Charley Rogers: With and Without Laurel and Hardy

Charley Rogers (1886-1956) was an old cohort of Stan Laurel’s from his music hall days. Originally from Birmingham, UK, Rogers had moved to the U.S. by 1912, where he toured vaudeville with an act called “The Iceman” and occasionally appeared in silent films, such as Nat C. Goodwin’s Oliver Twist (1912), Al Christie’s The Shanghaied Cowboys (1912), as well as the westerns A Ticket to Red Horse Gulch (1914), The Woman God Forgot (1917), and The Light of Western Stars (1918) with Dustin Farnum.

A decade later he came to work at the Hal Roach lot, where he became Laurel’s right hand man and a crucial member of the team that created Laurel and Hardy’s comedies as a writer, director and performing member of their informal stock company, although he often did other people’s movies as well.

With Laurel and Hardy he acted in Two Tars (1928), Habeas Corpus (1928), Double Whoopee (1929), Perfect Day (1929), Our Wife (1931), Pardon Us (1931), Pack Up Your Troubles (1932), March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934, which he also co-directed), and The Dancing Masters (1943); and wrote or co-wrote Towed in a Hole (1932), Going Bye-Bye (1934, which he also directed), Bonnie Scotland (1935), The Bohemian Girl (1936, which he also co-directed), Our Relations (1936), Way Out West (1937), Swiss Miss (1938), Block-Heads (1938), The Flying Deuces (1939), A Chump at Oxford (1939), Saps at Sea (1940), and Air Raid Wardens (1943); and also directed Them Thar Hills (1934), The Live Ghost (1934), Tit for Tat (1935), and The Fixer Uppers (1935) (though it’s been said that he essentially co-directed these latter films with Laurel). A quick glance thus shows that Rogers was deeply involved with some of the best known and loved Laurel and Hardy comedies.

Rogers also worked with many other comedians. For example he worked with Harry Langdon a lot during his early time at Roach, directing  his early talkies Sky Boy (1929), Skirt Shy (1929), The Fighting Parson (1929), The Shrimp (1930) and The King (1930). As an actor Rogers starred in one Roach short of his own The Movie Man (1928); appeared in When Money Comes (1929) and Madame Q (1929) with Edgar Kennedy; Movie Night (1929) with Charley Chase; Let’s Do Things (1931) with Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts; the “Boyfriends” comedy Wild Babies (1932); Strange Innertube (1932) and Keg O’ My Heart (1933) with Billy Gilbert; Babes in the Goods (1934), Maid in Hollywood (1934), and I’ll Be Suing You (1934) with Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly; Mrs. Barnacle Bill (1934) with Eddie Foy Jr and Claudia Dell; House of Errors (1942) with Harry Langdon; That Nazty Nuisance (1943) with Bobby Watson; A Miner Affair (1945) and Two April Fools (1954) with Andy Clyde; A Hit with a Miss (1945) with the Three Stooges; and Limelight (1952) with Charlie Chaplin. 

Some non-comical features he appears include Outside the Law (1930, directed by Tod Browning), They Raid By Night (1942), and God’s Country (1946).

To find out more about the history of vaudeville and music hall, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent and slapstick comedy film, read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube