December 25, 1893
New York City
|Died||December 5, 1984 90) (aged|
|Spouse(s)||Louise Granville (1922–68) (her death); 2 children Phillip Rock and Felippa Rock|
|Awards||1933 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film – Krakatoa|
Joe Rock (born Joseph Simberg, December 25, 1893 – December 5, 1984) was an American film producer, director, actor,and screenwriter. He produced a series of 12 two reel short subject comedies starring Stan Laurel in the 1920s.
Joe Rock began his career as a stunt double for Mary Pickford. He soon became a comedian in silent films working under his real name, Joe Simberg. He had a broad grin and protruding ears, which gave him a comical appearance – but soon found greater success as a producer.
A short-lived career with Vitagraph Studios as a comedian teamed with Earl Montgomery in countless comedy shorts such as Hash and Havoc (1916), Stowaways and Strategy (1917), Farms and Fumbles (1918), Harems and Hookum (1919), Zip and Zest (1919), Vamps and Variety (1919), Rubes and Robbers (1919), Cave and Coquettes (1919), Throbs and Thrills (1920), Loafers and Lovers (1920), and Sauce and Senoritas (1920).
In the book Comedy is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies by Alan Dale, Joe Rock described the two-reelers he made with Earl Montgomery saying, "We always finished our comedies with a shot of us running away from a cop, a schoolteacher, or a principal, and then running smack into them again. If we'd run away from cops, we'd run back into cops."
Rock then enlisted in the U.S. Army for infantry service in World War I.[ when? ][ citation needed ]
By 1924, Stan Laurel had forsaken the stage for full-time film work, and was still involved with actress Mae Dahlberg. Among the films in which they jointly appeared was the 1922 parody, Mud and Sand . Around this time, Mae started interfering with Laurel's work and was holding him back. Laurel insisted (no doubt with pressure from her) that she be in his every picture, but audiences didn't like her. When Joe Rock put Laurel under contract for twelve two-reel comedies, the contract had one unusual stipulation, that Dahlberg was not to appear in any of the films. It was felt that her temperament was hindering his career. When she balked, Rock held firm, finally offering her a most unusual and humiliating deal. He would give her several thousand dollars, along with some jewels she had pawned, if she would go back to Australia. When Stan showed no inclination to demur, she accepted the offer. The ship's purser had strict instructions: Mae would not receive her payment until the ship was a day out at sea. Stan was finally free. Without any distractions, Stan finished the twelve films ahead of schedule, although he was still technically under contract to Joe Rock. Stan next joined the Hal Roach studio as a writer and director, but due to the contract with Joe, could not act in any of the films.
The twelve two-reel comedies were Mandarin Mix-Up (1924), Detained (1924), Monsieur Don't Care (1924), West of Hot Dog (1924), Somewhere in Wrong (1925), Twins (1925), Pie-Eyed (1925), The Snow Hawk (1925), Navy Blue Days (1925), The Sleuth (1925), Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde (1925), Half a Man (1925).
From the Joe Rock Studios came the "A Ton of Fun" series of comedy shorts, promoted at the time as 'starring the three fattest men on the screen'. The series was launched in 1925 and ran two years. Alternatively known as The Three Fatties, they were played in order of girth by Hilliard "Fat" Karr, Kewpie Ross and Frank "Fatty" Alexander. The films were Tailoring (1925), All Tied Up (1925), Three Wise Goofs (1925), Heavy Love (1926), The Heavy Parade (1926), Three of a Kind (1926), Old Tin Shoes (1927), Three Missing Links (1927), and Campus Romeos (1927). Produced by Joe Rock, the shorts were made by Poverty Row studio Standard Photoplay Company and released by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.'s Film Booking Offices of America, (F.B.O.).
Ironically, comedian-turned-producer Joe Rock, who created the series, did not think The Three Fatties were fat enough. Frank Alexander and Kewpie Ross were actually padded far beyond their natural waistlines. Built on the premise that three fat men were funnier than one, Rock created a surprising number of outlandish situations for the trio during the series long run.
The Neptune Film Company opened the first studios in Borehamwood in 1914. It contained just a single small windowless stage (the first "dark stage" in England), relying entirely on electricity from a gas powered generator for lighting. Production ceased during 1917 and the studio was sold to the Ideal Film Company who used the site up until 1924. During 1928 the studio was sold to Ludwig Blattner. The Blattner Studio was leased to Joe Rock Productions during 1934 and 2 years later they purchased the site. Joe Rock appointed Ludwig Blattner's son Gerry as the studio manager.Rock Productions built 4 new large stages and began making films including the feature The Edge of the World (1937). These studios would eventually (in 1984) become BBC Elstree Centre, Clarendon Road Studios, Borehamwood.
In 1935 Rock met director Michael Powell. In return for Powell agreeing to direct The Man Behind the Mask , Rock agreed to back the filming of what would become The Edge of the World , Powell's directorial breakthrough.
As a boy, Rock was an avid reader. He had been very impressed by a book that described the Krakatoa eruption of 1883. In that year, an obscure island in Indonesia exploded in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of recorded history: the explosion was heard thousands of miles away, and many people died. In 1933, for the fiftieth anniversary of the eruption, Joe Rock produced a documentary titled Krakatoa : partly about the island's history before and after the eruption, but mostly about the eruption. Making the documentary was a challenge, because Joe had no film footage of the island and he was unable to locate any witnesses who recalled the original 1883 event. After making this movie on a very low budget and releasing it, Joe went on a trip to England. He had formed a production company to make Krakatoa , but he permitted that company to go out of business because he had no further projects envisioned for it.
