Hal E. Chester

Hal E. Chester (born Harold Ribotsky; March 6, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York March 25, 2012 in London),[1] was an American film producer, writer, director, and former juvenile actor.[1][2]

Hal E. Chester
Harold Ribotsky[1]

(1921-03-06)March 6, 1921
Brooklyn, New York, US
DiedMarch 25, 2012(2012-03-25) (aged 91)
London, UK
OccupationFilm producer, writer, director, actor
Years active1935–2003
Virginia Wetherly
(m. 1948; her death 1980)

Early life and career

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, he was the youngest of seven children born to affluent Polish-Jewish immigrants; his father was a property developer.[3] After the Wall Street Crash, he took up work as a magician's assistant to help the family finances.[4]

Originally credited as "Hally Chester" in theater productions (taking the surname of his step-mother),[1] he appeared in the premiere production of Dead End by Sidney Kingsley on Broadway at the age of 14.[4] Playing the part of Dippy, one of the gang of kids soon known as The Dead End Kids, he toured in this play for 22 weeks, before accepting an offer to appear in the sequel to the film version Crime School (1938) for Warner Bros which had Humphrey Bogart cast in one of the leading roles.[4] As a teen actor, his most regular work was with "The Little Tough Guys" series for Universal, appearing also in Juvenile Court (1938) for Columbia, in which Rita Hayworth appears,[4] and The Eastside Kids for Monogram Pictures. His last appearance in this series was in Sea Raiders (1941).

Hal E. Chester, as he was now known, managed to convince Monogram to place him on contract as a producer in 1945. Meanwhile, he entered into an agreement with comic strip writer/cartoonist Ham Fisher, creator of the Joe Palooka comic strip cartoon character.[4] Between 1946 and 1951, responsible for a series of what became twelve Joe Palooka movies starring Joe Kirkwood, Jr beginning with Joe Palooka, Champ (1946).

He also produced Smart Woman (1948), The Underworld Story (1950), The Highwayman (1951), and Models Inc (1952). Working with stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen, he produced The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), based on a Ray Bradbury story, in which a monster, created by the effects of atomic bomb tests terrorises Manhattan.[4] From a budget of $250,000, its rentals totaled $5 million.[3] Crashout (1955), a film about convicts on the run, followed.[5] He co-wrote and produced The Bold and the Brave (1956) starring Nicole Maurey and Mickey Rooney, which led to Academy Award nominations for Rooney and the screenplay.

British career

After sailing to Britain on The Liberte in 1955 with his wife Virginia (née Wetherly) and two young sons, he was able to take advantage of tax laws intended to encourage international co-productions.[4] The couple, who had married in 1948, soon had a third son soon afterwards.[3] The family adapted so well to British life they set up permanent home in London, where Chester lived until he died.[5] He produced The Weapon (1956) for Republic Pictures in a co-production deal. He co-wrote the screenplay and produced Night of the Demon (1957), which according to Martin Scorsese is "one of the scariest films ever made".[4] Starring Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins, it was directed by Jacques Tourneur. He followed it with The Two Headed Spy (1958) and School for Scoundrels (1960) with Terry-Thomas, Ian Carmichael, Alastair Sim and Janette Scott. This comedy, derived loosely from the books of Stephen Potter was a box-office success, but also the last hit of Chester's career.[4]

Chester later produced His and Hers (1961), The Comedy Man (1964) and, along with Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff, co-wrote the screenplay for Father Goose (1964) starring Cary Grant. The Double Man (1967), a cold war spy thriller,[5] features Yul Brynner and Britt Ekland in the leads while The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) stars Paul Newman. Chester's last film as producer was Take A Girl Like You (1970) directed by Jonathan Miller. It was based on the Kingsley Amis novel, adapted by George Melly and stars Hayley Mills and Oliver Reed.[4]

Chester's second son died in a car accident in 1978, as did his grieving wife in 1980. In 2003, Hal E. Chester suffered a stroke which left him severely incapacitated and died in London, on March 25, 2012.[3] For the remake of School for Scoundrels (2006) Chester was credited as an executive producer.[2]


Year Title Role Notes
1938Crime SchoolBoyUncredited
1938Little Tough GuyDopey
1938Personal SecretaryNewsboyUncredited
1938Juvenile CourtLefty
1938Little Tough Guys in SocietyMurphy
1938Newsboys' HomeMurphy
1939Off the RecordReform School InmateUncredited
1939Code of the StreetsMurph
1939When Tomorrow ComesNewsboyUncredited
1939The Witness VanishesCopy BoyUncredited
1939Call a MessengerMurph
1940East Side KidsFred 'Dutch' Kuhn
1940You're Not So ToughSecond NewsboyUncredited
1940Boys of the CityBuster
1940Junior G-MenMurphUncredited
1941Hit the RoadTrusty
1941Mob TownBoyUncredited
1941Sea RaidersSwabSerial, (final film orle)


  1. Quinn, Michael (May 30, 2012). "Hal E Chester". The Stage. London. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  2. "Hal E. Chester". BFI Film Forever. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  3. "Hal E. Chester". The Times. London. May 2, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2018. (subscription required)
  4. Vallance, Tom (May 23, 2012). "Hal E Chester: Producer of cult hit Night of the Demon". The Independent. London. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  5. Finler, Joel (April 16, 2012). "Hal E Chester obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
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