Movie producer Hal Roach teamed Laurel with Hardy and turned a talented yet unaffected group of child actors into "Our Gang" during a career that spanned silent one-reelers and television situation comedies.
At various times during the 1920s, the comedy roster at Hal Roach Studios in Culver City included Harold Lloyd, Will Rogers, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon, Mabel Normand, Snub Pollard, Zasu Pitts, Thelma Todd, Patsy Kelly and Irvin S. Cobb.
But it was Roach's creation of Our Gang and the teaming of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy that gave the small, independent studio its biggest successes and created an enduring comedy legacy.
Those creative strokes also earned Roach two Academy Awards for best short subjects: Laurel and Hardy's "The Music Box" in 1932 and Our Gang's "Bored of Education" in 1936.
While working for a construction outfit in the Mojave Desert in 1912 that the 20-year-old Roach paid a fateful visit to Los Angeles.
He discovered that movie extras worked only from 8 to 4—when the sun was shining—and received car fare and lunch. They also earned $5 a day, which, Roach later recalled, "was a whole lot of money in those days."
An expert horseman, Roach became a cowboy extra for Universal, one of the many fledgling companies springing up around Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, at that time so rural that a sign on the back of a streetcar warned passengers, "Don't shoot rabbits from the rear platform."
Roach's lack of experience did not prevent him from rising quickly through the ranks to assistant director and director. Indeed, in that primitive era of hand-cranked movie cameras and open-air sets, Roach once said, "Nobody knew much about what they were doing."
His first picture, a one-reel Western, featured his actor-friend Harold Lloyd, who became Roach's first star. Beginning with the "Lonesome Luke" comedy series, and later donning horn-rimmed glasses, Lloyd went on to become one of the top comedians of the silent era.
From simple one-reel comedies, many of which Roach wrote on the way to locations in and around Los Angeles, he progressed to producing two-reelers with stronger story lines and character development.
In the 1930s, when the demand for short subjects began to wane with the advent of feature double bills, Roach turned to production of feature-length movies, including the sophisticated "Topper" series, "One Million B.C." and, most notably, the screen version of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."
After the war, Roach became the first major Hollywood producer to switch completely to TV production. By 1951, after three years, Hal Roach Studios was producing 1,500 hours of TV films a year.
Among the many early series produced by Roach or filmed at his studio were "The Life of Riley," "Amos and Andy," "My Little Margie," "Racket Squad," "Trouble With Father" and "Topper."
Dennis McLellan in the Los Angeles Times
|1931||Best Short Subject - Comedy||The Music Box||Win|
|1935||Best Short Subject - Comedy||Tit for Tat||Nomination|
|1936||Best Short Subject - One Reel||Bored of Education||Win|