STORY: Hey, Gang! Let's put on a show!
to be titled Our Gang
Follies of 1937, this musical short was instead named Reunion in Rhythm
appearances by four ex-Our Gangers: Mickey Daniels, Mary
Joe Cobb and Matthew "Stymie" Beard. In the opening scene,
ex-member is paired with
his/her rough equivalent in the new Gang: Stymie/Buckwheat (didn't they
used to be siblings?), Joe Cobb/Porky, Mary/Darla and
Mickey/Alfalfa. After that, except for one gag by Mickey, the
only time we see any of the old Gang is in cutaways during the new
Gang's musical numbers. They bring back Stymie and don't give
a single line? I don't get it.
This being a
one-reeler, there are only
three musical numbers, but they are each nicely done. The
opens with the baby-faced Darla singing "Baby
the baby-faced Porky. Spanky then
leads a spiffy chorus line through "Broadway Rhythm". The
act features Georgia Jean LaRue (no relation to Johnny LaRue, I expect)
singing "Goin' Hollywood", leaving a broken-hearted Alfalfa to squeak
and squawk his
way through "I'm Through With Love". In a running gag,
keeps trying to get into the show by reciting "Little Jack Horner" in
Buckwheatese at every available opportunity.
I have nothing
against these Our Gang
musicals, which are pretty nifty as novelties go. But if they
really wanted to make this a reunion, they should have brought back
Mary Ann Jackson, Jackie Cooper and Dorothy DeBorba to do
quadruple-takes at the sight of Spanky, the kid that once fed the Wild
Man from Borneo everything in the refrigerator, now crooning "Gotta
dance!" in a
tuxedo and top hat.
STORY: Butch Rafferty, the new tough kid in town, is pitted against Alfalfa in a boxing match.
Up to this point,
Gordon Douglas's shorts
have been nice, but
except for Pay As you
they were really
nothing to get excited about. But this one is a ten-minute
from beginning to end. It reintroduces former Our Ganger
Bond as a new character, Butch, the toughest mug in town, and
immediately establishes him as the guy who will menace Alfalfa for
also explores a reoccurring theme in the Spanky and Alfalfa
relationship, that of Spanky as "the brains" of the team, coming up
plans that Alfalfa has no chance of executing with any skill.
When Butch determines that he is going to fight Alfalfa, Spanky sets up
a boxing match between them and "trains" Alfalfa while hardly lifting a
finger himself. There are several fine gags throughout the
including Alfalfa being knocked out by Buckwheat and dreaming of
traipsing through a field of daisies in a toga, apparently what boxers
dream of when they are down for the count.
Porky are now the Spanky and Scotty of their generation. With
new turn of Spanky's master plan for Alfalfa, the two look at each
shake their heads, knowing that the whole enterprise is doomed to
failure. In the end, it is up to them to win the
knocking out Butch on their own.
usually one of the
background gang members in the mid-thirties films, whose only claim to
fame before this film was a Tom Waits-ish rendition of "Friends, Lovers
No More" in Mush and
plays Butch like every Warner Brothers tough
guy rolled into one. Bond would only appear as Butch a
times before the end of the Roach
years, but is so good in the role, he makes Butch one of the classic
Our Gang characters, right up there with Chubby, Farina, Stymie, Spanky
In 1936 and 1937 was a year
where Hal Roach's two
main composers, Marvin Hatley and LeRoy Shield, wrote a great deal of
new music for various features that were then used in the short films,
and Glove Taps
wall-to-wall soundtrack of background tunes old
and new by these two under-rated musical masters. Their happy little
tunes can make a fair short better, and make a great short like Glove
Taps ever greater.
GREAT AND SMALL
Kaye makes a fleeting appearance. He would show up in
the next short as Waldo, yet another memorable character introduced in
these later years. Jerry Tucker is still around , as is
Proffitt... whom I still can't identify!
STORY: Spanky plots revenge when Alfalfa, second president of the
He-Man Woman Haters Club, goes ga-ga for Darla.
And the Alfalfa-Darla
What makes the screen relationship between
Alfalfa and Darla work so well is how well the actors Carl Switzer and
Darla Hood mesh with each other. According to the Our Gang
by Maltin and Bann, Darla Hood was actually a little frightened of
Alfalfa (she was more fond of Spanky McFarland), but on
screen, there is no evidence of this. They work perfectly
together; Alfalfa's awkwardness is perfectly convincing, Darla's
coyness completely believable.