Rock has the unenviable distinction of holding one of filmdom's more bizarre records: the longest wait between winning an Academy Award and actually receiving it. Rock produced the 1933 film Krakatoa , a documentary about the volcanic eruption of 1883. This film won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Novelty) in 1933. However, Rock was in Europe at the time that the award was announced, and had no representative to claim the trophy. Rock's name did not appear in the film's credits. Meanwhile, his production company had failed, and when he returned to the United States he could no longer document that he was the head of the production company named in the film's credits. Almost fifty years later, while sorting out some of his papers, Rock located documents which established his proprietary claim ... and the Academy belatedly gave him his statuette.
In 1955, Rock co-produced a documentary exploitation film about the Mau Mau uprising called Mau Mau .
Joe Rock was married to actress Louise Granville. They had two children actress Felippa Rock born in 1923 and writer Phillip Rock born in 1926. His grandson is actor Christopher Pate.
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.
James Parrott was an American actor and film director; and the younger brother of film comedian Charley Chase.
Stan Laurel was an English comic actor, writer, and film director who was part of the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. He appeared with his comedy partner Oliver Hardy in 107 short films, feature films, and cameo roles.
Anita Garvin was a tall American stage performer and film actress who worked in both the silent and sound eras. Before her retirement in 1942, she reportedly appeared in over 350 shorts and features for various Hollywood studios. Her best known roles are as supporting characters in Hal Roach comedies starring Laurel and Hardy and Charley Chase.
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.
Flora Finch was an English-born vaudevillian, stage and film actress who starred in over 300 silent films, including over 200 for the Vitagraph Studios film company. The vast majority of her films from the silent era are currently classified as lost.
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.
Educational Pictures, also known as Educational Film Exchanges, Inc. or Educational Films Corporation of America, was an American film production and film distribution company founded in 1916 by Earle Hammons (1882–1962). Educational primarily distributed short subjects; it is best known for its series of comedies starring Buster Keaton (1934-37) and the earliest screen appearances of Shirley Temple (1932-34). The company ceased production in 1938, and finally closed in 1940 when its film library was sold at auction.
Ford Sterling was an American comedian and actor best known for his work with Keystone Studios. One of the 'Big 4', he was the original chief of the Keystone Cops.
Henry Lehrman was an American actor, screenwriter, director and producer. Lehrman was a very prominent figure of Hollywood's silent film era, working with such cinematic pioneers as D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. He directed, as well as co-starred in, Charlie Chaplin's very first film, Making a Living.
Tit for Tat is a 1935 short comedy film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It is the only direct sequel they made, following the story of Them Thar Hills, which was released the previous year and includes the same two supporting characters, Mr. and Mrs. Hall, portrayed by Charlie Hall and Mae Busch. This "two-reeler" is notable too for being nominated for an Academy Award as Best Live Action Short Film (Comedy) of 1935, although it did not win. It also has a central theme similar to the comedy duo's 1929 silent short Big Business. In the opening scene of Tit for Tat, Oliver places a sign in the front window of his and Stan's electrical store. It reads "Open for Big Business", an allusion to the escalating revenge and "reciprocal destruction" common to both films.
Frank Dwight Alexander was an American silent film comedian and actor. He was occasionally billed as Fatty Alexander.
Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), also known as FBO Pictures Corporation, was an American film studio of the silent era, a producer and distributor of mostly low-budget films. It was founded in 1920 as Robertson–Cole (U.S.), the American division of a British import–export company formed by the English-born Harry F. Robertson. Robertson-Cole bought the Hallmark Exchanges from Frank G. Hall in 1920. Exhibitors-Mutual/Hallmark had distributed Robertson-Cole product, and acquiring the exchanges gave them the right to distribute their own films plus Hall's product, with the exception of Charlie Chaplin reissues which he had the rights to.
Billy West was a film actor, producer, and director. Active during the silent film era, he is best known as a semi-successful Charlie Chaplin impersonator. Beyond acting, he also directed shorts in the 1910s and 20s, as well as produced films. West ultimately retired in 1935.
Charles Albert Murray, was an American film actor of the silent era.
Samuel Bischoff was an American film producer who was responsible for more than 400 full-length films, two-reel comedies, and serials between 1922 and 1964.
A Ton Of Fun was a comedy team who appeared in a series of slapstick silent short films for FBO from 1925 to 1927. The three heavy actors Frank "Fatty" Alexander, Hilliard "Fat" Karr, and Kewpie Ross were each over 300 pounds. Karr was also billed as Fatty Karr. Their first film together was Tailoring in 1925. The last "A Ton Of Fun" film was A Joyful Day in 1928. Ross retired from films after their last film, while Alexander went to work for Hal Roach Studios and Karr appeared in four more films for FBO and RKO.
Kewpie Morgan was an American silent film comedian who also performed in a few early sound films. He appeared in 99 films from 1915 to 1936. He appeared in the films of such comedians as Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. He posthumously appeared in Robert Youngson compilations of the 1960s highlighting silent film comedy.
Earl Triplett Montgomery was a film director, writer, and comedian who performed in silent films including as the character Hairbreadth Harry. He established the producing company Earl Montgomery Comedy Company. Joe Rock partnered with him at Vitagraph.
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