nickname: Los Angeles French
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.