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The two (2) main studios for comedies from 1915 to 1930 were Hal Roach and Mack Sennett. Sennett developed or introduced many great stars including one (1) Charles Chaplin. The Sennett form of madcap slapstick humor were staples of the silent era. Competing with him was Hal Roach with his comedy genius Harold Lloyd. The third genius was Buster Keaton an independent. Sennett lost Chaplin and Roach later Lloyd but Roach was luckier. He was able to pair up the perfect comedy couple Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel and a group of ragamuffins called 'His Rascals' then 'The Little Rascals'. He also proved a better business man. When their mutual distributor Pathe collapsed in the early 1930s Sennett went down the tubes. Roach attached himself to LOEWS and M.G.M. the most successful combo in film distribution and production of the time.
After the mid thirties though Laurel & Hardy were showing their age as well as the 'Rascals'. Roach also had made some poor business and political connections attaching himself to the Fascist Dictator Mussolini. This ended his association with LOEWS and M.G.M. He rebounded though selling off 'His Rascals' to M.G.M. which became THE OUR GANG series. Others who supported the short subjects would also be jettisoned as the move was made to feature films distributed by UNITED ARTISTS. Later in 1940 even Laurel & Hardy would be let go.
THE HOUSEKEEPER'S DAUGHTER showed that Hal Roach had not lost any of his skill as a Director/Producer. The cast was first rate, lead by Joan Bennett and Adolphe Menjou. By this time Joan had abandoned the blond look and had become a attractive brunette with a lithe though rounded figure. This was used to advantage in several scenes. Menjou of course was always the professional. The rest of the cast is filled with other top flight character actors including, William Gargan, Marc Lawrence, Donald Meek, George E. Stone and Peggy Wood. Also in his debut feature, Victor Mature. The only weak link is the male lead a John Hubbard.
The story revolves around the murder of a Broadway BABY and has the right mix of comedy, drama and suspense. None of these are over the top nor do each of them interfere with the other. Roach was able to keep the disparate plot lines cleanly delineated. The film from start to finish is very satisfying and this was clearly reflected in other HAL ROACH STUDIO productions like OF MICE AND MEN and ONE MILLION B.C.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has for the past year featured many of the efforts of the HAL ROACH STUDIOS. Those who appreciate their efforts should contact TCM and tell them so. There are many other GEMS in their library that have not seen the light of day.
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