Roach in 1920
Harry 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.|
Harry Eugene "Hal" Roach Sr.(January 14, 1892 – November 2, 1992) was an American film and television producer, director, actor and studio executive, who was the founder of the namesake Hal Roach Studio, who was active in the industry from the 1910s to the 1990s. He is remembered today 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.
Hal 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.A presentation by the great American humorist Mark Twain impressed Roach as a young grade school student.
After an adventurous youth that took him to Alaska, Hal Roach arrived in Hollywood, California, in 1912 and began working as an extra in silent films. Upon coming into an inheritance, he began producing short film comedies in 1915 with his friend Harold Lloyd, who portrayed a character known as Lonesome Luke.
In September 1916, Roach married actress Marguerite Nichols. They had two children, Hal Jr. (June 15, 1918 – March 29, 1972), who followed his father as a producer and director, and Margaret M. Roach (March 15, 1921 – November 22, 1964), who worked as an actress in the 1930s and 1940s. Marguerite died in March 1941.
Roach married a second time on September 1, 1942, to Lucille Prin (January 20, 1913 – April 4, 1981), a Los Angeles secretary.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), Jeanne Alice Roach (born October 7, 1949), and Kathleen Bridget Roach (born January 29, 1951).
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, Lupe Vélez, Patsy Kelly and, most famously, Laurel and Hardy. During the 1920s, Roach's biggest rival was producer Mack Sennett. In 1925, Roach hired away Sennett's supervising director, F. Richard Jones.
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 children (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. Short films became less profitable and were generally phased out by 1936, save for the Our Gang series. An Our Gang feature film General Spanky did not do as well as expected; Roach continued making the shorts for MGM.
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 (not the government) providing US$6 million that would enable Roach's studio to produce a series of 12 films. Eight would be for Italian screening only whilst 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 films (save for Laurel & Hardy titles and the odd non-L&H hit such as 1937's 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 , 1937, 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. 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, etc.).
Hal Roach, Sr., commissioned in the US Army Signal Reserve Corps in 1927was 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 W. 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 go to 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.
Recognizing the value of his film library, in 1943 Roach began licensing revivals of his sound-era productions for theatrical and home-movie distribution. Roach's films were also early arrivals on television. His Laurel and Hardy comedies were successful in television syndication, as were the Our Gang comedies produced from 1927-1938, for which in 1949 Roach had bought back the rights from MGM and re-branded for television as "The Little Rascals".He thus became one of the first significant film producers to venture into television. Notably not one of his former child stars was ever paid a cent in residuals from the substantial profits netted.
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 soon lost the studio to creditors. It was finally shut down in 1961.
For two more decades, Roach Sr. occasionally worked as a consultant on projects related to his past work. 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 amongst the crowd and started the standing ovation for Hal Roach. Cooper's gratitude towards Roach was especially notable. 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 21 January 1992, Roach was a guest on The Tonight Show starring 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 a hula dance. In February 1992, Roach travelled 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 for 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, just two months before his 101st birthday. 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.
The 14.5 acre (58,680 m²) studio once known as "The Lot of Fun", containing 55 buildings, was demolished in 1963 (despite tentative plans to reopen the facilities as "Landmark Studios"), after one last movie, Dime with a Halo (1963), with Barbara Luna, was made there in 1963 by Boris Sagal (to Sagal, the forlorn facility looked like a run-down Mexican city).
They were replaced by light industrial buildings, businesses, and an automobile dealership. Today, Culver City's "Landmark Street" runs down what was the middle of the old studio lot, with the two original sound stages having been located on the north side of Landmark Street, and the backlot/city street sets had been located at the eastern end of Landmark Street. A plaque sits in a small park across from the studio's location, placed there by The Sons of the Desert.
Most of the film library was bought in 1971 by a Canadian company that adopted the "Hal Roach Studios" name. It primarily handled the business of keeping the library in the public eye and licensing products based upon the classic film series.
