STORY: Spanky's in trouble with the Gang when he misplaces
makes his first of
three appearances in the Our Gang series, here playing Spanky's
father, a self-important fuss-budget who, although he boasts of his
superior memory, cannot remember his own wedding anniversary, nor
his own son's name. ("Why doesn't Swanky get over here?", he
at one point). Arthur joins Don Barclay and the
Seabrook and Treacy as one of the few adults allowed to be funny enough
to steal scenes from the Gang. He would do the same in two
Roach one-reelers, Night
and Feed 'Em and Weep,
he played Darla Hood's father.
Aside from Johnny
Arthur's performance, the
highlight, or lowlight, of Anniversary
Trouble is when Spanky disguises himself as Buckwheat to
the Gang. It is almost always uncomfortable these days to
any comedians of the 1920s and '30s dress up in
being a child, emerges blameless. (He's not the one who
wrote the gag.)
This film is
remembered by many Our Gang
fans as the one with the "high sign", a ridiculous wiggling of the
fingers under the chin as a signal to fellow Wood Chucks, the Gang's
club. In Our Gang lore, the high sign has lasted much longer
the Woodchucks themselves, who break up halfway through the
Trouble features one
other notable adult: Hattie McDaniel, who plays the maid and who, in
just a few short years, would win an Oscar for her work in GONE WITH
THE WIND. She thinks the "high sign" is ridiculous too.
brother of Ganger Leonard
Kibrick, makes his first appearance. He would later play "Da
Woim", henchman of Butch, nemesis of Alfalfa.
STORY: Spanky asks the Gang to make sure he loses a local talent contest, but then changes his mind.
fun short that features a
sweet side of Spanky (he attempts to win the talent show prize money in
order to help a poor little girl buy a dress), but even more than for
its the entertainment value, Beginner's
Luck is important historically. This is the
first Our Gang
film for Carl Switzer, known to the world as Alfalfa. His
expressive face, natural comic talent and unique way with a song
guaranteed him a spot on the Our Gang roster, especially with Stymie
be phased out. He quickly he became
Spanky's comedy partner, relegating Scotty Beckett to the sidelines.
In the talent show, Alfalfa
and his brother
Harold wail their way through an atonal version of "She'll Be Coming
'Round the Mountain". Alfalfa's persona at this time was that
a hillbilly cowboy, made explicit
retort to a Spanky insult: "Them's fighting words, partner."
Other acts in the show include the Floradora Dollies doing a version of
"Honolulu Baby" unfit for any ears, human or otherwise, and The Cabin
Kids singing a terrific five-part harmony version of
would appear again in the next film, Teacher's
The film's climax, where
Shakespeare's "Friends, Romans and countrymen" speech while fending off
a peashooter attack with his shield, is funny, but the humor is
tempered by showing the talent show audience exploding with
laughter at the Gang's antics. It is never in the best
of a film to tell the viewers how funny a sequence is supposed to
be. We'll figure out ourselves. As Spanky would
MOM: "What has Clark Gable or Barrymore got that Spanky hasn't?"
SPANKY: "A mustache!"
STORY: The Gang try to stop their teacher from getting married.
back to the plot of School's
shows how the
style of the films had changed since those days. As usual for
film, the gags are all based on the narrative; there would be
time for any tangential schoolroom vaudeville routines with the Gang
giving funny answers. to the teacher's questions. The most
telling detail of how times have
changed is the
teacher's name. In the past, the kids answered to Miss
Crabtree. Now the teacher is a generic Miss Jones.
Crabtree you remember forever. Miss Jones you forget the
the short is over.
Alfalfa and Spanky make for an immediately surefire team, and their first major gag is a classic: in an attempt to intimidate Miss Jones's beau, Spanky dons a fake mustache and, wearing a large overcoat, stands on Alfalfa's shoulders to pretend to be Miss Jones boyfriend. Of course, Spanky's cover is blown when his mustache falls off and the cigar he is offered falls into Alfalfa's pants. The second major gag sequence, in which the Gang sabotages the meal with hot sauce, horse radish, et. al, features a hilarious reaction shot of Buckwheat, who is so affected by the tampered food, his pigtails stand up straight.
This was Matthew
"Stymie" Beard's final
Our Gang film. Into the series in Teacher's Pet, out
of the series
with Teacher's Beau.
The writing was on the wall even before Alfalfa was added to the
cast. Over the past year, Stymie's character had been changed
from the cocksure kid always ready with a quip to just another
straight man for Spanky and Scotty. Stymie was the last link
the early sound films of 1930-31. The Gang was now completely
overhauled. By the end of the year, both Eugene "Porky"
Lee and Darla Hood would join the series, setting the stage for the Our
Gang cast's most famous configuration: Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat,
Porky and Darla.
