This story about Italian fascism, herewith related mental arsonists in the 20th century and nowadays’s implications has at least a partial good end – for sure not self-evident in this time era of crucial nationalist leaders creating a deadly and hazardous world. First of all a schmock is Yiddish and just means idiot or useless person, and in the picture here under you can obviously recognize one real sucker from Hollywood but I talk about no individual couching in bed, instead of Hal Roach, the film producer of the popular comedy duo Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, a smart looking guy hiding a yawning abyss.
Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel & Hal Roach, ca. 1935
Shall we consider that all monsters have fur and fang? In his book Real Nazis the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski shows 203 historical photos and pictures of German Nazis in diverse uniforms (SS, Wehrmacht, NS-party) or without. A lot of them look so unobtrusive like friendly neighbors at the next corner, and this innocent seeming banality disturbs gravely and misleads a lot. The evil often hides behind facades of a boring normality like it is the case with psychopathic murders in our contemporary daily life.
In case of Hal Roach, being better known as a producer of silent movies like Our Gang (1922) or Safety Last! (1923) with Harold Llloyd, he was also a fervent devotee of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini until the very end of his long lifetime. In 1927 Hal Roach brought together the goofy duo of Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel which as Laurel & Hardy have become the most famous comedy duo in cinematic history. In 1931 the duo was acting in its first full-length sound film Pardon us produced by Hal Roach. Now the Italian version of Pardon us became also known to the dictator Benito Mussolini who admired this film very much.
Benito Mussolini in typical posture, ca. 1931
Hence, Hal Roach got invited to Rome by Benito Mussolini where he was treated like a guest of state. When being interviewed some years later he defiantly uttered: “Benito Mussolini is the only square politician I’ve ever seen.” So he praised him to be unique honest, an absolute deluded view of the world. And when visiting the international film festival Berlinale in 1992 shortly before his death, he would not like so much to speak with reporters about his former employees Laurel & Hardy but when the topic changed to Benito Mussolini he eventually spoke about Il Duce with great passion and glowing eyes, so he never changed his mind.
In 1937 — two years before the war — the dictator sent his son Vittorio to Hollywood. There, he struck a deal with Hal Roach because they founded a film company called “R.A.M.” which stood for “Roach and Mussolini.” They were to make movies and comedies, but of course also promotional films about the fascist Italy. This business alliance with Mussolini finally led to an intervention of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and as well by MGM, this forced Hal Roach to pay his way out of this venture. Therefore, Laurel & Hardy were really lucky as they subsequently never had to act amusingly for Il Duce, the original idea and intention of the dictator in this regard.
Hal Roach and Vittorio Mussolini at a Hollywood studio
Alessandra Mussolini, a direct descendant and granddaughter of Il Duce, is a leading promoter of neo-fascism today in Italy. Actually as a member of Forza Italia she also holds a seat at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. One of her well known remarks reads as follows: “Better to be a fascist than gay.” So the ghosts of the past are indeed lumbering amongst us again in the present and creating many tensions and fears. Only fundamental resistance will stop this ugly chauvinist zeitgeist now spreading everywhere on Earth.