing cards, were now the studio's least important product and were phased out altogether in 1940.
In 1940, Roach experimented with medium-length featurettes, running 40 to 50 minutes each. He contended that these "streamliners", as he called them, would be useful in double-feature situations where the main attraction was a longer-length epic. Exhibitors agreed with him and used Roach's mini-features to balance top-heavy double bills. He had intended to introduce the new format with a series of four Laurel and Hardy featurettes, but was overruled by United Artists, which insisted on two Laurel & Hardy feature films instead.United Artists continued to release Roach's streamliners through 1943. By this time, Roach no longer had a resident company of comedy stars and cast his films with familiar featured players (William Tracy and Joe Sawyer, Johnny Downs, Jean Porter, Frank Faylen, William Bendix, George E. Stone, Bobby Watson, etc.).
Recognizing the value of his film library, in 1943 Roach began licensing revivals of his older productions for theatrical distribution through Film Classics, Inc.and home-movie distribution.
Hal Roach Sr., commissioned in the U.S. Army Signal Reserve Corps in 1927,was called back to active military duty in the Signal Corps in June 1942, at age 50. The studio output he oversaw in uniform was converted from entertainment featurettes to military training films. The studios were leased to the U.S. Army Air Forces, and the First Motion Picture Unit made 400 training, morale and propaganda films at "Fort Roach." Members of the unit included Ronald Reagan and Alan Ladd. After the war the government returned the studio to Roach, with millions of dollars of improvements.
In 1946, Hal Roach resumed motion picture production, with former Harold Lloyd co-star Bebe Daniels as an associate producer. Roach was the first Hollywood producer to adopt an all-color production schedule, making four streamliners in Cinecolor, although the increased production costs did not result in increased revenue. In 1948, with his studio deeply in debt, Roach re-established his studio for television production, with Hal Roach Jr., producing series such as The Stu Erwin Show , Steve Donovan, Western Marshal , Racket Squad , The Public Defender, The Gale Storm Show , Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and My Little Margie , and independent producers leasing the facilities for such programs as Amos 'n' Andy , The Life of Riley and The Abbott and Costello Show . By 1951, the studio was producing 1,500 hours of television programs a year, nearly three times Hollywood's annual output of feature movies.
Roach's old theatrical films were also early arrivals on television. His Laurel and Hardy comedies were successful in television syndication, as were the Our Gang comedies he produced from 1929 to 1938.
In 1955, Roach sold his interests in the production company to his son, Hal Roach Jr., and retired from active production. The younger Roach lacked much of his father's business acumen and was forced to sell the studio in 1958 to The Scranton Corporation, a division of the automobile-parts conglomerate F. L. Jacobs Co.The Roach studio finally shut down in 1961.
For two more decades, Roach Sr. occasionally worked as a consultant on projects related to his past work. In 1983 the "Hal Roach Studios" name was reactivated as a video concern, pioneering the new field of colorizing movies. Roach lent his film library to the cause but was otherwise not involved in the new video productions. Extremely vigorous into an advanced age, Roach contemplated a comedy comeback at 96.
In 1984, 92-year-old Roach was presented with an honorary Academy Award. Former Our Gang members Jackie Cooper and George "Spanky" McFarland made the presentation to a flattered Roach, with McFarland thanking the producer for hiring him 53 years prior. An additional Our Gang member, Ernie Morrison, was in the crowd and started the standing ovation for Roach. Years earlier Cooper had been the youngest Academy Award nominee ever for his performance in Skippy when he had been under contract with Roach. Although Paramount had paid Roach $25,000 for Cooper's services in that film, Roach paid Cooper only his standard salary of $50 per week.
On January 21, 1992, Roach was a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson , one week after his 100th birthday, where he recounted experiences with such stars as Stan Laurel and Jean Harlow; he even did a brief, energetic demonstration of the "humble hula" dance.In February 1992, Roach traveled to Berlin to receive the honorary award of the Berlinale Kamera for Lifetime Achievement at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.
On March 30, 1992, Roach appeared at the 64th Academy Awards ceremony, hosted by Billy Crystal. When Roach rose from the audience to a standing ovation, he decided to give a speech without a microphone, causing Crystal to quip "I think that's appropriate because Mr. Roach started in silent films."
Hal Roach died in his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, from pneumonia, on November 2, 1992, at the age of 100. He had married twice, and had six children, eight grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren. Roach outlived three of his children by more than 20 years: Hal Jr. (died in 1972), Margaret (died in 1964), and Elizabeth (died in 1946). He also outlived many of the children who starred in his films.Roach is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York, where he grew up.
In the 2018 Laurel and Hardy biopic Stan & Ollie , Roach was portrayed by Danny Huston.
Laurel and Hardy were a British-American comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema, consisting of Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). Starting their career as a duo in the silent film era, they later successfully transitioned to "talkies". From the late 1920s to the mid-1950s, they were internationally famous for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy, childlike friend to Hardy's pompous bully. Their signature theme song, known as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos" was heard over their films' opening credits, and became as emblematic of them as their bowler hats.
