L. A. French


nickname: Los Angeles French


The information I've accumulated on L. A. French is pretty sparse. Just what it is he did at the Roach studio is not absolutely clear, though his duties changed a couple of times. In Anthony & Edmonds' 1921 reference to French (see below), they refer to him as a 'production head,' but this is a fairly vague description. Maltin & Bann, when talking about the August 1924 Our Gang release "High Society" (no. 30), describe French as the studio purchasing agent who later became production manager. Two months later, an October 1924 Red Book gives him the official title of 'assistant general manager,' which seems consistent with the idea of a purchasing agent. The 'production manager' title is shared by H. M. Walker and T. J. Crizer in that book. In Randy Skretvedt's book, French is first described as a 'business manager' (circa 1929), and later as a 'production manager', particularly in the mid-thirties. During this latter era, Skredvedt also describes him as a 'one-time assistant production manager.' It should be noted that one of French's tasks at the studio was to fill out the daily production books which gave a limited description of the daily activities taking place with each of the film units. Skretvedt describes how French's handwriting disappears from these in 1932, indicating that he was already overseeing production (to some degree) by that time and had been since the mid-twenties. All of that having been said, French probably had at least a casual involvement in all of the Our Gang films made until his promotion to sole production manager of the Laurel & Hardy unit in 1936. His son, incidentally, was Lloyd French, who spent most of his Roach tenure as Laurel & Hardy's assistant director.


1921

The earliest reference to French that I've found is in Smile When The Raindrops Fall by Brian Anthony & Andy Edmonds, in which they mention a production note by French in October 1921 regarding the current Ruth Roland serial, "White Eagle." It seems likely that French joined the studio, or least attained his management position, in late 1920 or early to mid 1921. In The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd, a page from a 1920 publication is reprinted showing the Roach staff at that time, and listed as 'assistant manager' was Frank J. Hampton. Presumably, French replaced Hampton. In any event, he arrived on the scene early enough to witness the inauguration of the Our Gang series.


1924

We can ascertain that French held the official title of 'assistant general manager' during this period, while the title of 'production manager' was shared by Walker and Crizer.

30. High Society (use of name)
Aug. 24, 1924 - Roach/Pathé - 2 reels - prod. A-30 - Our Gang series

Filmed Mar. 24 to Apr. 5, 1924. ©May 29, 1924. The papers for Mickey's adoption in this film are signed by a judge named L. A. French.


1932

As mentioned in the Skretvedt book, the daily production books were written in French's handwriting until August 6th, 1932. The studio then went on break for three weeks, and somebody else's handwriting appears after that. Skretvedt speculates that French left the studio at this time, but other evidence would suggest that he simply handed over this task to somebody else and remained with the studio until 1936. Perhaps 1932 was the year French ceased to be an 'assistant.'


1935

One interesting detail from this year is the listing of French as production manager on the script for "Their Night Out," the Hardy Family pilot that was aborted before it ever went into production due to the reunion of Laurel & Hardy.


1936

After the resignation of general manager Henry Ginsberg, French become the sole production manager of the Laurel & Hardy unit. Presumably, this ended whatever casual involvement he had with the Our Gang series. Around the middle of the year, French was fired in favor of Hal Roach's cousin, Sidney S. Van Keuren, who became vice president in charge of production for the whole studio.


1938

The last bit of information I can find on French has to do with Stan Laurel Productions. In addition to providing Laurel with an honorary 'producer' credit on the current Laurel & Hardy features being produced at Roach, Stan Laurel Productions also turned out three westerns, all released in early 1938 and produced by Jed Buell. After this, Buell went off to make "The Terror Of Tiny Town," and Laurel replaced him with French. And apparently not much happened after that, since Stan Laurel Productions stopped producing.


©Oct. 22, 2007, by Robert Demoss.
2007 updates: 11/16.
2008 updates: 7/6.


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