Birthday Bash at the Mayflower Club January 13, 2015
The new year is just a few weeks old, it's Winter, there's snow on the ground (well we almost had a little snow), and that means that it's time for Way Out West to have their first meeting of the year. So on Tuesday night, January 13th, at The Mayflower Club, you're all invited to join us to celebrate the 123rd birthday of Oliver Norvell Hardy. For the celebration there will be music, films, laughs, birthday cake, and an opportunity for you to be with friends. How can you pass up all of that?
Our first film for the evening is Yes, Yes Nanette (1925). This silent comedy short is one of Babe Hardy's first films at The Hal Roach Studios. James Finlayson, who is the star of the film, plays, Hillory, a newlywed who is meeting his new in-laws for the first time. Though Babe is only a featured actor in the film, he plays an important role as the former boyfriend of Hillory's new wife (Lyle Tayo). Stan Laurel does not appear in the film, but oddly enough, he is one of two directors for the film. Look for Pete the Dog from Our Gang.
The silent comedy short, Sugar Daddies (1927), again stars James Finlayson, but this time both Babe and Stan have prominent parts in the film. When unmarried playboy oil tycoon Cyrus Brittle (Fin) wakes up after a night on the town, he can't exactly remember what happened the night before. He soon finds out that he now has a wife, a stepdaughter, and a scary looking brother-in-law (Noah Young), all of whom want Cyrus to give them $40,000 to annul the new marriage. Can Cyrus' butler (Babe) and his lawyer (Stan) save him from the blackmail scheme?
In the Laurel & Hardy sound short, Our Wife (1931), Ollie and his girlfriend Dulcy (Babe London) decide to get married. Since Dulcy's father (James Finlayson) has made it known that he is against the marriage, Babe and Dulcy decide to elope with help from Ollie's Best Man Stan. After having a lot of "Laurel & Hardy" problems, the Boys and Dulcy manage to escape from Fin's clutches. Then it's off to Justice of the Peace (Ben Turpin) and his wife (Blanche Payson).
Our Laurel & Hardy feature for the evening is Saps at Sea (1940). In the film, Stan and Ollie work at a horn factory, where they tune horns all day. After Ollie has a nervous breakdown at the factory from all the noise, Ollie's doctor (James Finlayson) recommends that Stan should take Ollie on an ocean voyage. He also recommends that on the voyage Ollie should drink plenty of goat's milk. The Boys decide to rent a boat and live on it, without ever untying the boat from its dock. Then their new goat, Narcissus, changes their plan. Charlie Hall, Ben Turpin, and Richard Cramer also make appearances in the film.
The Mayflower Club is located in North Hollywood at 11110 Victory Boulevard. We open the doors at 6:30 p.m. Our meeting starts at 7:15 p.m. "Fisher Franks" (100% beef hot dogs), with your choice of toppings and chips will be sold at The Mayflower Club Kitchen. Refreshments will be sold at The Mayflower Club Bar. Free birthday cake will served at our second break. Hope you can join us on January 13th!
2015 Dues For WOW Members
The annual dues for Way Out West membership are due each January. We need your dues to be paid on time, so we can cover continuing expenses for renting The Mayflower Club and for paper, envelopes, and postage that we need for our newsletters. Once again, we encourage our members to mail their payment for annual dues directly to our Grand Vizier, Lori McCaffery. That way we can keep our check-in lines for our January meeting running at a normal speed. Our dues are unchanged from 2014 and are listed here. Please make out your checks to "Way Out West Tent" (this is different than 2014) and mail your checks to Lori McCaffery, 4313 Woodland Avenue, Burbank, CA 91505. Thank you for your help and continued support.
Maud Booth Center Donations
Thanks to everyone who brought can goods and/or made cash donations on behalf of the Maud Booth Family Center at our December meeting. In their time of need, your increasing generosity and continuing support was greatly appreciated by the Center. The Way Out West Tent is very proud of our members.
Notes From Our December Meeting
In December we tried to keep a Christmas holiday theme throughout our meeting by playing popular Christmas music during check-in time and during breaks. The films that we screened also continued the Christmas holiday theme. In the The Fixer Uppers the the Boys are selling Christmas cards in Paris. In There Ain't No Santa Claus Charley Chase is having a tough Christmas in Culver City. Finally, in Babes in Toyland the Boys work in Toyland and meet with Santa Claus (even though Barnaby lets the cat out of the bag that it's really only July).
We also gave away four free door prizes to show our appreciation to our members for their great support in 2014. Tony Robinette won a free hot dog and chips for all six 2015 Way Out West meetings. Duke Molner won two restored 8 X 10 photos from Way Out West the movie. Joe Ortiz won a brand new unwrapped DVD copy of March of the Wooden Soldiers (a.k.a. Babes in Toyland). Janiss Garza won the top door prize of the evening, a brand new unwrapped copy of Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection. Congratulations to all the prize winners. Everything worked out well for the evening, except for the Ugly Sweater Night segment, which either needed more pre-promotion or was just a bad idea!
Thanks to Jayne Barnhart, Dave Greim, J.T. Tropper, Curtis Armstrong, Ken Runyan, Alan Cohen, and Victor D'Agostino for helping me with the toasts and singing "The Sons of the Desert Song."
