(1892 - 1992)
Also: Screenwriter, director
Born: January 14, 1892, Elmira, NY
Died: November 2, 1992, Los Angeles, CA
Former mule skinner and gold prospector who stumbled into film in 1912, serving
as stuntman and bit player in a number of Universal action films and westerns.
With backing from Pathé, Roach and former Universal cohort Harold Lloyd formed
the Rolin company in 1914 and commenced production on a series of comic shorts
Such was the success of the "Lonesome Luke" films that
Roach was able to take over a large, fully equipped studio in Culver City
in 1919. There he continued to turn out successful comedies, distinguished
from the Keystone company's product by an emphasis on narrative structure
as opposed to sight gags.
In 1921 Roach inaugurated the "Our Gang" series,
which remained popular over the next two decades. Other notable productions
included SAFETY LAST (1923), starring Lloyd; FROM SOUP TO NUTS (1928),
starring Laurel and Hardy (whom Roach had first teamed the previous year); and
OF MICE AND MEN (1939), directed by Lewis Milestone.
Although Roach became increasingly involved with the administration
of his organization, he continued to enjoy occasional stints as a director
Actors who developed their careers under Roach's guidance included Mickey
Rooney, Charlie Chase and Zasu Pitts; directors included George Stevens,
Norman Z. McLeod and Leo McCarey.
Adept at staying abreast of developments within
the industry, Roach moved into sound films in the early 1930s, switched to
feature production (in partnership with his son, Hal Roach, Jr.) later
in the decade, and turned his attention to TV in the late 1940s.
The Hal Roach Television Corporation, formed in 1948, enjoyed
intermittent success until its eventual demise in the late 1950s.
(1887 - 1953)
AKA: Jimmy Finlayson
Born: August 27, 1887, Falkirk, Scotland
He was sent to Edinburgh by his well-to-do-parents to study at the university
but instead was drawn to the stage.
He appeared in several plays in Scotland,
then won a part in a play touring the US. When the troupe stopped in Los Angeles
in 1916, Finlayson decided to stay and try his luck in films. After appearing
briefly in Ince and L-KO comedies, he became a regular player with Mack Sennett
in feature-length comedies of the early 20s.
In 1923 he joined Hal Roach, for whom
he played leads and supporting parts in numerous comedies. Bald and moustachioed,
with a noticeable squint and a special knack for effective double takes, he is best
remembered as an explosive catalyst in Laurel and Hardy films from the late 20s.
Continued appearing in films through the early 50s.
(1890 - 1948)
Born: April 26, 1890, Monterey, CA
After four years of clowning and singing in vaudeville and musical comedy,
he began his film career in 1914 in Keystone comedies, playing second banana
to Charlie Chaplin and other comedy stars.
He remained with Mack Sennett for
several years. In the 20s he began playing comic character parts in feature
films in addition to his appearances in comedy shorts. He also occasionally
tried his hand at directing, sometimes using the name E. Livingston Kennedy.
In 1928 he joined the Hal Roach studio, where he gained popularity in a number
of Laurel and Hardy comedies, two of which he directed, under the
name E. Livingston Kennedy. It was during this period that he perfected his
trademark, the "slow burn," a delayed explosive reaction to frustrating
Before leaving Roach in 1930, Kennedy also appeared in several
Our Gang comedies.
Beginning in 1931 he starred in a popular two-reel comedy
series, originally called The Average Man and later The Edgar Kennedy series,
depicting the everyday tribulations of the average Joe American, henpecked
by wife, harassed by mother-in-law, and unable to cope with the pressures of
modern living. The series lasted for 17 years, until Kennedy's death of
throat cancer. Many of the films have been recently popping up on late night
He also appeared in scores of feature films up to his death.
(1897 - 1946)
Born: January 20, 1897, Melbourne, Australia
In the US from childhood, she was educated in a New Jersey convent.
While still in her teens she joined the Keystone company, appearing
in such early films as THE COWBOY SOCIALIST (1912)/THE AGITATOR and A FAVORITE FOOL (1915),
the latter with Eddie Foy, with whom she also appeared in several Broadway plays.
She played lead roles in many other early silents, then rose to prominence with her
starring role in Erich von Stroheim's FOOLISH WIVES (1922). She remained active in
films until the mid-30s. In 1930 she began appearing regularly in Laurel and Hardy
two-reel comedies and feature films, sometimes as a vamp, at other times as
Hardy's wife, and often as a foil of the duo's antics.
At one time she was
married to actor Francis McDonald.
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