November 2, 1992
Hal Roach dies.
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 5, 2007
Writers strike stalls production of TV shows, movies
Members of the Writers Guild of America, East, and Writers Guild of America, West—labor organizations representing television, film and radio writers—go on strike in Los Angeles and New York after negotiations break down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a trade group that represents TV and film producers in the United States, including CBS, NBC Universal, Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures, News Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment, MGM and Warner Brothers. The strike caused production to shut down on more than 60 TV shows and resulted in a loss of $3 billion, by some estimates, to the Los Angeles economy alone.
The strike’s key issues included the writers’ demand for a larger share of DVD revenues and payment for films and TV shows distributed over the Internet and other forms of new media. Late-night talk shows, which used guild writers, were immediately affected by the strike and went into reruns. Production also shut down on many prime-time comedies and dramas; however, some had stockpiled completed programming and were able to avoid going straight into reruns.
After a series of stalemated discussions, leaders from both sides eventually reached a tentative agreement, and on February 12, 2008, WGA members voted to end the strike and go back to work. The strike officially ended on February 26, when WGA members overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract with the AMPTP.
The impact of the writers’ walkout was felt across the entertainment industry, from actors to caterers to editors to set designers to animal wranglers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated the strike resulted in a loss to the local economy of more than $3 billion. The Times article stated: “Of that total, an estimated $772 million came from lost wages for writers and production workers, $981 million from various businesses that service the industry, including caterers and equipment rental houses, and $1.3 billion from the ripple effect of consumers not spending as much at retail shops, restaurants and car dealers.”
Previous multiple-month strikes launched by Writers Guild members in 1960 and 1988 had also greatly impacted the entertainment industry, bringing TV and movie production to a standstill and costing millions in revenue.