Oliver Norvell Hardy was an American comic actor and one half of Laurel and Hardy, the double act that began in the era of silent films and lasted from 1926 to 1957. He appeared with his comedy partner Stan Laurel in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles. He was credited with his first film, Outwitting Dad, in 1914. In most of his silent films before joining producer Hal Roach, he was billed on screen as Babe Hardy.
Charles Joseph Parrott, known professionally as Charley Chase, was an American comedian, actor, screenwriter and film director. He worked for many pioneering comedy studios but is chiefly associated with producer Hal Roach. Chase was the elder brother of comedian/director James Parrott.
Harley M. Walker was a member of the Hal Roach Studios production company from 1916 until his resignation in 1932. The title cards he wrote for Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase, Our Gang and Laurel and Hardy comedies "have entered legend, both for silent films, and as opening remarks for the earlier talkies." He was also an officer of the Roach Studio corporation.
Bored of Education is a 1936 Our Gang short comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas. Produced by Hal Roach and released to theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was the 146th entry in the Our Gang series to be released.
Thomas Ross Bond was an American actor, director, producer and writer. He was best known for his work as a child actor for two nonconsecutive periods in Our Gang comedies. Also, he is noted for being the first actor to appear onscreen as DC Comics character Jimmy Olsen, in the film serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950).
The following is a complete list of the 220 Our Gang short films produced by Hal Roach Studios and/or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer between 1922 and 1944, numbered by order of release along with production order.
Gordon Douglas Brickner was an American film director and actor, who directed many different genres of films over the course of a five-decade career in motion pictures.
Who Killed Doc Robbin is a 1948 film directed by Bernard Carr and starring Larry Olsen, Billy Gray, and Renee Beard. It was produced by Hal Roach and Robert F. McGowan as a reimagining of their Our Gang series.
Hal Roach Studios was an American motion picture and television production studio. Known as The Laugh Factory to the World, it was founded by producer Hal Roach and business partners Dan Linthicum and I.H. Nance as the Rolin Film Company on July 23, 1914. The studio lot, at 8822 Washington Boulevard in Culver City, California, United States, was built in 1920, at which time Rolin was renamed to Hal E. Roach Studios. The first series in Hal Roach Studios were the Willie Work comedies, with first short being A Duke For A Day.
Leroy Bernard Shield was an American film score and radio composer. He is best known for the themes and incidental music he wrote for the classic Hal Roach comedy short films of the 1930s, including the Our Gang and Laurel and Hardy series.
Mae Busch was an Australian-born actress who worked in both silent and sound films in early Hollywood. In the latter part of her career she appeared in many Laurel and Hardy comedies, frequently playing Hardy's shrewish wife.
James Wesley Horne was an American actor, screenwriter, and film director.
Our Gang is an American series of comedy short films chronicling a group of poor neighborhood children and their adventures. Created by film producer Hal Roach, also the producer of the Laurel and Hardy films, Our Gang shorts were produced from 1922 to 1944, spanning the silent film and early sound film periods of American cinema. Our Gang is noted for showing children behaving in a relatively natural way; Roach and original director Robert F. McGowan worked to film the unaffected, raw nuances apparent in regular children, rather than have them imitate adult acting styles. The series also broke new ground by portraying white and black children interacting as equals during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation in the United States.
Pardon Us is a 1931 American pre-Code Laurel and Hardy film. It was the duo's first starring feature-length comedy film, produced by Hal Roach and Stan Laurel, directed by James Parrott, and originally distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1931.
Zenobia is a 1939 comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas and starring Oliver Hardy, Harry Langdon, Billie Burke, Alice Brady, James Ellison, Jean Parker, June Lang, Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniel. The source of the film was the 1891 short story "Zenobia's Infidelity" by H.C. Bunner, which was originally purchased by producer Hal Roach as a vehicle for Roland Young.
Hollywood Party, also known under its working title of The Hollywood Revue of 1933 and Star Spangled Banquet, is a 1934 American pre-Code musical film starring Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Jimmy Durante, Lupe Vélez and Mickey Mouse. It was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Each sequence featured a different star with a separate scriptwriter and director assigned.
The Little Ranger is a 1938 Our Gang short comedy film directed by Gordon Douglas. It was the 169th short in the Our Gang series, and the first produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who purchased the rights to the series from creator Hal Roach.
Hal Roach's Streamliners are a series of featurette comedy films created by Hal Roach that are longer than a short subject and shorter than a feature film, not exceeding 50 minutes in length. Twenty of the 29 features that Roach produced for United Artists were in the streamliner format. They usually consisted of five 10-minute reels.
"Good Old Days", is a 1930 instrumental song written by Leroy Shield, which was the theme song for Hal Roach's Our Gang comedy short films, now known as The Little Rascals.