In 1983, Hal Roach Studios became one of the first studios to venture into the controversial business of film colorization. Buying a fifty percent interest in Wilson Markle's Colorization Inc, it began creating digitally colored versions of several Laurel and Hardy features, the Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and other popular films. In the 1980s, Hal Roach Studios produced Kids Incorporated in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Roach's old distributor in the 1930s. During the 1980s, Hal Roach Studios distributed its classic film library, as well as films in the public domain, on home video. 1986 saw the merger of Hal Roach Studios with the production firm of Robert Halmi into Qintex Entertainment, named after Australian investor Qintex. Under this name, Qintex collaborated with Universal Television to distribute The New Leave It To Beaver in syndication and the Canadian drama T. and T. , starring Mr. T, with Canadian animation house Nelvana. However, Qintex's Australian parent ended up collapsing under a crushing debtload, forcing Qintex Entertainment into bankruptcy.
In the years that followed, the Roach company changed hands several more times. Independent television producer Robert Halmi (who had merged his company with Roach) bought the company in the early 1990s after the bankruptcy of Qintex, and it became RHI Entertainment. A short time later, this successor company was acquired by Hallmark Entertainment in 1994, but Halmi, Robert Halmi Jr. and affiliates of Kelso & Company reacquired the company in 2006. Hallmark Entertainment was absorbed into RHI Entertainment (with Vivendi as the current home video output partner).
In that same decade, a new incarnation of Hal Roach Studios (operated by the Roach Trust) was established, and today this new version of the company has released classic films on DVD, many of which are from Roach's own archival prints of his films, while others are public domain titles mastered from the best available 35 mm elements.
Mack Sennett was a Canadian-American film actor, director, and producer, and studio head, known as the 'King of Comedy'.
Laurel and Hardy were a comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy. The duo's signature tune is known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos". It was played over the opening credits of their films and has become as emblematic of the duo as their bowler hats.
George McFarland was an American actor most famous for his appearances as a child as Spanky in the Our Gang series of short-subject comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. The Our Gang shorts were later syndicated to television as The Little Rascals.
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 1927 to 1955. 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 best known for his work in Hal Roach short film comedies. He 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. Bond was best known for his work as a child actor for two nonconsecutive periods on Our Gang comedies. Also, he is noted for being the first actor to appear onscreen as "Superman's pal" Jimmy Olsen, having portrayed the character 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, in order of release.
Gordon Douglas was an American film director, who directed many different genres of films over the course of a five-decade career in motion pictures. He was a native of New York City.
Hal Roach Studios was an American motion picture and television production studio. Known as The Laugh Factory to the World, the studio 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, located 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.
Leroy 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 1920s–30s, including the Our Gang and Laurel and Hardy series.
James Wesley Horne was an early American actor, screenwriter and film director. He began his career as an actor under director Sidney Olcott at Kalem Studios in 1913 and directed his first film for the company two years later.
Our Gang is an American series of comedy short films chronicling a group of poor neighborhood children and their adventures. The films were created by studio executive Hal Roach, who was best known as the man behind the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. The series was produced in various formats from 1922 to 1944 and 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 broke new ground by portraying white and black children interacting as equals.
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.
Qintex Ltd. was an Australian financial services company founded in 1975 as Takeovers, Equities & Management Securities (TEAM). It was renamed Qintex Ltd and came to prominence in 1986, collapsing five years later in 1991. Its main shareholder and Managing Director was Christopher Skase. Qintex was made up of several companies, including Qindex Limited, Qintex Australia, Qintex Entertainment, and Qintex Productions.
Edward Sedgwick was an American film director, writer, actor and producer.
Sonar Entertainment, Inc., formerly known as RHI Entertainment, Hallmark Entertainment, Qintex Entertainment, HRI Group and Robert Halmi Inc., is an American entertainment company specializing in television miniseries and movies and owned by Catalyst Capital Group. The company was founded in 1979 by Robert Halmi Jr. and Robert Halmi Sr. (1924–2014) as Robert Halmi, Inc. The company uses the direct-to-series model for TV series.
The Stolen Jools is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy short produced by the Masquers Club of Hollywood, featuring many cameo appearances by film stars of the day. The stars appeared in the film, distributed by Paramount Pictures, to raise funds for the National Vaudeville Artists Tuberculosis Sanitarium. The UCLA Film and Television Archive entry for this film says—as do the credits—that the film was co-sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes to support the "fine work" of the NVA sanitarium.
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.
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