Oliver the Eighth - In the Cast

Beginning with Chaplin and Laurel, Hal Roach reserved his highest praise for English stage comedians. Throughout his long career Roach regularly travelled to London, saw shows and revues, and negotiated for writing and performing talent. In OLIVER THE EIGHTH, with a cast of six, one was American, one was Australian, four were English.


During the l980s we visited London together three times, and on each occasion Hal Roach was aggressive about seeing and assessing and meeting new comedic actors and actresses. He wanted to know who they were, how good they were, and whether or not he could sign them for some television or movie project back in the states!

After Stan Laurel's trip to Britain in l932, he conferred with Roach about comic performers he saw and liked, including Jack Barty. On Roach's subsequent visit to London, he signed several actors in anticipation of producing a comedy feature film there. It was to have been an adaptation of MUMMING BIRDS, entitled A NIGHT IN AN ENGLISH MUSIC HALL. But M-G-M, which advanced the production money for all of the Hal Roach Studios product, was less than enthused. So Roach was forced to abandon the project, as was reported in VARIETY on May l6, l933.

When Roach returned home, he brought along several of these British variety comics, including Jack Barty, cast here as Jitters the butler (also the name of a l932 RKO Clark & McCullough short comedy that featured Jimmie Finlayson). Barty then worked out of the Culver City comedy plant during the l933-l934 season before returning to the stage in England. He died in l942 at age 54.

Mae Busch was also 54 when she passed away in l946, of cancer, at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills. She had married three times, not eight. Her husbands were actor Francis McDonald, oil man John E. Cassell, and civil engineer Thomas C. Tate, who survived her, but failed to claim her ashes. None of those gentlemen was named Oliver.

It was curious that Mae Busch should play a mentally unstable and homicidal woman in OLIVER THE EIGHTH in view of her own nervous breakdown during l926 after walking out on a big contract with M-G-M as a dramatic actress.

Not in the cast: Charlie Hall, whose part as a laundry man dropping by to collect the shop's dirty towels was clipped; and Phyllis Barry, who was replaced by Mae Busch when the company resumed shooting after Christmas and the new year break. Later Miss Barry did appear in a Hal Roach novelty short, the curious and incredible INFERNAL TRIANGLE. "A satirical expose of illicit love," according to the pressbook, "as it might be pictured by motion picture directors of various countries (England, France, America and Russia) and times (the silent film era)." Such an experimental, international short seems to have been a step backwards for an actress who had just appeared opposite Ronald Colman in CYNARA (l932), Buster Keaton in WHAT! NO BEER? (l933) and Wheeler & Woolsey in DIPLOMANIACS (l933).

-- by Richard W. Bann --