SOMEWHERE IN SOMEWHERE (Hal Roach –Pathe’ released September 20, 1925)
Director: James W. Horne.
Cast: Charlie Murray, Lucien Littlefield, Noah Young.
The short tenure of Hampton Del Ruth as the Hal Roach Studio’s Director-General in 1924-25 brought about a few interesting changes nevertheless, including the invention of the All-Star Comedies. The All-Stars were sort of a stop-gap measure to replace some failed series like the Clyde Cook and Arthur Stone Comedies as it basically began to dawn on the Roach Studio that, despite the lack of success in establishing or the abrupt departure of Star Comedians like Stan Laurel, Will Rogers, Clyde Cook or Arthur Stone, the Lot of Fun had been quite successful in developing a Stock Company of supporting comics; James Finlayson, George Rowe, Noah Young, Charles Stevenson, Jack Gavin, Sammy Brooks, William Gillespie, Robert O’ Connor, Anita Garvin, Charlotte Mineau, and others. These comics became the backbone of the All-Star Comedies, in support of any star Roach could sign to a one-picture deal to shoot a two-reeler, names like Theda Bara, Lionel Barrymore, Claude Gillingwater, Ethel Clayton, Helene Chadwick, Harry Myers, Lillian Rich, Pricilla Dean, Herbert Rawlinson among others would arrive at the mercy of the Culver city Lot, and for better or worse, play along with this Company of comedy Veterans.
The first few of the All-Stars shot seemed to be testing out old Sennett Comedians, SOMEWHERE IN SOMEWHERE was, in fact, the third All-Star shot, but the first one released, and it stars Keystone Veteran Charlie Murray in his only Hal Roach appearance. Murray had spent years in Vaudeville before he joined the Dell Henderson Comedy Unit at Biograph that had replaced Mack Sennett’s in his departure to form Keystone in 1912. Murray remained Biograph’s Star Comic until Sennett stole him away in 1914, and Murray became one of Sennett’s most durable stars throughout the teens and early 20’s. At the time Murray made SOMEWHERE IN SOMEWHERE, he was on the verge of a second round of major stardom, after years of successful supporting work (Murray fit this short in between features like Larry Semon’s THE WIZARD OF OZ and IRENE with Colleen Moore). In 1926, Murray would team with George Sidney in Universal’s THE COHENS AND KELLYS, which would be a huge success and spawn a series that would last into the early 30’s. Sidney and Murray would make staring features for both Universal and First National, and Murray would also star on his own and keep as busy as he wanted to be, gradually retiring in the late 30’s and passing away in 1941.
Murray’s partner in this film is character-actor extraordinaire Lucien Littlefield. This makeup expert and acting chameleon had started in films around 1914. Apparently bald from an early age, this allowed Littlefield to specialize in little old men, country bumpkins, mad doctors, and other eccentrics, and kept busy pretty much up to the day he died in 1960 (this Author recently saw Littlefield playing an eccentric attorney named James Bond in a 1959 episode of PETER GUNN). The character actor would drop in with some regularity at the Roach Studio from 1925 onward, even doing some television there in the 1950’s.
Director James Wesley Horne was just starting out at the Roach Studio when he made SOMEWHERE IN SOMEWHERE, but he already had a decade of directing credits under his belt. He had started out at Kalem in 1915, directing his wife (or wife-to-be, details and dates are a bit sketchy on this) Cleo Ridgely in their GIRL DETECTIVE series (Marin Sais would replace Ridgely upon her temporary retirement to raise the Horne Family). When Kalem folded in 1917, Horne began directing serials for Universal and Pathe’, graduating to feature films when he joined Thomas Ince in 1920.
With Ince, Horne discovered his proclivity for comedy, handling some of the Douglas MacLean Comedies Ince was making at the time. When Thomas Ince dies in 1924, Horne handled MacLean’s independently-produced feature THE YANKEE CONSUL as well as helming several of Richard Talmadge’s first action features, IN FAST COMPANY and LAUGHING AT DANGER. His first stint at Roach began in 1925, doing mainly the All-Star Comedies, but once that series was reasonably established, Horne left in mid-1926 to freelance, adding films like CRUISE OF THE JASPER B (Demille Pictures Corp-Pathe 1926) and Buster Keaton’s COLLEGE (1927) to his resume’.
Horne returned to Roach in 1929, where on of his first films back was Laurel and Hardy’s BIG BUSINESS, and for the next three years, Horne handled many of both Stan and Babe’s comedies as well as Charley Chase’s best talkies, also proving adept at making the foreign language versions of many of these films. In 1932, Horne left Roach along with departing Director-General Warren Doane to go to Universal to head their short-subjects department. There they made a number of rarely-seen comedies that feature many of the same Hal Roach Players.
Horne returned to Roach in 1935 to handle a number of Laurel and Hardy’s starring features, wrapping up with WAY OUT WEST in 1937. Horne then became the main Director of Columbia Pictures new Serial Division, basically returning to his roots, but also unable to keep his Comedy Chops from seeping into some of the intentionally silliest sound serials ever made, from THE SPIDERS WEB (1938) to PERILS OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (1942), Horne made chapter-plays filled with villains making broad comedy double-takes and henchmen who play jacks in their spare time at the henchman dormitory. The Columbia Serials Horne directed may annoy serial-purists today, but delight everyone else who sees them, and they ended only with James W. Hornes death in 1942 at the age of 60.
So enjoy this opener of the All-Star Series, SOMEWHERE IN SOMEWHERE is a silly World War One spoof with a fun cast. The All-Stars would continue for the next two years, not lighting any major fires until two comedians became a part of it in 1926. First, Stan Laurel, who started on the series as a gagman and writer, then director, then found himself joining in the fun on-camera, and second Oliver Hardy, who found himself working more and more at the Roach Studio instead of all the other places he did support, and pretty soon Laurel and Hardy were working in the All-Stars together, but you know the rest of that story……..
RICHARD M ROBERTS
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