Hal Roach

Boys Will Be Joys (1925, Robert F. McGowan)

Boys Will Be Joys is a strange Our Gang outing, simply because the story doesn’t belong to the Gang. Instead, sixty year-old industrialist Paul Weigel has grown bored being a successful grown-up and just wants to goof off.

Luckily, he happens to be developing a plot of land the Gang has built an incredible amateur amusement park on and they come by his office demanding he stop developing.

There’s a shocking lack of tension to Joys. It’s fairly certain from a few minutes in–after Weigel bats a couple balls with some teenagers in a ballgame–the Gang isn’t going to meet with much resistance from the “adult.” Weigel even orders his subordinates to run the machinery so the boys can enjoy the rides.

McGowan’s got some decent shots and the amusement park set-up is rather impressive.

I think there’s only one gag in the entire picture.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by F. Richard Jones; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jannie Hoskins (Jannie), Jay R. Smith (Jay), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and Paul Weigel (Henry Mills).


War Feathers (1926, Robert F. McGowan and Robert A. McGowan)

I expected an Our Gang short titled War Feathers to be racist, but I was unprepared for how racist it gets.

It opens with the kids torturing a train conductor–and Joe Cobb in blackface. Sorry, “chocolate” face. The poor conductor doesn’t just have to try to contain them, he’s also got them pretending to be good for their parents. Of course the parents don’t believe a black train conductor.

It makes you wonder if the point’s to want to see the kids drown.

Then the kids leave the train and go to an Old West town. There they see a lot of Native Americans. One eventually kidnaps Farina.

In an interesting turn of events, after outlaws kidnap Farina again, he gets sick. They try to help him, making them the nicer than anyone else in Feathers.

It finishes with the Gang stranded in the wilderness. Unfortunately not to stay.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan and Robert A. McGowan; written and produced by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; edited by Richard C. Currier; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Joe Cobb (Joe), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Jannie Hoskins (Mango), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Scooter Lowry (Skooter), Clifton Young (Bonedust), Jay R. Smith (Jay), Peggy Ahearn (Peggy), Mildred Kornman (Mildred), Chet Brandenburg (Rancher at the Whistling Clam), Allan Cavan (Train passenger), George B. French (Rancher at the Whistling Clam), Ham Kinsey (Conductor) and Sam Lufkin (Sheriff).


No Noise (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

In some ways, No Noise has it all. Kids getting high off laughing gas, then enjoying a little electrocution, there’s some cross-dressing… it seems like there’s even more. The threat of Farina being operated on by the Our Gang kids. Actually, Farina’s practically in drag too. I guess boys and girls closes weren’t particularly distinct in the twenties. When Mickey Daniels shows up wearing Mary Kornman’s dress, the other boys don’t even bat an eye.

The short is weak at the start and finish, but relatively strong in the middle. McGowan composes some good shots during the gang’s initial trip to the hospital (to visit Mickey and eat ice cream). It all falls apart at the end with these endless “haunted hospital” gags. The sets look terrible in that sequence.

And the weak open is all Daniels’s fault. An annoying twerp isn’t a good protagonist.

Noise is benignly dreadful.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; screenplay by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Ernest Morrison (Sunshine Sammy), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jack Davis (Jack), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and Beth Darlington (Mickey’s nurse).


Oliver the Eighth (1934, Lloyd French)

Watching Oliver Hardy muddle through Oliver the Eighth‘s terrible dialogue makes one wonder if the short truly did not have a writer–there isn’t one credited–or if the actors just made it up on the spot.

Given the rampant stupidity in Eighth, the latter seems more likely.

The short’s idiotic “writing” hampers it more than enough and director French’s ineptitude just makes the viewing experience work. Eighth concerns Hardy and Stan Laurel ending up locked in a house with a murderous widow and her nutty butler. The butler, played by Jack Barty, is mildly amusing at times, making him the only good thing in Eighth.

In order for the plot to work Hardy and Laurel have to be incredibly stupid and incredibly passive. The short opens with them owning a barber shop. It isn’t believable they could get to a job, much less own a business.

Eighth is awful.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Lloyd French; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Bert Jordan; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Oliver), Mae Busch (Mrs. Fox) and Jack Barty (Jitters the Butler).


The Hoose-Gow (1929, James Parrott)

The Hoose-Gow is something of an early talkie mess. The shots are paced for a silent movie, leaving long awkward pauses in the soundtrack. The short’s synchronized sound is a fledgling effort. The stock sounds, when used, are obvious.

Parrott’s direction is problematic throughout, with his main deficiency becomes lucid at the finish. The short ends in a food fight and Parrott goes out of his way to remind the audience where the food (a big mess of rice) is on the frame. His direction’s artless and boring, which means the performers need to make it work. And they don’t. How can they with the awkward pacing of the scene.

The lack of sound hurts Stan Laurel mostly–Oliver Hardy gets more talking, sure–but Laurel’s often left without sound for his nervous tick behavior.

Besides George Stevens’s truly wondrous photography, The Hoose-Gow has nothing to recommend it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by James Parrott; written by H.M. Walker; director of photography, George Stevens; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Tiny Sandford (Warden), James Finlayson (Governor) and Leo Willis (Leo).


