The Lot Of Fun

With big Studios like Paramount, Warner Brothers, Disney and Sony making up the powerhouses of  LA production real estate, it's hard to remember the smaller guys who once ruled Tinseltown.  One of the most influential was The Hal Roach Studios.

Located on Washington Blvd in Culver City, The Hal Roach Studios was once a thriving working production facility which turned out thousands of silent motion pictures, feature-length films, serials, westerns, radio shows and television programs...most notably "Laurel and Hardy" and "The Little Rascals."

It was here that the films and filmmakers who defined Hollywood's Golden Age of Comedy made their mark.

An aerial view of Hal Roach studios in 1938
The 14.5 acres studio, which was once known as "The Lot of Fun" consisted of 55 buildings and six sound stages that would support six series.  Stage 4 doubled as both a shooting stage and a place for scoring with a state of the art sound booth and a massive projection booth that beamed images onto an enormous screen that went all the way up the side of the soundstage.

In 1980, Culver City honored Roach with a mini-park in his honor. A plaque marks "The site of the Hal Roach Studios, Laugh Factory of the World, 1919-1963"

In case you are not familiar with Hal Roach.....Harold Eugene “Hal” Roach Sr. (January 14, 1892 – November 2, 1992) was an American film and television producer, director, and actor from the 1910s to the 1990s, who is best known for producing the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang film comedy series and many Harold Lloyd comedies...and for creating the Hal Roach Studios.

Roach purchased what became the Hal Roach Studios from Harry Culver in Culver City in the early 1900's, and the studio opened its doors in 1919, but it was the 1930s that was the golden era for the Roach studios with a star line-up that included some of the most popular comedians around: Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chase, Our Gang, Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts.

The first star Roach created was Harold Lloyd, whose pictures during the 1920s grossed more than anyone else's in Hollywood. With Roach as his producer and often his director, Harold Lloyd developed an exciting, sophisticated style of comedy. One couldn't build a successful studio on just a single star though, and Roach spun off supporting characters, like Snub Pollard (into his own series) and later Sunshine Sammy (into Our Gang). Stan Laurel was signed from vaudeville and given a series, too.

Some of the notable writers, directors, and photographers who got their start and learned their craft working here were Leo McCarey, George Stevens, Frank Tashlin, Gordon Douglas, William Beaudine, Tay Garnet; Frank Capra, Hal Mohr, George Marshall, Clyde Bruckman, and Frank Butler.

Among the performers who graduated from Roach comedies on their way to stardom elsewhere were Jean Harlow, Lupe Velez, Janet Gaynor, Jean Arthur, Bebe Daniels, Fay Wray, Paulette Goddard, and Boris Karloff.

Studio Badge
He also employed Will Rogers, Max Davidson, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon, Lupe Vélez, and Patsy Kelly.

The staff at Hal Roach Studios c 1925
The studio shot many many TV shows including all 74 episodes of the "Amos 'N Andy" series before CBS pulled the plug caused by pressure from the NAACP.  

That studio produced 50 comedies a year plus features.  Here is a small list of things shot at Roach:

Abbott & Costello (season 1)
Amos 'n' Andy
Duffy's Tavern
I'm The Law
My Little Margie
Mystery Theatre
Racket Squad
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger
The Stu Erwin Show (aka Trouble With Father; Life With Father)
Public Defender
Life Of Riley
It's A Great Life
Passport to Adventure
Adventures of Superman (episodes "The Case of the Talkative Dummy" and "The Mystery of the Broken Statues," per Jerry S.)
Twilight Zone episode "Two"

The Hal Roach backlot in the Twilight Zone episode 'Two'
During the war, the Roach Studio took on another nickname "Fort Roach," because training films by Ronald Reagan, Alan Ladd and a multitude of other industry folks were created and shot here.

Following the war, the Roach Studios resumed its feature film production activity with the construction of new stages and facilities, but after time, nothing could save the failing studio.  In 1955, Roach sold his beloved studio to his less creative son Hal Roach Jr. who eventually declared it bankrupt.  In 1963 the lot was demolished, and nothing remains...another piece of Hollywood gone forever.

but alas...if you ever find your way to the site of the old studio, you can still see a glimmer of days gone by:

A plaque, marking the Hal Roach Studios, still sits on the site where the studio once stood... a place where the kids from Our Gang and Laurel And Hardy once made Hollywood magic.

The "Lot of Fun" is now only a memory, but the comedy legacy it produced lives on.

Hal Roach Studios....we ❤️you!!!

The Lot Of Fun The Lot Of Fun Reviewed by #IheartHollywood on January 30, 2018 Rating: 5

1 comment

  1. Great Article....wonderful blog. Thanks