From the Grand Sheik
Ever wonder how the prop people at the Hal Roach Studios got Narcissus the goat from Saps at Sea to gnaw through the rope that moored the Boys' boat to the dock? Lois Roberts, the widow of Thomas Benton Roberts, also was a longtime dear friend to Kris, Jimmy III, and me and she once wrote a letter to us about her husband's work at the Hal Roach Studios. In part of the letter she wrote, "My husband's last job for Hal Roach Studios was in 1939, when they called him to get a location for the shooting of Saps at Sea. He found the location and the boat they needed. Just before it was time for the goat to cut the line, my husband spliced the rope and wove in some hay and rubbed the outside of the rope with liverwurst. On signal, the [trained] goat bit the rope and the boat was cut from the mooring and moved out on cue!" How we miss sweet Lois!
Booth Colman Tribute
By Richard W. Bann
Stage, screen and TV actor Booth Colman died in his sleep Monday, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles. He was 91. I shared the sad news with Lois Laurel. A Shakespearean authority, Mr. Colman essayed serious roles almost exclusively in his long career. They were often authority figures -- doctors, clergymen, scientists, lawyers. He was not a comedian, nor a comic actor, and it might seem unlikely that late in Stan Laurel's life, the much younger Booth Colman would be Laurel's single closest friend. But he was.
"Booth had a keen eye for all the facets of acting, well beyond dramatic roles," Lois said. "My father would have long discussions with Booth about the acting craft, and appreciated his keen sense of humor. He was a master of understatement and wit, which my father loved."
Mr. Colman was born in Portland, Oregon and attended the University of Washington, and also the University of Michigan, where he began his career in radio. He mastered five languages, then much more.
Booth's film debut was The Big Sky (1952), and his last film appearance (of more than fifty) was in Norma Rae (1979). He enjoyed working on Broadway with the likes of Basil Rathbone and Fredric March, and was especially fond of portraying Scrooge on stage in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which he was able to do pretty much annually for decades in hundreds of performances.
Booth Colman was prolific, however, in prime-time TV series, guesting -- often multiple times -- on Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Star Trek, The Waltons, Zorro, Thriller, 77 Sunset Strip, Barnaby Jones, Route 66, The Rifleman, Mannix, Marcus Welby, Mission Impossible, The Untouchables, so many more. He also performed in sit-coms like Frasier, Gilligan's Island, My Three Sons, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Flying Nun, The Monkees and Hogan's Heroes. And there were periods when Booth took recurring roles in such soap operas as The Young and the Restless and General Hospital.
He even visited the granite splendor of Lone Pine, working on location in Have Gun Will Travel and Bonanza, which to my surprise he shot on the same cattle ranch where I conduct an annual tour for the film festival there.
"It always bothered my dad," Lois recalled, "that as a character actor, Booth never received the accolades he deserved for his performances, and that he wasn't better known." But this never bothered Booth, being a humble man, and a nice man, one who never sought attention or recognition -- rare in Hollywood. As long as he knew Stan Laurel, he never remembered posing for a photo together.
As a young man, Booth was invited to study with the prestigious Maurice Evans company, where he would enact Hamlet. Eventually this association led to Booth succeeding Evans in the role of Dr. Zaius in the Planet of the Apes series. He was always amused that this popular vehicle would bring him continuing acclaim, regular invitations to appear at film conventions, and tons of fan mail that never ceased, always seeking autographs.
In phone conversations with Lois, she asked me many times to tell Booth how much his friendship meant to her father. "He was a true friend, my dad's best friend," Lois says. "He was such a gentleman, a real class act, and I wanted him to know how much my father truly respected him."
One thing Messrs. Laurel and Colman had in common, was their esteem for Charlie Chaplin. "No one could touch him," Booth said. "This was an odd man, to be sure, if you knew him. But on either side of a camera, he was an artist above all others. Stan would be embarrassed when friends compared him to Chaplin; he wouldn't listen to it."
Performing on Broadway, Booth both worked and roomed with Charlie Chaplin, Jr., just as Stan had with Charlie Chaplin, Sr. At Stan's funeral, Booth sat with Charlie Jr., and remembered that Hal Roach sat with Leo McCarey, and that Buster Keaton sat with Patsy Kelly, etc. He particularly remembered Keaton twice blowing kisses toward the casket.
So through the years Mr. Colman had both poignant and funny stories to tell, which always held me spellbound. Stories of Stan Laurel and John Barrymore, or Stan Laurel and George Arliss, and of course Stan Laurel with Hal Roach and all the studio alumni. Because Booth was such a consummate performer, he would effortlessly offer these anecdotes full off little details that made the listener feel as though you were sitting in, right there with Booth, observing as Stan Laurel would pick up the phone and call Babe Hardy every day. Or Booth might describe visiting the market together, and how Stan would sit next to him in the passenger seat of the car, nervously shuffling his feet while Booth drove. As any admirer would, Booth asked Stan about the Laurel & Hardy films. Occasionally he would make remarks in character, or quote familiar dialogue, and then erupt into wild laughter.
Booth recalled one thing Stan would ruminate on every so often, concerning the vagaries of celebrity and fame; he wasn't sad about it, but he wasn't laughing either when he would say, "Today you're everyone's host, but tomorrow you are no one's guest."
In all endeavors, Booth Colman quietly earned the respect of everyone who knew him, beginning with no less than Stan Laurel. And Lois Laurel, too.
On behalf of his estate, Booth's nieces are unsure just now about a memorial service. Meanwhile, in lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to Actors Fund of America, National Federation for the Blind, or United Jewish Appeal.