STORY: Stymie, Dickie, Wheezer and Uh-Huh play hooky, and are
taught a lesson by the truant officer.
An exercise in nostalgia, Fish
is not a great Our Gang film, but a likable one thanks to the
stunt-casting of four former Gang members: Mickey Daniels,
Kornman, Joe Cobb and Farina Hoskins. It is Joe and Farina
convince the four boys to play hooky, with Joe writing out the phony
notes according to each Gang member's specifications. Thus,
Wheezer's plea to add a broken arm in the note to make it fancy winds
up in the note as "He also broke his arm to make it fancy."
Former silent Gang members Mickey and Mary are now the truant officer
and the school teacher.
I'm always a sucker
for any old film that
place in an amusement park, and this one features footage of a park at
the Santa Monica Peer. Unfortunately, before the four "fish
hooky" players can ride any rides, Officer Daniels chases them
away. There is a tantalizing moment where it seems they are
to try and lose him in the Fun House, but even that gets nipped in the
bud. However, Daniels chasing the truant gang members through
park has the energy of an old silent comedy, and is partially filmed at
silent speed, helping give the entire film a nostalgic atmosphere.
Uh-Huh was a gimmicky and
whose standard reply to any question was "UH-huuuuuh".
Miss Crabtree's name is mentioned in the dialogue.
Gang fans everywhere bow their heads in remembrance.
Spanky babysits for the gangs
many little brothers and sisters.
An intriguing idea,
and funny in spots, the
success of Forgotten
depends on how long you will tolerate
watching babies from 80 years ago being cute. Maybe I am just
getting older, but these days, I find myself worrying about that little
guy at the top of the stairs, or that little girl who topples off a
stool and hits the floor.
The second reel finds
the babies, bored
with Spanky's Tarzan stories, systematically dismantling everything in
the house. At least they assure us that the next generation
Our Gang will be just as destructive as all previous generations.
STORY: Dickie's Uncle George is coming to
town, bringing with him Bumbo, "The Wild Man from Borneo".
the Gang mistake Bumbo for Uncle George, things truly get wild.
hailed as the wildest
and funniest of all Our Gang shorts, and I am in no position to
argue. It certainly has the most energy and pulls out all
to provoke laughter. The ridiculous yet believable premise
alone marks it as one of the most unique Our Gang shorts
Yet, despite all the running
around and screaming
in this short, the funniest scene features Spanky, standing on the
kitchen counter, coming face to face with Bumbo, and using his
considerable wits to escape what he thinks will be certain
In truth, Bumbo is as gentle as they come, but he loves to eat, and his
constant cries of "Yum yum - eat 'em up!" have convinced everybody that
he is a cannibal. Thus, after trying to engage in casual
conversation ("How are things in Borneo?"), Spanky begins to feed Bumbo
everything in the refrigerator, including a string of sausage, half a
bologna, hot sauce, vinegar and a jug or port wine ("I don't know what
this is, but let's see ya drink it!").
The chase inside the
house that concludes
the film is as wild as Bumbo himself and includes some nice special
effects shots where Stymie's feet literally turn backwards, and roman
candles ricochet off walls and straight into Bumbo's
butt. The chase is so well done and filled with such good
slapstick, it is funny in spite of the fact that Bumbo is merely an
overgrown kid himself and really undeserving of all the punishment he
Politically incorrect as it
may be, The Kid from
Borneo marks the beginning of a new string of superior Our
after a lengthy transitional period from Spanky to Forgotten Babies
that had many up
GOOD OLD DAYS
from Borneo was often cut for television for obvious
reasons. Bumbo is, of course, a black man, and is portrayed
raving lunatic idiot child. Line's like "He looks like a
ape!" would be pounced upon today.
Bumbo's skin color even confuses Stymie until Dickie innocently
explains "Mom says he's the black sheep of the family."
STORY: Things are
bleak for the Gang at
Bleak Hill Boarding School until Cap gets his back pension.
A loose and plotless mixture of Our Gang elements old and new, Mush and Milk is not as wild or funny as The Kid from Borneo but just as delightful. It hearkens back to the melodrama of shorts like Dogs is Dogs and Helping Grandma and the schoolroom vaudeville of School's Out and Readin' and Writin', while pointing the way toward the talent show shorts like The Lucky Corner and the various Our Gang revues. In that way, it may be the most representative Our Gang film ever.
Bleak Hill is run by Cap and his wife. Gus Leonard plays ol' Cap, one of the sweetest guys the Gang ever knew. He promises them that when his back pension comes in, he will take them all away from the boarding school, but in the meantime, he does his best to teach them subjects like geography, leading to the usual bad puns from the gang. After Uh-Huh uses the word "Isthmus" in a sentence thusly - "Isth mus be my lucky day!", Spanky admits "That's not so good" and Cap chucklingly agrees and eventually turns the rest of the class day into a talent show. Tommy Bond scowling his way through "Just Friends (Lovers, No More)" is the absolute highlight. Typical of the looseness found on Hal Roach's "Lot of Fun", Tommy and studio composer Marvin Hatley were having some fun in the studio one day with this song, and Roach liked it so much, he decided to let Bond sing it in the film.
