BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST
The Hal Roach Studios produced many memorable films which featured some beautiful and talented actresses. Fans will naturally have their own opinions on who their favourites are or who they think was the most attractive but here are my TOP 20 MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN who starred or appeared in a Hal Roach-produced film between 1917-1940 in approximate order. Each entry attempts to justify the inclusion of the actress on this list and recommends a particular appearance in which they shall be remembered....
See also: Craig Calman's Blanche's Babes list for a slightly different approach to this list!

1   DOROTHY COBURN

- Ms. Coburn was beauty personified. In her very brief spell with the Roach Studios between 1927-1928 she appeared in 20 films and was never afraid to take a pie, paint or mud to the face. This feisty red-headed, short-tempered 24 year-old flapper often appeared provoked into retaliation, particularly in opposition to Laurel and Hardy whom she starred with a dozen times - many of them in direct conflict with them.
Unfortunately we never get to hear her speak, as her final film for Hal Roach came in 1928 before 'talkies' were introduced. Shame.

MUST SEE HER IN: Should Married Men Go Home? (1928)
2   MURIEL EVANS

- This Minnesota-born beauty was frequently paired with Charley Chase (9 films) between 1932-33, with one last appearance with him in 1935, sometimes as his wife or love interest. Her two appearances in The Taxi Boys series shouldn't be overlooked either where she commandeered the screen and shined with the domination of some scenes where she offers an ample amount of chest-bursting cleavage. Or there's that scene in Chase's Fallen Arches where she dons a very revealing bathing costume before getting it completely wet. Just don't mention the name Anita Garvin to her.

MUST SEE HER IN: Hot Spot (1932)
3   DOROTHY GRANGER

- Ms. Granger was young, beautiful and certainly had a sizeable chest, as is seen in several of her films, none moreso that in the All-Stars' Next Week-End. Her shapely legs are on view as the woman crossing the flooded street in Laurel & Hardy's Hog Wild. And let's not forget the scene in Let's Do Things where, during a dance routine she lifts her leg almost vertical! She starred in four films with The Boy Friends and became an important inclusion to the cast in the series.

MUST SEE HER IN: Looser Than Loose (1930)
4   MARY KORNMAN

- Yes, I went there! Ms. Kornman is one of those girls where one has to be careful when assessing such beauty mixed with an obvious sexual desire due to her young age. The once-prominent Our Gang regular came into her sexuality at around the time she became a regular cast member for The Boy Friends series in 1930 and there were occasions where she wasn't too shy about showing off her body either. Whether it was leaning out of an upper-storey window and showing a considerable amount of cleavage in Call A Cop! or lying naked in a bathtub in High Gear, there is no denying she was absolutely gorgeous. By the time she was late-teens her once-unquestionable natural beauty was already starting to fade. Evidence of this can be seen in her last Our Gang appearance in 1937 at the age of 21.

MUST SEE HER IN: High Gear (1931)
5   DOROTHY LAYTON

- I'm guessing that if your name was Dorothy then you had a pretty decent chance of being on this list! Ms. Layton is one of those girls whom is probably overlooked due to her relatively insignificant roles, but her twelve films for Roach did enough to get her beauty noticed. She didn't have too many speaking parts but when she appeared on screen she would often grab your attention. Not so easy to pick a "must see" film for her due to her small parts but I'm particularly fond of that shot of her in Laurel and Hardy's The Chimp where all she is doing is listening to James Finlayson's speech. She doesn't do anything but damn does she look great!

MUST SEE HER IN: The Chimp (1932)
6   THELMA TODD

- That's correct, she's not number one. There can be no denying Thelma's natural beauty, which is clear to see from the 60+ films she made for Hal Roach between 1929-1935. As the lead co-star in two series (one with ZaSu Pitts, the other with Patsy Kelly), Ms. Todd was also a regular choice as Charley Chase's female star as she appeared with him no fewer than 12 times. Never afraid to show more skin than most other actresses would dare, the viewer was often treated to shots of Thelma in a state of undress and near-nakedness, which became the norm after a while. Unfortunately it was a bit too much and just a little too obvious at times.
She has more entries on this site's Risque page than any other person.

