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Hal Roach Studios (Spotlight)
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Introduction to Patsy Kelly-Lyda Roberti Shorts

In 1933 Hal Roach brought Broadway dancer/comedienne Patsy Kelly to Hollywood to replace ZaSu Pitts, who left after a salary dispute, in a popular series of two-reel comedies costarring Thelma Todd. The new team proved equally winning, but Todd died (under mysterious circumstances) in 1935 and was replaced first by Pert Kelton, then by Lyda Roberti. Kelly and Roberti appeared together in the two Roach shorts At Sea Ashore and Hill-Tillies (both 1936), as well as the feature films Nobody's Baby and Pick a Star (both 1937). The partnership of the homely Kelly and glamorous Roberti was unfortunately cut short when Roberti died of a heart attack at age 31.

Brooklyn-born Kelly (1910-1981) parlayed her dumpy look and deadpan, wisecracking comic style into an impressive career in films, radio and television. She returned to the stage in triumph in Broadway's No, No, Nanette (1971) and Irene (1972), winning a Tony Award for the former musical and another nomination for the latter. Roberti (1906-1938) was born the daughter of a clown in Warsaw, Poland, and moved to the U.S. in late 1920s. During an all-too-brief career, her sexy blonde beauty, unusual accent and playful personality lighted up nightclubs and Broadway shows as well as movies.

At Sea Ashore (1936) -- Attempting to get to the docks to greet the arriving Lyda, Patsy is mistaken for an illegal immigrant. William H. Terhune directed, and Chill Wills is also in the cast.

Hill-Tillies (1936) -- Patsy and Lyda go on a rugged camping trip in the woods as a publicity stunt. Gus Meins directed this, the last of Kelly's two-reelers for Roach.

by Roger Fristoe



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