Cap's wife, as played by Louise Emmons, is the nastiest, ugliest, most frightening Our Gang villain ever, forever screaming like a witch and threatening to thrash the kids with her whip. No wonder Cap wants to get away as soon as that pension comes in.
And it does come in, the news being relayed by phone by none other than Jimmy Finlayson, most famous for his work with Laurel and Hardy. Not surprisingly, he finds talking to young Spanky just as aggravating as trying to hold a conversation with Stan or Ollie. Spanky's performance in this film reveals that in just the few months from Fish Hooky to Mush and Milk, he has developed from a cute infant to a confident young tyke who could handle all the dialogue you could throw at him. He is so good, the next two films, Bedtime Worries and Wild Poses, would be virtual solo vehicles for him.
marks the farewell of two veteran Our Gangers and one relative
newcomer. At "eight years of old age", Bobby
"Wheezer" Hutchins (who can hardly be spotted in the film at all) and
DeBorba would both essentially retire from movies after this
would go on to teen stardom and in later years would pen the fun
informative autobiography Twinkle
Twinkle, Little Star (But Don't Have Sex or Take the Car).
P.S. Don't drink the
milk - it's spoiled!
"You kids put that milk on your mush and eat it -
STORY: Spanky is afraid to sleep alone.
With several prominent cast members members now gone, the Gang was
boiled down to Spanky and Stymie, with several generic kids whose only
purpose seemed to be filling up the screen. Before any new
"stars" were added to the team, there seems to have been an attempt to
see if Spanky could carry the series by himself. Bedtime Worries is
a gentle comedy
that pairs Spanky with the comedy team of Gay Seabrook and Emerson
Treacy, who can best be compared to Gracie Allen and George
Burns. The idea works well, as Spanky drives his
Treacy to distraction with his endless questions, and mother Seabrook
drives Spanky and father crazy with her inane answers. The
performers display a wonderful chemistry in this and the next film, and
it is a shame that, for whatever reasons, the idea was dropped.
portrayal of a young boy
afraid of sleeping alone is right on the money, bringing back memories
many of us have, yet he makes it funny too. After pestering
father for a drink of water, yet only taking a sip, he unleashes a
DAD: I thought you were thirsty!
SPANKY: Nope, I just wanted to wet my whistle.
Much of the humor of Spanky's
these years was based on his use of popular phrases more likely to be
used by adults, such as the above or the equally classic "Don't rush
me, big boy" from later films. There are clever touches in
dialogue of Seabrook and Treacy too that make them feel like a real
married couple with a history behind them. At the mention of
"Santy Claus", father Treacy casually tosses out the line "Tell him I
don't want any more socks and ties", directed at mother Seabrook.
Jerry Tucker and
Georgie Billings had been
in the series before, but with Wheezer, Dorothy and Dickie now gone,
they have been promoted to prominent gang members, and thus, I
classify this film as their official entry into the series.
should that be spelled "Ofishul?"
"What's the matter, Pop, can't you take it no more?"
STORY: Spanky is afraid to have his picture taken.
A continuation of the experiment begun in Bedtime Worries, Wild Poses is a
funnier film, with
more raucous slapstick and a deliciously fruity performance by the
always reliable Franklyn Pangborne as a professional
photographer. Like many a Laurel and Hardy film, Wild Poses is based
on a single
situation - Pangborne attempting to take Spanky's picture - yet
somehow, they never seem to run out of gags and variations, especially
with the Gang (why are they there?) accidentally sabotaging Pangborne's
patter is funny but
sometimes a little too much, but even this is used in funny
When Treacy mentions that Pangborne must have a lot of patience,
Seabrook thinks that means he takes pictures in the hospital, to which
Treacy answers, through a clenched smile, "I have lots of patience
too." Later on, after another bad gag, he has had enough
and unleashes a weary "Oh, shut up!".
Pangborne gets a lot
of mileage out of his
face, his voice and his reactions to being repeatedly socked in the
Spanky. When he attempts to show Spanky how to smile, and
with an unbelievably asinine expression, Spanky asks "Hey, Pop, are you
seeing what I'm seeing?"
Poses is a great Our Gang film, but is probably more
the opening cameo featuring Hal Roach's most famous stars Stan Laurel
and Oliver Hardy, pictured here in a composite shot.* In a
that lasts no more than ten seconds,
they pose as babies fighting over a bottle while their theme song "The
Dance of the Cuckoos" plays on the soundtrack. "The Boys"
similar gag appearances in other Roach films such as Charley Chase's On the Wrong Trek
and the Thelma
Todd - Zasu Pitts comedy On
Wild Poses was released in late October 1933. With Spanky out on loan to other studios, the next Our Gang film would not be released until March of 1934, at which time there would be several new cast members and a new director. Robert F. McGowan, who helped create the series and had been directing the films since the silent days, would step down and be replaced by Gus Meins.