Production and Support Cast Biographies

Hal Roach

(1892 - 1992)

Occupation: Producer
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 starring Lloyd.
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.

James Finlayson

(1887 - 1953)

AKA: Jimmy Finlayson
Occupation: Actor
Born: August 27, 1887, Falkirk, Scotland
Died: 1953

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.

Edgar Kennedy

(1890 - 1948)

Occupation: Actor
Born: April 26, 1890, Monterey, CA
Died: 1948

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 situations.

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 TV.

He also appeared in scores of feature films up to his death.

Mae Busch

(1897 - 1946)

Occupation: Actress
Born: January 20, 1897, Melbourne, Australia
Died: 1946

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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