Today is the birthday of frequent Laurel and Hardy comedy foil Charlie Hall (1899-1959)
A native of Birmingham, England, Hall was trained as a carpenter (his father’s trade) and also later as a comedian with Fred Karno’s troupe, where he first knew Stan Laurel. Both skills stood him in good stead when he came to America, first as a stage hand in New York, then, with the encouragement of Bobby Dunn, as a screen comedian.
The diminutive Hall (he was 5′ 5″) broke into the silent comedy business in 1921, appearing in one Monty Banks picture and one Billy Franey picture before Stan Laurel connected him with Hal Roach. Hall not only supported Laurel at the studio, but also other Roach comedy stars like Will Rogers and Charley Chase. In 1927 when Laurel was teamed with Hardy, Hall became one of their informal stock company, appearing in dozens of their comedies well into the sound era, through 1940’s Saps at Sea (their last film for Roach). He also appeared in the comedies of Dane and Arthur, Our Gang, Leon Errol, Abbott and Costello, Lupe Velez and Olsen and Johnson’s classic Hellzapoppin, in addition to playing bit roles in numerous features in every genre. His last part was in 1956 Joe McDoakes short called So You Want to Play the Piano.
To learn more about comedy film history don’t miss my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. For still more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.