MY HEART IS
FILLED WITH JOY, I WANT
TO RIP MY PANTS
According to Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann in Our Gang: The Life and Times of the Little Rascals, Teacher's Beau may have originally been planned as a vehicle for June Marlowe and her Miss Crabtree character, but, as they quote Hal Roach remembering, the actress wouldn't come back to play the part. A shame. Miss Crabtree is almost as pretty as Miss McGillicutty, and she smells like a brand new haircut.
STORY: When a pretty
girl moves into town,
the Gang get all... well... spruced up.
Sprucin' Up contains one of my favorite Our Gang gags. After each Gang member cleans himself up in his own way (Alfalfa combs several handfuls of lard through his hair), they all sit on the sidewalk pining for the pretty girl who has moved in across the street, hoping she'll notice them. When she does says hello, they immediately panic, scrambling away in all different directions!
is a cute Our Ganger, especially the
first half, but the second half is an experiment to see what they could
do with their new team of Spanky and Alfalfa. As rivals for
affections of Marianne Edwards, they both show up at her house and vie
for her attention. It seems a little strange material for
year olds, the most impressive thing about the scene being how well
they actually pull it off.
There is a nice exchange in
sequence When Spanky asks Alfalfa how he got into Marianne's
house, his answer is "Personality, boy, personality!". When
Alfalfa asks the same question to Spanky, his answer is
"Brains!". How well that would sum up the characters as they
would evolve in the next three years.
STORY: The Gang puts on
a show to promote Grandpa Gus's lemonade stand.
Corner succeeds by reverting to
formula and revisiting the past. Instead of pitting the Gang
against each other as in several of this year's shorts, The Lucky Corner
has the Gang
battling with two old foes: William Wagner and Leonard
the father and son who ran the doll store in For Pete's Sake!
and now run a
lunch counter in competition with Grandpa Gus's lemonade
also brings back Gus Leonard from Mush
and Milk to play Scotty's grandfather Gus (he also had a
things off with a mini-talent show. Throw in a makeshift
some well-done sight gags, Alfalfa and Harold singing "Little Brown
Jug" and a scene devoted to the art of the spit-take, and you've got
what is arguably the best Our Gang short of the year.
MELODIES OLD AND
The Lucky Corner
a new faster and brassier version of
"Good Old Days", the Our Gang theme song.
STORY: On the day of
the big football game,
Spanky has to mind his little sister.
for the Spanky-Alfalfa
team, this time turning them into Laurel and Hardy as they try to get
Spanky's baby sister to sleep so they can go play in the
The best moments are unintentional, such as shots of the little girl
breaking the fourth wall by looking off to the crew, and a fun lapse
where Alfalfa completely forgets where he is in the lyrics of "Go to
Baby". The pained concentration on his face is hilarious,
especially in light of the results.
How quickly thing
change in the Our Gang
world. Scotty, having gone through a growth spurt, now towers
over Spanky. There is an initial attempt to use Spanky,
and Scotty as a three-man team, but as soon as the action moves
indoors, it is all "Alfalfa Laurel" and "Spanky Hardy".
STORY: Spanky skips
Sunday School to go
Thanks to a peaceful woods
seen in Our Gang films, parts of Little
Sinner are truly beautiful. Buckwheat continues
naturally funny and is joined by the cute Porky, Spanky's little
brother, who is prone to eat flowers, worms and raw fish fresh off the
hook. As in Laurel and Hardy's PARDON US, the black
are gorgeous to hear. So Little
has some good things going for it.
But in the end, it is a Sunday School sermon about what happened to the little boy who skipped Sunday School. It's not the religious overtones that are offensive; the kids are often seen praying in the early shorts. Rather, it's the sermonizing. This is not what Our Gang is supposed to be about.
Eugene "Porky" Lee makes his
Our Gang debut in
this film. He would soon be a screen partner for
Gang! Let's put on a show!
The first Our Gang musical. Although it takes Our Gang
out of the real world, it works as a kids-eye view of the typical
Hollywood musical. The music is rather impressive for a
short, especially the introductory song by Spanky.
The final major Hal
Roach Our Gang member,
Darla Hood, shows up in Follies of 1936. She was originally
as "Cookie", but with such a great name like Darla, "Cookie" was
dropped. Hal Roach had cast her in
Laurel and Hardy's THE BOHEMIAN GIRL the same year, where she shared
several memorable scenes with Stan and Ollie. It would take a
while before she would become the coy, flighty object of Alfalfa's
desire that most fans remember. For now, she was sort of a
Temple with sass. In Follies
she sings "I'll Never Say Never Again" in a precocious style that,
truth be told,
is very near to that which previous shorts poked fun at.
In with the new, out with the
old: Our Gang
Follies of 1936 would be
Scotty Beckett's final appearance with the Gang in the Hal Roach
years. He would return to the series after it had been sold
MGM, playing "Cousin Wilbur" in two shorts.
Follies of 1936 would be followed by Reunion in Rhythm
and Our Gang Follies of
GOOD OLD DAYS
A racial running gag throughout the film: whenever the
all you can see of the black kids in the audience are their eyes.