Pick a Star
Initially, Roach just produced comedy shorts, but by the twenties (he started the company in 1915), he began to diversify his film projects and started churning out feature films, dramas, Westerns, and action pictures. He also began, in the late twenties, to concentrate on promoting his most profitable talents - Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chase, and Our Gang, all of which had become very popular. Roach went on to win Academy Awards for two of his film shorts - The Music Box (1932) and Board of Education (1936).
Roach's production, Pick a Star, is the tale of a naive, smalltown girl (Rosina Lawrence) from Iowa who wins a trip to Hollywood as part of a talent contest. She quickly realizes upon arriving in Los Angeles that it's just a meaningless publicity stunt and that no studio is really interested in giving her a screen test. That all changes when she is befriended by publicity man Joe Jenkins (Jack Haley). Despite the cliched plot of an unknown becoming a major star, Pick a Star works best as a clever pastiche of funny sight gags, wisecracks, and vaudeville routines featuring guest stars like Laurel and Hardy. The latter have a wonderful musical duel which ends with Laurel performing "Pop Goes the Weasel" on Hardy's stomach.
A few years after Hal Roach produced Pick a Star, he began working closely with his son Hal Roach Jr. on such atypical features as One Million Years. B.C. (1939) (originally assigned to D.W. Griffith) and Of Mice and Men (1939) - probably the most acclaimed production of his career. Roach also served in WWII, producing training films for the Army and the Air Force. After the war, Roach made an unsuccessful attempt at television production but he came out of retirement in the late sixties to produce a compilation film - The Crazy World of Laurel and Hardy.
Director: Edward Sedgwick
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Richard Flournoy, Arthur V. Jones, Thomas J. Dugan
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Music: R. Alex Anderson, Johnny Lange, Fred Stryker
Art Direction: Arthur I. Royce
Cast: Patsy Kelly (Nellie Moore), Jack Haley (Joe Jenkins), Rosina Lawrence (Cecilia Moore), Mischa Auer (Rinaldo Lopez).
by Rod Hollimon