Stan Laurel Birthday Party at the Mayflower Club June 16th!
As most Laurel & Hardy fans know, Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston, England, on June 16, 1890. To celebrate his birthday on the same day exactly one hundred and nineteen years later, be with us on Tuesday June 16th at the Mayflower Club. Joining us in the celebration, as our very special guests, will be Stan's daughter Lois, Stan's great granddaughter Cassidy, and Stan's great great grandchildren Lucy and Tommy.
Our film program for the evening will start with the Laurel & Hardy classic short, Towed in a Hole (1933). In the film, Stan and Ollie start off trying to sell fresh fish from their truck. Stan convinces Ollie that they can make more profit from selling fish if they catch the fish themselves and eliminate the middleman. Although Ollie has good reason to doubt any plan of Stan's, he can't help but agree that it's a good idea. Unfortunately the only boat they can afford is a junked sailboat in terrible disrepair that they decide to paint and make seaworthy themselves.
Stan and Ollie are hungry and out of work in their short One Good Turn (1931). They do work for a kind old woman who gives them food. While Stan and Ollie are eating, they overhear the old woman talking with a man (James Finlayson) who threatens to evict the old woman from her home. They assume that the man is her landlord, but he is an actor rehearsing for a play with the old woman. Mistakenly, Stan and Ollie decide to "help" the old woman.
Our film program for the evening will close with one of Laurel & Hardy's most popular features, Block-Heads (1938). In the film, buddies Stan and Ollie become separated in World War I. Years later, Ollie reads about a man who lives at the local veterans facility who stayed at his post for twenty years, not knowing that the war had been long over. Ollie quickly realizes that it is Stan. Ollie goes to the facility to invite Stan home for a steak dinner. Listen closely to the musical score for this film. T. Marvin Hatley received an Academy Award nomination for his music in Block-Heads, but sadly Marvin didn't win an Oscar.
Also joining us will be artist Lucy Southward, famous for her drawings of Laurel & Hardy. Lucy and her mother Lindsey will be joining us all the way from England for their first Way Out West meeting.
The Mayflower Club is located at 11110 Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood. The doors will open at 6:30 PM. Our meeting will start at 7:15 PM. "Fisher Franks" hot dogs and your choice of chips will be sold at the Mayflower Kitchen. Drinks will be for sale at the Mayflower Bar. Free birthday cake will be served at our second break. So please join us and the Laurel family to celebrate with films and cake the one hundred nineteenth birthday of comic genius Stan Laurel.
Special Volunteers To Give Toasts June 16
As I often do, I would like to invite a few of our members to join me on stage at our June 16th meeting to help give toasts to Stan, Babe, their supporting actors, and our special toasted past Way Out West members. On this special celebration of Stan Laurel's birthday, I think that it would be nice if some of the members who met and spoke with Stan Laurel would help with the toasts and tell our other members a little about their meeting (or meetings) with Stan. Please tell me if you want to volunteer by 7:00 PM on the evening of the meeting. Thanks, Jimmy.
Celebrity Flower Fund
We would like to give a big thank you to the Twin Cities Block-Heads Tent for continually supporting the Way Out West Tent's Flower Fund each year. We put flowers on the graves of Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, and other cast members on Memorial Day, their birthdays, and their date of death. Without their continued donations, we would not be able to do so. We greatly appreciate their generosity.
We wish to also thank Kathy Carlson of the Block-Heads Tent for her personal generous check as well. Anyone interested in making a donation please let us know.
Petition For Charley Chase DVD
Way Out West Keeper of the Celluloid, Stan Taffel, recently notified us that the Sony release of the Charley Chase Columbia Shorts DVD has been postponed indefinitely. Sony doesn't feel that there is enough interest in Charley Chase to release a new DVD. In the meantime, Stan has helped set up a web site where you can sign an online petition to let Sony know that you want the DVD released. The web site is www.ipetitions.com/petition/charleychasecolumbiashorts (You must sign the petition, before the end of June). Hopefully, if this petition succeeds, we can use the same method to get more Laurel & Hardy DVD releases from other companies.
We wish to congratulate Edith Fellows on her 85th birthday and Margaret Kerry on her 80th birthday. Both of these ladies have attended many banquets and meetings of the Way Out West Tent. May they have many, many more happy and healthy birthdays to come.
Registration forms for the 2010 Sons of the Desert International Convention are now available online. The convention will take place next year from June 17-20 in Sacramento. This will be the first International Convention on the West Coast in 10 years, so don't miss out! Please visit: www.afmoasis49.com
Notes From Our April Meeting
Grand Sheik Jimmy Wiley Jr. was joined on stage by "J.T." Tropper, Stephen Winkler, Randy Johnson, Bob Duncan, Ken Runyan, Dave Spahn, and Jayne Barnhart to do the toasts and sing the Sons of the Desert song. In honor of Thelma Todd, we screened Another Fine Mess, The Pip from Pittsburgh, Chickens Come Home, and On the Loose.
