How much did you know about the various series the Hal Roach Studios produced?
That’s Roach himself above in the middle with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the creators of the Studios’ most successful comedy series that sold gangbusters as shorts in the mid-Twenties (and are still selling today in video and other platforms).
Later in the Twenties, comedienne Thelma Todd ( below right) joined Roach’s talent roster solidifying her hold as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished short-comedy actresses. She churned out a number of titles accompanied by Laurel and Hardy, and most famously teamed in the early Thirties with actress ZaSu Pitts (below left).
Todd was the quick-witted sophisticated blond to Pitts’ somewhat dimwitted brunette. The pair worked so well together than Roach decided to promote their partnership as a female version of Laurel and Hardy.
In the 1920’s alone, Hal Roach studios churned out some 2,000 comedy shorts. And atypical for Hollywood producer, Roach was well liked, almost beloved, by the talent in his studio pictures. He was, said Todd, a really wonderful man.
Ok, on to the answers to our first Hal Roach Quiz of the week, concentrating on the series created at his studio, founded in 1914.
Question 1) In the late teens and early 1920’s, Roach parlayed the considerable comedic skills of which one of the following into a series of hugely successful pictures. a) Charlie Chaplin; b) Charley Chase; c) Edgar Kennedy; or d) Harold Lloyd.
Answer: d) Harold Lloyd. There he is, above left. with the pipe-smoking Roach. The two parlayed a string of highly successful comedies into box office smashes lasting over a decade. Lloyd’s signature “glasses” everyman character was developed during his time with Roach.
Question 2) By the 1920’s Roach was considered Hollywood’s “King of Comedy.” Who had had previously held that title? a) Charlie Chaplin; b) Mack Sennett; c) Fatty Arbuckle; or d) Groucho Marx.
Answer: b) Mack Sennett, another creator of “inspired chaos” on film.
Question 3) Those pictured directly above are the participants in one of many versions of the Our Gang comedy series Roach created. What was his inspiration? a) Observation of his own children; b) Watching a group of kids playing in a vacant lot near his office; c) Repeated readings of Mark Twain; d) None of the above.
Answer: b) Roach was transfixed one day in his office staring out at a vacant lot populated by kids at play. That led to the idea of the Our Gang comedy series, popular and enduring to this day.
Question 4) How many child actors in total played at various times roles in the Our Gang series over its lifetime from 1922 to 1944? a) 15; b) 21; c) 34 or d) 41.
Answer: d) 41.
Question 5) Laurel and Hardy signed with Hal Roach in 1927, and remained with him until 1940. (They had previously worked separately.) Their comedies are now considered Roach’s most successful series. a) True; or b) False.
Answer: a) True, although the Our Gang series may giving the L&H series a run for its money.