MUST SEE HER IN: The Pip From Pittsburg (1931)
7   KATHERINE GRANT

- If ever there was a tragic story to tell then it would be that of the sad demise of this beautiful actress, who would be dead by the time she was 32. A former model and Miss Los Angeles winner, Ms. Grant had a very distinctive-looking face and was often seen in some of Stan Laurel's earliest comedies. But she really found her niche when she was paired with Charley Chase in nineteen films between 1924-26. This small-framed beauty was another victim of the stars who never made the transition from silent to sound films and her life was all-but over when she was the victim of a hit-and-run accident with a car from which she never fully recovered.

MUST SEE HER IN: Looking For Sally (1925)
8   JUNE MARLOWE

- Ah, the loveable Miss Crabtree from the Our Gang series; a role she played six times on screen. What's not to like about her? This softly-spoken Minnesota-born brunette was a little bit older than most of the other actresses who were given regular prominent roles as she was almost 30 years old at the height of her career with the studio. Her debut film for Roach was as the angry woman who complains to Charley Chase about his taxi service in Fast Work. In the film Charley tells her that he thinks she has a pretty face. She certainly did.

MUST SEE HER IN: Teacher's Pet (1930)
9   EDNA MARION

- This petite, blonde-haired little beauty amassed a total of 17 films for Hal Roach between 1927-1928, twelve of them with Charley Chase. At 5'1" tall, Edna was one of the smallest of all the actresses who graced the silent screen for Roach, and although she was never really afforded too many starring roles in the films, her perky rounded face always stole the screen.
Danish film historian Peter Mikkelsen will be pleased to see his favourite girl scrape into the top ten on this list, though I am sure he would have placed her much higher!

MUST SEE HER IN: The Lighter That Failed (1927)
10   MARTHA SLEEPER

- I wonder how many people realise just how many films Ms. Sleeper appeared in for Hal Roach? Almost 50! Born in 1910, she always looked much older than she really was. She was just 13 years old when she started shooting her first film for the studio, A Ten-Minute Egg and often appeared opposite Charley Chase in a broad spectrum of roles; from maids to girlfriends and even a princess! Another unfortunate victim of the silent-to-sound transition, Martha played out the final films for the studio as the daughter of Max Davidson in his Gimplewart comedies.
Film historian Bob Duncan is a huge fan of hers.

MUST SEE HER IN: Flaming Fathers (1927)
11   VIOLA RICHARD

- Canadian-born actress who was in her early 20s when she, along with others on this list, started her career with Hal Roach for a brief stint between 1927-28, appearing in 14 silent shorts. Her private life was marred by unfortunate circumstances in which she lost one husband in a fire and the other whom she divorced due to his ill-treatment of her. But on screen she was a vivacious, bubbly star who fitted nicely into the mould which was created for her largely due to her appearances opposite Charley Chase, whom she starred with three times. She will probably best be remembered as the naked girl in the back of the limo in Limousine Love.

MUST SEE HER IN: Limousine Love (1928)
12   ESTELLE ETTERRE

- She is one of those actresses who sometimes pops up in films where you know the face but not the name. Sometimes wrongly known as "Bell Hare", Ms. Etterre was a beautiful blonde who did occasionally have some dialogue during the 16 films she made for Hal Roach in the early 1930s. Her parts were often small and insignificant and mainly background stuff but there were occasions where she would get a close-up and her full beauty could be realised.

MUST SEE HER IN: Pan Handlers (1936)
13   PATSY KELLY

- This Brooklyn-born comedienne was simply a joy to watch and was a much more suited compliment to Thelma Todd than ZaSu Pitts ever was; bringing a whole new dynamic to the series after Pitts' departure in 1933. Kelly injects great wit and comedy into the 21 films she made with Thelma Todd with her simply adorable fruitcake charm which she brought to the screen practically every time, offering an innocence and general crazy on-screen persona. Unfortunately her best work was well behind her after Todd's death in 1935 and although she carried on making a further eleven films for Roach, it was obvious that her spark had gone. On the rare occasion she gave us a small glimpse of what she had underneath, with a pretty nice shot of her in a slip in Babes In The Goods.

