STORY: When Wheezer is adopted, his sister Mary
Ann and the
rest of the gang
from the orphanage invade his new mother's house, accidentally creating
sorts of havoc.
The first Our Gang
talkie is talkie indeed,
and noisy. Because audiences were not used to sounds in
they would scream in laughter at hearing almost anything.
the major gags in this film follow suit, such as a
lengthy sequence in which Farina is confused by a whistling clock, a
mechanical bird and a chatty parakeet. The film is
curiosity, and not a bad one
at that, but everybody is so uncertain of themselves,
even Pete the Pup can be spotted looking
toward the director for help.
accidentally takes the gang for a wild runaway joyride on his father's
In the second Our Gang talkie, director Bob
the problems of sound by not worrying about them, a solution that makes
for a visually
vibrant film in which some of the dialogue is obscured by poor
placement of microphones and
extraneous railroad yard noise. It doesn't matter.
Railroadin' is such a
picture, it would be
just as enjoyable with the sound turned down and your favorite old jazz
record playing on the stereo. The runaway train sequence is
superbly edited by Richard Currier (except for one
mismatched shot) while creative camera work, thrilling tracking
excellent back-projection work generate more excitement and
suspense than you would expect in an Our Gang short.
STORY: Joe and
both keen on Jean, settle their differences in a boxing ring.
An unexpected step backwards after the triumph of Railroadin', Boxing Gloves is comprised of both sound and silent footage, with almost no attempt to blend the elements together with anything resembling movie-making skill. Much of the climactic boxing scene, which cries out for crowd noise, is completely silent, with nothing but hiss and crackle on the soundtrack. Other early Our Gang shorts have a similar mix of footage but none are as awkward as Boxing Gloves.
Still, any film
pitting Chubby and Joe
Cobb against each other in a love rivalry has got to have some
laughs. Two fat kids running around ripping each other's
pants? Now, that's entertainment!
Jackie Cooper makes
his Our Gang debut in
this film. One of the most talented child actors ever, he
soon become the series' leading man.
"We don't admit ladies here. The sight of blood splashin' around makes 'em faint."
"Oooh... I'd like t' faint once and see how it feels!"
STORY: The only thing that can rouse a lazy Farina into action is a Best Baby contest offering cash prizes.
take a few more
films before the Rascals series would hit its stride, but in the
meantime, audiences would have to suffer through almost completely
films like Lazy Days, a
exercise in making a comedy without comedy. The adjective in
film's title refers not only to Farina's disposition but to the quality
of gags. Instead of developing the personalities of the kids,
writers resort to easy stuff like animal antics and elaborate
devices. Throw in Farina being turned into a black stereotype
lazy, but he loves
his watermelon - and such unpleasantness as a baby crying for five
straight minutes and a monkey being stung by a bee, and you've got an
Our Gang comedy that deserves to be
STORY: Jealous of the attention his baby brother gets,
tries to sell him back to the hospital for a goat.
Bouncing Babies is slow
and creaky, but it is
saved by the natural charm of the young players, especially Bobby
"Wheezer" Hutchins. With his devilish looks and his
scheming mind, he's just fun to watch no matter what other flaws the
film may have.
are hit and miss. For
example, it may be cute to watch
Wheezer cooking pancakes, but his mistaking Plaster of Paris for
pancake flour is not all that funny
premise. Laurel and Hardy could get away with gags
because of the dynamics of the team: Stan would be the one to
mix the pancakes and make an earnest attempt to eat them, while Ollie
would be the one to react to Stan's stupidity. A gag setup
this needs a victim, somebody other than Wheezer to eat the pancakes.
There are also
cutaway shots of Pete the Pup and the all-purpose cat (hereby known
as Generic the Cat) licking up the
spilled batter, clearly show that although the story has Wheezer using
Plaster of Paris, what is actually dripping on the floor of the studio
is pancake batter. Either that, or else the shots of both
in pain and
dying later have been edited
But there is another
gag in Bouncing Babies
Laurel and Hardy would have loved. In order to cross the busy
boulevard, Wheezer breaks light bulbs on the curb, causing every driver
on the street to stop and check their tires for a
repeated once too often, the gag has the mass confusion element that
Laurel and Hardy often exploited in their silent films, and is expertly
filmed from a high angle.
GOOD OLD DAYS
Social services would have a field day with Wheezer's mother in this film. They could have charged her with reckless endangerment of a child (and animals) by allowing him access to Plaster of Paris, matches and a stove. There's also the matter of her leaving a hammer on the floor, in easy reach of a baby who uses it to bonk his older brother on the head, and allowing Wheezer to "run away" and cross the traffic-filled street by himself. We won't even get into the whole spanking issue. In the Our Gang world, Mom's punishment is much simpler - she gets a hurled Plaster of Paris pancake cracked over her skull.
STORY: While the Gang digs for treasure in an old house, they are frightened by its bizarre occupant.
a haunted house story
with the gang reacting to the strange behavior of Max
Davidson, a popular silent movie comedian whose character was based on
Jewish stereotypes. His appeal in Moan
Groan, Inc. is limited, as he doesn't do much more than
strange faces and noises in an effort to scare the
kids for no good reason except his own amusement. Edgar
makes his first appearance as Kennedy the Cop, a bumbling but likable
lug who seems to enjoy spending time with the kids. Kennedy
would be one of the few bright spots in these early days of Our Gang
talkies. The most memorable aspect of Moan and Groan, Inc.
is the "Japanese handcuff", a novelty item that is essentially a small,
woven tube that when placed on a finger is nearly impossible to remove.
Joe Cobb, Harry
Spears and Jean Darling
finished their tour of duty in Our Gang. Cobb, who
replaced as "the fat kid" by Chubby, would return to the series in the
late thirties for a handful of cameo appearances.