Towed in a Hole - Location Shooting

The opening street scenes were shot near the residential intersection of Madison Avenue and Culver Boulevard in Culver City. This location was about a mile from Hal Roach Studios, but only a fly rod's cast from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. A few flocks southeast of this intersection on Madison was the home for HOG WILD (1930).


TOWED IN A HOLE begs one question in the very least. Why would a commercial venture like Joe's Junk Yard, which featured a nautical line from boats to battleships, be located on dry land, miles away from water? Any water? Answer: because that's where Hal Roach owned a ranch often used for exterior shooting. Nothing fishy about it at all.

The Place was known as the Arnaz Ranch, or the Roach Ranch, or hust "the ranch". In the 1920s the terrain featured rolling hills and a flat area in the center. Roach and Will Rogers often played polo there during noon-hour workouts.

This rural, familiar looking locale served to brighten many outstanding comedies including THE HOOSE-GOW (1929) with Laurel & Hardy, HELPING GRANDMA (1931) with Our Gang, and FALLEN ARCHES (1933) with Charley Chase. There was a distinctive east west country lane, framed by a grove of beautiful eucalyptus trees. Long gone now, a dull housing tract stands there today, on a street called David Avenue. It slopes down looking east towards Robertson Boulevard, which can be seen carrying cars on the horizon in several shots during TOWED IN A HOLE. Hal Roach and Stand Laurel both drove south on Robertson Boulevard every day commuting between Beverly Hills and Hal Roach Studios in Culver City.

As a child, Lois Laurel-Hawes remembers visiting her father and "Uncle Babe" at the ranch and playing with the farm animals, the chickens and the goats. A dog named Laughing Gravy lived there, watched over by resident caretakers Tony and Irma Campanaro. This couple supervised another activity at the ranch, keeping Roach and his friends at the studio well supplied with wine made illegally during the Prohibition era.

The heat-up boat used in TOWED IN A HOLE was a fixture at the ranch for years. Lois Laurel-Hawes recalls seeing it there many times, although she was not present during filming. Nor was her same-named mother, who might have objected to the name on the old fishing crate : Ruth. After Stan and Lois Laurel-Hawes divorced in 1935, he married Virginia Ruth Rogers. Actually that's another story entirely. Stan Laurel called the lady "Rughie", and "Baby Ruth", but the name printed on the boat, visible on the screen, is "Ruth". Later, Laurel named his luxury yacht in her honor, the "Ruth L.".

In keeping with the film's nautical theme, it seems fitting that the usual Los Angeles morning marine layer of fog should roll in from the ocean and hide the sun. It forced the use of reflectors and lights in several scenes which does not match footage shot later in the day after the cloud cover was burned off.

-- by Richard W. Bann --