Friday, February 5, 2010

Our Gang Follies of 1936

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Originally released in November 30, 1935, this 16 minute short featured a number of firsts.
  •  Darla Hood debuted in this film under the nickname "Cookie" which was never used again. 
  •  Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer began a long-running gag of singing a popular tune very badly; in this case, The Object of My Affection
  •  And "Scotty" Scotty Beckett had what you might call a "last." This was his last Our Gang short, though he did continue a successful film career. He had been lead actor George "Spanky" McFarland's main sidekick for some time, though his character was already being overshadowed by Alfalfa.
We want the Flory Dories!

The Little Rascal/Our Gang shorts, produced by Hal Roach, began in 1922 and continued well into the 40s. They stood out at the time for their portrayal of kids as kids, rather than being coached to behave like small adults. In addition, they were stories about "poor" kids, and their drive and resourcefulness was an inspiration, even to me. One theme that sticks in my mind was how the rich kid, Waldo, would try and impress Darla with his newest toy, like a child-sized motorized car or small boat. Then the Our Gang kids would make their own, out of trash, and win the race or what have you.

It is true there were ethnic and racial stereotypes. Our Gang Follies of 1936 to take one example, features a gag where the lights go out in the house, and you can still see all the eyes of the black kids shining in the darkness. However, the depiction of kids of different races - and genders - playing together with no apparent hierarchy or animosity has to account for something.

Spooky Our Gang episodes!

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