Our special guests for the evening, thanks to Bob Satterfield, were Margaret Kerry and Ernie Weckbaugh. Both Margaret and Ernie are longtime honorary members of Way Out West Tent. Both had early career starts in Hal Roach's Our Gang Comedies. Margaret also was the live model used by Walt Disney artists to draw Peter Pan's Tinkerbell. She has done character voices in over 600 animated shows, and had her own Christian talk show on radio for many years. Ernie's most famous Our Gang film was Came the Brawn. In the film, when Alfalfa felt Ernie's muscles, Alfalfa decided that Ernie was too strong to be the "Masked Marvel" that Alfalfa had to beat in the boxing ring to impress Darla. Besides acting, Ernie has also been a comedian, a newspaper writer, and an author. He is currently writing a book about The Little Rascals/Our Gang.
From the Grand Sheik
Early in the morning this past April 26th, Kris and I drove to a dirt parking area in Newhall to meet Bob Satterfield and take a short shuttle bus ride to the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio. Months before I had purchased tickets for their annual one and a half hour guided walking tour of the studio. The tour was one of the events offered by Santa Clarita's annual Cowboy Festival.
Every year since 1994, the city of Santa Clarita has sponsored the Cowboy Festival. This year the festival opened on Wednesday night, April 22nd. The festival's first offering was a Riders in the Sky concert at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center. On Thursday, a day at the Gene Autry National Center and a chuck wagon dinner at the William S. Hart Park were offered. On Friday a lunch, tour, and a Dave Stamey concert at Rancho Camulos, an evening of music with Don Edwards inside the William S. Hart mansion, and an "under the stars" movie night at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio were offered. On Saturday and Sunday the festival concluded with tours, craft shows, musical entertainment, and food at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio.
I am sure you're asking yourselves by now, why am I writing about a Cowboy Festival in a Laurel & Hardy newsletter? The answer is that portions of our namesake film, Way Out West was filmed on the site of the western street at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio. Brushwood Gulch is Melody Ranch!
At the time that Way Out West was filmed, the present day Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio was Monogram Studios. Monogram had just built a new western street on the site in 1936. Gene Autry bought the Monogram Studios property in Newhall to build his Melody Ranch in 1952, and kept the western street to rent out to movie and television companies. In 1962 a fire destroyed the western street. The ranch portion of the property, however, was spared from the fire. Gene Autry kept his horse, Champion, stabled at the ranch for many years. In 1990, Gene sold the ranch to the Veluzat Brothers, Andre and Renaud. The brothers, who rented vehicles (everything from motorcycles to army tanks) to movie companies used the property to store their many vehicles. Also when the brothers bought the ranch, they decided to rebuilt the famous western street. By modeling the new buildings from photos taken from old movies and television shows, they restored the street to its glory days. From the days of the Monogram Studios, through Gene Autry's ownership, to the Veluzat Brothers today, the western street site has been used in many western films, most notably Gary Cooper's High Noon. The site was also used in thirty five John Wayne films. Western television shows such as The Gene Autry Show, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Gunsmoke (including the opening gun fight), Have Gun-Will Travel, and most recently HBO's Deadwood have used the western street.
Our tour of the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio began at their museum. I quickly spotted a photo of Way Out West among many photos on a wall that depicted some of the westerns filmed on their western street. Because the street has been rebuilt since the fire, I'd like to see some films shot there around the same time as Way Out West as comparison (but that will have to wait for another article). A lot of the museum contained vehicles that the Veluzat brothers had rented out for all kinds of films and television shows. When I heard our guide mention a Stan Laurel car, I couldn't believe my ears. Soon in front of me was the police car from The Midnight Patrol. A person who worked at the museum later told me that the car had been sold personally by Stan Laurel in the early fifties to a rental company that was later purchased by the Veluzat brothers. He also told me that the signed purchase agreement was still in Veluzat brothers business files. I have since compared the pictures I took of the car in the museum with stills from The Midnight Patrol. The cars in the pictures are very similar, but the grills and the bumpers don't match exactly. Perhaps someone who knows something about that particular model of car could tell me more.
The tour of the western street and the rest of the studio was great. Our guide, Tom Frew, was very knowledgeable about the studio and its history. In fact a lot of the information for this story came from Tom. I also got good information the Melody Ranch Motion Picture web site and the Internet Movie Data Base. For anyone interested in next year's Cowboy Festival, go to: cowboyfestival.org in December 2009. Tickets for this year's events went on sale on the first week in January.