The Laughing Gravy Tent
He was born in the Ward End district of Birmingham, England on 19th August 1899.
In 1920 he left Birmingham to take a job working in a factory in New York. Within a couple of years he had moved to Hollywood, and began working as an ‘extra’ in the new movie industry. Charlie Hall went on to appear in 47 films with Laurel & Hardy.
In 1937 he made a return visit to Birmingham. While in the UK he made a film with Will Hay called ‘Hey Hey USA’.
In the fifties he appeared on TV with various people such as Groucho Marx, Clint Walker, Alfred Hitchcock and Abbott and Costello.
He died on 7th December 1959 in Hollywood.
There is a pub named after him in Erdington, Birmingham.
Harry Eugene Roach was born on 14th January 1892 in Elmira, New York.
Arriving in Hollywood he found work as an extra in films and it was here he first met Harold Lloyd.
He received a small inheritance and began making films under the name Rolin (‘Ro’ for Roach and ‘lin’ for his partner Dan Linthicum). Harold Lloyd joined him and the ‘Lonesome Luke’ character was born. Harold then donned a pair of glasses for his new character and this proved to be very successful.
Hal bought out his partner and the Hal Roach Studios was born.
As well as Laurel and Hardy, Hal Roach was responsible for many other comedy series. ‘Our Gang’, Charley Chase, and Todd and Pitts to name few.
Hal Roach lived to the grand old age of 100. He once said that he was more famous for being 100 years old than for making all those movies.
The wonderful Hal Roach Studios were closed in1961 and all that remains now is a plaque showing where it once stood.
Charles Joseph Parrott was born on 20th October 1893 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Charley began working in Mack Sennett’s Keystone Comedies, finally moving to Hal Roach in 1920.
He was the older brother of James Parrott who also worked at the Hal Roach studios, first as a comedian and then as a director.
In 1923 he was to star in his own series under his new name Charley Chase. He was the master of comedy embarrassment, and he had a fine singing voice, which he displayed from time to time.
His most prominent appearance in a Laurel and Hardy film was ‘Sons of the Desert’ in 1933. Unfortunately Hal Roach decided to let Charley go in 1936.
He was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia, on January 18th 1892. His father (who was called Oliver) passed away when Norvell was only 10 months old. His mother ran a Hotel in nearby Madison and it was here that he used to observe people as they came and went. He had a beautiful singing voice, and at one stage it looked like he would make this his career. He would occasionally sing in Laurel and Hardy films and it always enhanced the film.By 1910 he began running the first movie theatre in Milledgeville, Georgia. It was while watching these silent films, that Hardy decided this is what he would like to do. In 1913 he made his way to Jacksonville, Florida and, over the next few years made over 100 comedies for the Lubin and Vim companies.It was here that he took his father’s name, Oliver. He was very proud of his own name, so in the Laurel and Hardy films, he would always introduce himself as “Oliver Norvell Hardy”.
In his personal life he was known as ‘Babe’ Hardy, a nickname that he was given by an Italian barber, who applied talc to Oliver's cheeks and would say to him, "nice-a-baby, nice-a-baby”. This soon shortened to Babe, and the name was to remain with him all his life.He passed away on 7th August 1957.
He was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson on June 16th 1890 in Ulverston, England. His father (known as A.J.) owned various theatres throughout the north of England and Scotland. Stan made he debut at the age of 16 at the Britannia Theatre, Glasgow. The theatre still stands (now known as The Panopticon) and it is hoped that sufficient funds can be raised to bring this marvellous old theatre back to its former glory. In 1909 Stan joined the famous Fred Karno troupe that toured the UK, and in 1910 they set off to the USA with a certain Charlie Chaplin as lead comedian, (Stan was Charlie's understudy).
Chaplin soon became an international star, and Stan Laurel was destined to follow. Around 1920/21 Stan appeared in a film called 'The Lucky Dog' with a certain Oliver Hardy. Eventually they got together and made the world laugh in over 100 films. Stan passed away on February 23rd 1965.
Annie Mae Busch was born on 18th June 1891, in Melbourne, Australia. Her family moved to the US around 1900. Mae was placed in St. Elizabeth Convent, New Jersey, while it’s thought her parents joined the vaudeville circuit. Mae left the convent in 1905. In later years Mae would give a different account of her early life, and she gave her date of birth as 1897.
In 1927 Mae Busch took a part in her first film with Laurel and Hardy called ‘Love Em and Weep’. In all she was to appear in 13 of the Laurel and Hardy movies, making her presence felt as Charlie Hall’s wife in ‘Them Thar Hills’ and the follow up ‘Tit for Tat’.
She died on April 19th 1946 at the Motion Picture and Television Country Home and Hospital, Encino, California. Incredibly her ashes were left unclaimed until the 1970s, when members of the Way out West Tent of California paid to have her finally laid to rest. Mae’s ashes are now at the Chapel of the Pines, Los Angeles, California.
Thelma Todd was born on July 29 1905 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Thelma signed for the Hal Roach Studios and appeared with such stars as Harry Langdon, Charley Chase and of course Laurel and Hardy. She has a superb scene with Stan Laurel in the 1930 film ‘Another Fine Mess’.
In 1931 Hal Roach gave Thelma her own series with Zasu Pitts and later Patsy Kelly.
She would also appear in the Marx Brothers films ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Horse Feathers’.
Her last film was with Laurel and Hardy in 1935 called ‘The Bohemian Girl’. However, most of her part was cut from the picture, as the terrible news came through that Thelma Todd had died.
On the morning of December 16 1935, Thelma Todd was found dead in her car. To this day her death remains a mystery. Officially she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, many people believe she was murdered.
Edgar Livingston Kennedy was born on 26th April 1890, in Monterey County, California.
He was known as the master of the ‘slow burn’; whereby he would run his left hand down from his head, slowly across his face in an attempt to hold his temper.
He was a Keystone Cop for Mack Sennett and it is rumoured that he once fought world heavy weight champion Jack Dempsey. There is some truth in this rumour as Edgar Kennedy was indeed a boxer for a short time, and appeared in the 1920 film ‘Daredevil Jack,’ with Jack Dempsey.
At RKO he starred in the long running ‘Average Man’ series, which ran for seventeen years.
He also appeared in ‘Duck Soup’ with the Marx Brothers.
He died on November 9th 1948 aged 58 of throat cancer.
The Laughing Gravy Tent Birmingham