Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL with Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte Broadcast LIVE every other Monday at 10pm ET, 7pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio. The program will then be repeated Tuesday thru Sunday at the same time (10pm ET, 7pm PT) on Shokus Radio for the next two weeks, and then will be posted on line at our archives page at TVConfidential.net.
As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.
November 2, 1992
Producer, director, and screenwriter Hal Roach dies at the age of 100. Roach is best remembered for his silent comedies featuring Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, and the gaggle of mischievous kids who starred in the Our Gang comedies (who later became known as the Little Rascals).
The silent-film maker, born in Elmira, New York, had worked as a mule skinner, stunt man, truck driver, and Alaska gold prospector when he came to Hollywood in the early 1900s. He started out as a stunt man and bit-part actor, then formed his own production company with D. Whiting, called The Rolin Company, after he inherited $3,000 in 1915 (he later bought Whiting out and changed the studio's name to Hal Roach Studios).
Roach hired Harold Lloyd to play Willie Work in a series of comic shorts he hoped to produce. The series fell through until Roach changed Willie Work's name to Lonesome Luke, who became a much-beloved movie character known as "the man with the glasses." Regulars in the comic series, called "Phun-Philms," included Will Rogers, Edgar Kennedy, and Laurel and Hardy.
In the 1920s, Roach started making feature films and dramas along with the comedies and westerns that had occupied the bulk of his energy earlier in his career. He weeded out the least-popular shows and concentrated on his gems, including the Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang series. Actors who worked under Hal Roach contracts early in their careers included Jean Harlow, Mickey Rooney, and Zasu Pitts, along with directors Norman Z. McLeod, Leo McCarey, and George Stevens.
Roach won Oscars for two shorts, The Music Box in 1932 and Bored of Education in 1936. When he shifted his focus to feature-length movies (in partnership with his son, Hal Roach Jr.), he sold the Our Gang rights to MGM and produced the acclaimed film Of Mice and Men, an adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel about a sweet, developmentally disabled man named Lennie and his protector, George.
In the 1940s, he turned his attention from the big screen to television production. A military colonel, Roach produced propaganda and training films for the armed forces during World War II, and when he returned to Hollywood after the war, he began working in television. His company collapsed in the 1950s, but in the 1960s he produced The Crazy World of Laurel and Hardy. The film proved to be his swan song: His studio was demolished in 1963 (a housing development is on Roach Ranch now). He received an honorary Academy Award in 1983 for his contributions to making movies. He died in 1992 at age 100.
November 3, 1956
The Wizard of Oz is broadcast on television for the first time. Some 45 million people tuned in to CBS to see the movie, which was broadcast on Ford Star Jubilee. Judy Garland's 10-year-old daughter, Liza Minnelli, introduced the program.
November 5, 1911
Leonard Slye, later known as Roy Rogers, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Rogers first came to Hollywood in the 1920s as a migrant fruit picker. In the early 1930s, he joined a singing group called Uncle Tom Murray's Hollywood Hillbillies, which first sang on the radio in 1931. Rogers went on to sing with other similar groups, including the Sons of the Pioneers, which recorded hits like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." The Sons of the Pioneers group was recruited for low-budget western films, and Rogers was soon playing bit parts for Republic Pictures, the same studio where cowboy star Gene Autry worked. When Autry quit over a dispute with the studio in 1937, Rogers gained more exposure. Starring with his trick horse, Trigger, and his frequent co-star Dale Evans, Rogers soon became one of the Top 10 moneymakers in Hollywood.
Rogers also followed Autry into the radio medium, launching The Roy Rogers Show in 1944. The show, a mix of music and drama, always closed with the song "Happy Trails," which became known as Rogers' theme song.
After Rogers' wife died in 1946, he married co-star Dale Evans. His radio program ran until 1955. In 1951, a TV version of the program debuted and ran until 1957. Rogers became one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood by diversifying his money: His empire included a TV production studio, real estate, cattle, horses, a rodeo show, and a restaurant chain. Roy Rogers died in 1998.
To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".