Thumps gets the relationship off on a
fun note, with Alfalfa picnicking with Darla during school
recess. Unbeknownst to either one of them, Spanky has
Swiss cheese in his sandwich with sliced soap and the cream in his
cream puff with liquid soap. When he objects to the taste of
sandwich, all it takes is for Darla to suggest she could
find some other boy to eat lunch with, for Alfalfa to scarf down both
sandwich and the cream puff. This leads to a
done finale where Alfalfa sings "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" as bubbles
float out of his mouth. The animation here is wonderful, as
the kids pantomimed reactions to non-existent bubbles that would be
Perhaps inspired by
this short, Laurel and
Hardy would reprise both the animated bubbles and the song "Let Me Call
You Sweetheart" for their 1938 feature SWISS MISS.
Darwood Kaye makes
his first real
appearance as Waldo, the bookish member of the
wonders why they felt the need to rename him "Waldo" when Darwood would
have been a perfect name for the character.
STORY: The Gang plan an "epidemic" to close down the school.
Smart Boys is sometimes remembered as a short containing
racist gags, nothing could be further from the truth. In
fake illness, Spanky and Alfalfa paint black dots on their faces, to
approximate measles. When they try the same on Buckwheat,
find the dots do not show, so they opt for white dots
The gag is not about the color of Buckwheat's skin but about the
innocence of Spanky and Alfalfa. To think that
black dots would fool a doctor is bad enough; to compound it by
thinking white dots on Buckwheat would do the same is what makes it
funny. These are kids being kids.
To get a note to
confirm their epidemic,
they go to a veterinarian; apparently Miss Lawrence - or is it Miss
now? - hasn't gotten around to teaching kids how to read
yet. Through perfectly reasonable plot complications that are
carefully laid out, Alfalfa and Spanky soon think that to cure
Buckwheat, the doctor had to turn him into a monkey. In
Buckwheat is hiding in another room, having been scared by several of
the vet's patients, and what Spanky and Alfalfa actually overhear from
the examination room is a conversation about how to cure a small simian
patient using "monkey serum". There isn't a single
of the story, the dialogue or the gags that resembles the offensive "I
wish Cotton was
a monkey; all he needs is a tail" attitude of A Lad An' a Lamp.
shorts lack the wandering nature of some of the best Our Gang shorts,
you have to admire them for their economy. Within the first
minute, the situation has been set up: Miss Lawrence needs a day off to
attend a wedding but the school's superintendent will not close the
school unless there is an epidemic. In a Robert McGowan film,
might have taken ten minutes just to get
to this point. Of course, those first ten minutes would still
filled with classic stuff, but those days were over. The
Douglas years were all about setting things up quickly, executing the
gags, and concluding things properly.
STORY: Spanky and Alfalfa seek revenge on Butch and Da Woim for
stealing Buckwheat and Porky's marbles and hitting them in the faces
mini-comedy that not only
exploits the personalities of three separate Our Gang duos, but also
contains some of the series best dialogue, half of it
ALFALFA: Do you
promise to tell the truth,
the whole truth and everything but the truth?
BUCKWHEAT: I do.
ALFALFA: Tell the Judge what happened.
BUCKWHEAT: Ella two duys took ma mobbles, hey, an two duys ibis imma base mit bomatas. Innit he?
After Spanky translates this
bit of Buckwheatese
into English, Alfalfa goes to investigate and even invokes the word
"bomatas" while interrogating Butch and Da Woim. From there,
things get ugly, as Spanky and Alfalfa, dedicated to righting wrongs
and protecting the weak, at least for this short, smack Butch and Da
Woim with tomatoes and spend the rest of the short trying to escape the
Wrath of Butch. If that means ruining a local dance recital
process, so be it. Revenge is a dish best served in tutus and
SPANKY: How old are you, Porky?
SPANKY: How old are you?
PORKY: Fee... fee o' so.
STORY: Spanky and Alfalfa run away from home, Buckwheat and Pork tag
A short that is more
charming than funny, Roamin'
Holiday has a pleasant
rural setting not unlike that found in some of the earliest Our Gang
shorts. Adults Otis Harlan and May Wallace, as two country
storekeepers, add to the feeling of nostalgia, especially Wallace, who
frequently played Our Gang mothers in the early days. The
contains few real gags, but what are there are winners, including the
shot of Alfalfa's younger twin brothers - just imagine!
In Darla's fleeting appearance in this film, she seems to be cast as Spanky's sister. If somebody ever charted an Our Gang Family Tree, it would be more like a Family Jungle.