Monday, April 23, 2012

Working for Hal Roach

TCM showed several of the silent two-reelers that Laurel and Hardy made for Hal Roach in the late 1920s. I sat down and watched Two Tars. Entertaining if a bit of a one-note film, but then what are you going to get in 20 minutes? What was most interesting for me was the opening credits. The "supervising director" was Leo McCarey, who also happened to be the writer. I suppose this is good practice for becoming a full-fledged director. Not only the supervising director part, but the writing; I've commented in the past about how Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges, among others, got their starts writing, and became directors when they didn't want other directors directing their dialogue.

The other interesting name was the man who did the photography, which in this case really means the cinematography: George Stevens. This is of course the same George Stevens who would go on to win an Oscar for directing A Place in the Sun 20 years later. I suppose it shouldn't be too surprising that a cinematographer went into directing; if you watched the month-long retrospective of Jack Cardiff's career that TCM had back in January, you'll know that Cardiff directed a fair number of films. I shouldn't be surprised, either, that Stevens did cinematography. After all, he took quite a bit of color footage during his time serving in World War II. I have to admit, however, that I hadn't known Stevens did the cinematography work on Hal Roach shorts. You learn something new every day.

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