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carole lombard 07

TCM's Roach clips will get you high this month

Posted by vp19 on 2011.01.02 at 09:04
Current mood: giddygiddy

That's a teenaged Carol(e) Lombard sprinting with cosmetics in the 1928 Mack Sennett two-reeler "Run, Girl, Run." This month, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. will be showing films from the other impresario of early comedy, Hal Roach, whose studio released a prodigious array of product for more than four and a half decades.

Lombard never worked for Roach, who often is lumped together with Sennett, which isn't fair to either man. Sennett's peak came during the 1910s and early '20s; by the time Lombard joined his troupe of bathing beauties in 1927, his studio had seen better days. In contrast, Roach was coming into his own, and when talkies arrived at the end of the decade, he embraced the new technology far more than Sennett did. Moreover, while Sennett's work was almost entirely in comedy shorts, Roach produced a number of features and non-comedies, and even did some television work in the 1950s.

TCM is running plenty of Roach material -- four 24-hour blocks, from 8 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesdays through 8 p.m. Wednesdays. If this excites you (and it should!), thank Thelma Todd, the "ice cream blonde" shown above with Zasu Pitts. The "Summer Under The Stars" salute to Todd on Aug. 30, which included numerous short subjects where she was teamed with Pitts or Patsy Kelly, was an overwhelming success for the channel. (To our Canadian friends, you are again out of luck, as TCM will air substitute programming. Apparently no one knows who controls the rights to most of Roach's catalog in Canada.)

Jan. 4 and 5 is dedicated to the "Our Gang" shorts. (Roach sold the franchise to MGM in 1938, but retained rights to the earlier films; when the television age arrived, he repackaged them under the name "The Little Rascals.") TCM is running more than 50 of these movies (all of them premieres for the channel), and while the schedule is just too voluminous to run here, note that from 8 p.m. to 4:45 a.m., films from the 1930s will be shown, while the rest of the schedule focuses on 1920s product, most of them silent and with an earlier cast of kids.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, arguably the most beloved of comedy teams, are probably the performers most identified with Roach. TCM salutes the boys on Jan. 11 and 12 with 40 shorts, nearly half of them premiering on the channel, and three of their lesser-known features ("Pardon Us," "Pack Up Your Troubles" and "The Bohemian Girl"), airing at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Among the shorts, check out "Brats" at 11 a.m. Wednesday, where Stan and Ollie play both themselves and their offspring (through oversized sets).

In 1955-56, Roach's studio produced a TV version of the old radio anthology "Screen Directors Playhouse" for NBC. Ten of the 35 episodes are to be broadcast Jan. 18 and 19, including John Wayne's first television appearance (it was also the TV directing debut for John Ford); Wayne plays a sportswriter in the baseball drama "Rookie Of The Year" (8:30 p.m.) and the cast includes his son Patrick as a hot-shot pitcher. Another highlight: "The Silent Partner" (9:30 p.m.), featuring Buster Keaton as a washed-up comic watching the Academy Awards on TV at a nearby restaurant and seeing his former director given a lifetime achievement award.

After these episodes, TCM shows 19 hours worth of assorted comedy shorts, including work from Todd and Charley Chase.

The last block, Jan. 25 and 26, focuses on the features from Roach's studios, and Chase is a supporting player in the first offering, Laurel and Hardy's classic "Sons Of The Desert" (8 p.m. Wednesday). Most of the films are comedies, but the schedule also includes the 1939 adventure "Captain Fury" (11:30 a.m. Wednesday), which Roach himself directed.

Constance Bennett fans will have three chances to catch Connie: first, the original "Topper" (10:30 p.m. Tuesday); the sequel, "Topper Takes A Trip," where she's shown above with Roland Young (10 a.m. Wednesday); and the ersatz "My Man Godfrey" comedy, "Merrily We Live" (5:45 a.m. Wednesday).

All in all, a wondrous batch of films, made or produced by a man who reached age 100 and was active in Hollywood until the end. Thank you, Hal Roach. (Here he is, at right, with Sennett and another legendary filmmaker, Frank Capra.)


loxiearcane at 2011-01-03 18:11 (UTC) (Link)
Really looking forward to this!! "Roach clips," LOL!!!
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