Ben Stoloff: Journeyman Director

Movie director Benjamin Stoloff (1895-1960), born on this day. He’s a minor figure, to be sure, and he didn’t only direct comedies, but he was associated with some notable projects known and appreciated by classic comedy buffs and deserves a shout-out as much as many whom we’ve treated of here.

Originally from Philadelphia, Stoloff graduated from UCLA, and broke into the film business by making a short documentary about Babe Ruth in 1920. This led to a stretch directing Al St. John and others in comedy shorts for Fox in the mid 20s. By 1926 he was directing features at Fox and Universal starring Tom Mix, et al .

Stoloff directed the original “Destry Rides Again” (1932), although the later, better known version is not a re-make

He slid into talkies effortlessly with Speakeasy (1929) with Paul Page, Lola Lane and Henry B. Walthall. Some of those notable features we mentioned are during the sound period. They include the legendary feature Soup to Nuts (1930) with Ted Healy and The Three Stooges; The Night Mayor (1932) with Lee TracyPalooka (1934) with Jimmy Durante; Radio City Revels (1938), with Bob Burns, Jack Oakie, Kenny Baker and Ann Miller; Take It or Leave It (1944) with Phil Baker; and the Kenny Delmar vehicle It’s a Joke, Son (1947).

In 1931 he began producing films, as well. The first was Goldie with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow, which he also directed. Others included You’re in the Army Now (1941) with Phil Silvers and Jimmy Durante; Zombies on Broadway (1945) with Wally Brown and Alan Carney; and two of the Gas House Kids pictures , Gas House Kids Go West, and The Gas House Kids in Hollywood, both in 1947.

Baseball had always been a recurring subject of interest to Stoloff. As we mentioned, his first film was Play Ball with Babe Ruth (1929). In 1932 he made Slide, Babe, Slide, also with Ruth. And he rounded out his career by directing 26 episodes of the tv series Home Run Derby in 1960.

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