Dogs of War (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

Dogs of War features some of Robert F. McGowan’s finest directorial work. Sure, he’s aping World War I movies–specifically trench warfare and no man’s land, which seem highly inappropriate subjects for comedy–but it’s incredibly well-directed. A lot of his setups are shockingly good.

The “war” aspect of Dogs only lasts about nine minutes before the short moves into its better setting–a movie studio. The Our Gang kids crash the studio when the girl (the real girl, Mary Kornman, not Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins, who’s gender-bending this time) gets a bit part.

The movie studio antics are amusing without ever getting particularly funny. The gang–no one stands out, not even Farina–is endearing though and Dogs passes the time nicely.

The Harold Lloyd cameo doesn’t hurt.

After the incredibly uncomfortable and off-putting opening, Dogs turns out to be a rather pleasant outing for the gang.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Harry W. Gerstad; edited by Thomas J. Crizer; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Joe Cobb (Joe), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Jack Davis (Jack), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Ernest Morrison (Sunshine Sammy), Mary Kornman (Mary), Dick Gilbert (Studio guard) and William Gillespie (Director).


Helping Grandma (1931, Robert F. McGowan)

Helping Grandma gives the impression directing Our Gang shorts for so long, McGowan lost (or never developed) any ability to direct adults. The way he holds shots on the kids, making sure they get their gags done, makes sense… even if it lacks any artistry. But in Grandma, he inexplicably holds shots on Margaret Mann. She’s not doing gags, just poorly delivering dialogue. It’s completely unnecessary.

The story concerns the gang helping Mann at the grocery store. The short actually does distinguish itself in a few ways. First is the racism. The older kids don’t treat Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins any different, but the younger ones do. Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins is constantly abusing Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard and Grandma makes high minded “watermelon” jokes at Beard’s expense.

Second, there’s an anti-corporate sentiment about chain stores. It’s sort of interesting… though it’s eventually invalidated.

Grandma could be worse. But not by much.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by McGowan and Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins (Wheezer), Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard (Stymie), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Mary Ann Jackson (Mary Ann), Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney (Chubby), Jackie Cooper (Jackie), Shirley Jean Rickert (Shirley), Clifton Young (Bonedust), Dorothy DeBorba (Dorothy), Donald Haines (Speck), Oscar Apfel (Mr. Pennypacker) and Margaret Mann (Mrs. Margaret Mack).


The Nightlife (1930, James Parrott)

The Nightlife is an unfunny mess of asynchronous sound. If I’ve ever seen a Laurel and Hardy picture before, I can’t remember, and maybe starting off with one of their Spanish-language pictures was a bad idea. There’s no ambient sound for most of the short and it often feels like a silent comedy drug out to sound pacing.

I assume there isn’t a lot of dialogue–or ambient sound–because Laurel and Hardy didn’t actually speak Spanish (from what I’ve read); they used cue cards and their delivery makes Nightlife a hideous curiosity. Even Linda Loredo, who one assumes speaks Spanish, is terrible in her deliveries. Laurel and Hardy make it sound like they’ve never heard the language spoken.

Parrott’s direction is really weak; he and editor Richard C. Currier hold shots way too long. If there was any humor, they’d be draining it.

Nightlife‘s too lame for words.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by James Parrott; written by Leo McCarey and H.M. Walker; director of photography, George Stevens; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie) and Linda Loredo (Mrs. Laurel).


Now or Never (1921, Fred C. Newmeyer and Hal Roach)

Now or Never takes a long time to get to the basic comedic plot–Harold Lloyd is stuck taking care of a little kid on a train ride. The kid, played by Anna Mae Bilson, is absolutely adorable and a perfect foil for Lloyd. She’s his costar, not romantic interest Mildred Davis, which is somewhat unfortunate.

The film takes a kitchen sink approach, with Lloyd not just speeding in a car, but also hopping a train before getting onboard Never‘s principal train. About fifteen minutes could easily come off the front, since it doesn’t feature Lloyd and Bilson together.

Roach and Newmeyer’s direction, even of the pointless parts, is excellent and Lloyd’s good, which makes Never painless (if still overlong). The finale, when Lloyd’s on top of the train–an inevitability for train movies–is fantastic. The stunt work is mesmerizing.

It’s cute and very likable, but fairly shallow overall.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Hal Roach; written by Sam Taylor; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Walter Lundin; edited by Thomas J. Crizer; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl) and Anna Mae Bilson (The Lonesome Little Child).


Get Out and Get Under (1920, Hal Roach)

Like a lot of silent shorts, Get Out and Get Under has three distinct phases. The first phase involves Harold Lloyd as a suitor for Mildred Davis. He’s got to race to stop her wedding. This phase sets a certain expectation for Get Out‘s pace; the rest of the short doesn’t live up to it.

Instead, the second phase is this incredibly laid back comedy of inconvenience. It’s not errors, just little things adding up. There are some good laughs in this section (the best laughs in the short), but it also establishes Lloyd’s character as a callous dimwit. Lloyd’s still likable because he’s Lloyd but there’s nothing to the character.

The third section is a lengthy chase involving Lloyd and some motorcycle cops. Again, it’s boring. The most compelling moment is when the cops think their shooting him for speeding.

Get Out isn’t bad, it’s just wholly uninspired filmmaking.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Walter Lundin; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl) and Fred McPherson (The Rival).


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