MUST SEE HER IN: Top Flat (1935)
14   ANITA GARVIN

- There is a reason why Ms. Garvin is in the bottom half of this list and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she just looked too mature. Too adult. Or maybe just too tall? With the rare exception where she showed some considerable leg in His Silent Racket, she never really portrayed herself as a sex symbol of the screen. A talented actress, no doubt, but the characters she often played were too serious, too angry or hard-nosed for us to see beyond that exterior of hers! Nonetheless, she rightly deserves a place on this list, albeit this far down it.

MUST SEE HER IN: A Pair Of Tights (1929)
15   MARION BYRON

- Short and sweet: that was Marion Byron. In a precursor to what later became the Pitts/Todd series, Ms. Byron looked set to co-star along side Anita Garvin for what could have turned into the first female comedy team series after two relatively decent films towards the end of the 1920s but nothing came of it and whereas Garvin went on to strike relative success with the Hal Roach studios, Byron was pretty much forgotten about. Her film appearances were relatively limited but from them she did generate ample screen time and that is enough to have her included on this list as one of the prettiest (and at just five feet tall; shortest) girls from Roach's stable of beautiful actresses.

MUST SEE HER IN: Going Ga-Ga (1929)
16   ISABELLE KEITH

- A relatively obscure actress with a scattered film career and five appearances for Roach is Isabelle Keith, one of only two women on this list to have been born pre-1900. She holds the distiction of being the only actress to have played both Mrs. Laurel and Mrs. Hardy in the two films she made with them. Other brief glimpses of her came in a Boy Friends short and as a non-speaking passenger in the Todd/Kelly short Air Fright. The camera catches her just at the right angle briefly in Be Big! exposing her cleavage in a low-cut gown.

MUST SEE HER IN: Be Big! (1931)
17   MAE BUSCH

- When you think of the word "beautiful", this Australian hot-headed actress would probably not be the first person who comes to mind. That said, if you peel back the layers of her hard exterior, the sometimes bitter, sometimes suicidal and often angry and vengeful, Mae Busch does possess an attractive face - sometimes. As the oldest woman to make this list, these shots of her in Laurel and Hardy's Come Clean reveal that even at the age of 40 she wasn't afraid to show us a little more of her than we're used to seeing, and good for her! And us. It would have been a crime to leave Mae off this list, wouldn't it?

MUST SEE HER IN: Chickens Come Home (1931)
18   BETTY MACK

- This was a tough call to make, as I didn't really rate Betty Mack as a competent actress and felt she was a inferior replacement for Muriel Evans as Charley Chase's love interest in his mid-1930s films. According to the book Smile When The Raindrops Fall (Brian Anthony & Andy Edmonds) she had a brief real-life affair with Chase during this period. However, in the nine films she made with him (and the only nine she made for Roach in total) she never really stole the attention of the viewer with her good looks. But occassionally, just occassionally she would wear something that would show off her shapely breasts. Can't deny that!

MUST SEE HER IN: I'll Take Vanilla (1934)
19   GERTIE MESSINGER

- If you watch too many films in The Boy Friends series, eventually you are going to end up accepting that Gertie Messinger isn't that bad! In the ten films from the series that she starred in (often alongside real-life husband Dave Sharpe), she was a principal member of the cast along side fellow females Mary Kornman and Dorothy Granger. Her off-screen antics (if you know of them) are the real turn-off in rating her any higher on this list. Even so, there are some scenes when she does look pretty - but when you are in the same scenes with the likes of Kornman, you're always going to come off second best aren't you?

MUST SEE HER IN: Call A Cop! (1931)
20   THE CRANE TWINS

- Sort of cheating here a bit by squeezing two attractive young ladies into one entry. Born in April 1917, Beverly and Bettymae Crane are the youngest girls to make this list. The twin sisters from Utah were the "talking titles" behind a dozen of Roach's short films between 1930-31 with Beverly (who always stood on the left of the screen) and Bettymae (on the right) alternating the spoken credits for each film. Most fans will remember them for Laurel & Hardy's Another Fine Mess, but that was simply one of many they did - and for $15 a time.
I've chosen Girl Shock as the film to see them in simply because it was their first appearance for Roach. They had just turned 13 years old at the time.

MUST SEE THEM IN: Girl Shock (1930)
THE BEAST   BLANCHE PAYSON

- Imagine waking up next to THAT every morning!

MUST SEE HER IN: Below Zero (1930)