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Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

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Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby ChiO » January 4th, 2011, 9:04 pm

It has been about 55 years since I first felt it, but I must now proclaim it to the world -- I love Miss Crabtree!!!

When Darla Hood shows up, my heart may not be able to take it.
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby JackFavell » January 4th, 2011, 9:11 pm

I love Stymie!
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby moira finnie » January 5th, 2011, 11:00 am

JackFavell wrote:I love Stymie!
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Get in line, sister! Stymie has the most beautiful, hopeful little smile I've ever seen.

The other half of my heart belongs to this man and always will:
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"He's dreamy," as Darla would say.

Does anyone else love The Little Rascals for the way the kids create their own little worlds, like opera houses, governments, and fire stations (complete with snoring firemen and an alarm system, courtesy of Petey and a cat?).

Of course, I can't help wondering about the child labor laws and the Humane Society when watching these...but they are great, aren't they?
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby JackFavell » January 5th, 2011, 12:45 pm

I love them! A good chunk of my childhood belongs to Our Gang. Their ingenious ways of dealing with poverty, boredom and adults are endearing. Somehow, the vision of the group, completely integrated, says more to me than some of the less PC things they were forced to say or do.

Oh, yeah. I had a big crush on Spanky - he was a real take charge guy. :D

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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby Lzcutter » January 5th, 2011, 9:58 pm

Spanky and Stymie are my two favorites, too!

Especially, when Spanky was just starting out. The shorts last night were so much fun!
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby JackFavell » January 6th, 2011, 7:31 am

I noticed some themes in the Our Gang shorts they showed:

Mothballs and gasoline played a huge part in the lives of Our Gang, and were always kept in the kitchen

Weird electric haunted houses were de riguer in the 20's

If you have a dog, you better have five dollars (does this seem like a lot of money for a dog license to anyone else?)

There are bad policemen, but

Chiefs are always nice. Both Police chiefs and Fire chiefs adopt whole neighborhoods, and give little kids dangerous jobs because they are fun!

Babies are always a pain and are sometimes midgets n disguise looking to rob you. (I already knew this from watching Bugs Bunny)

You can exchange pancake syrup for castor oil and no one will notice.

Every kid should have a car (one mule power)

Stymie and Spanky are cute!

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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby moira finnie » January 6th, 2011, 8:22 am

JackFavell wrote:I noticed some themes in the Our Gang shorts they showed:

Mothballs and gasoline played a huge part in the lives of Our Gang, and were always kept in the kitchen

Yes!! And the mothballs are invariably stored over the stove on a shaky shelf.

JackFavell wrote:Babies are always a pain and are sometimes midgets n disguise looking to rob you. (I already knew this from watching Bugs Bunny)

And adults will never believe you when you try to tell them the truth. Curiously, adults, especially well-upholstered matrons dripping with jewels, seem to find the most repulsive babies on the planet to be endearing.

JackFavell wrote:You can exchange pancake syrup for castor oil and no one will notice.

And the responsibility to administer a worm medicine (ewww) that needs to be taken by Spanky every 30 minutes is left to 4 year old Dickie Moore.

I also learned that slovenly, cruel stepmothers exist, but they go downtown alot and never come back until a rich (natch), kindly (of course!) Aunt shows up in time to:
a.) Bail Petie out of the dog pound
b.) Wear large polka dots in a surprisingly attractive ensemble
c.) Pile the kids in a limo after buying them expensive duds and ice cream
d.) Kick StepMom in the tail.
e.) Not notice when a sharp-dressed Stymie tags along to the mansion by riding in the wheel on the back of the car.
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby moira finnie » January 6th, 2011, 8:26 am

Did anyone else think that Billy Gilbert was the best of all the adults the Our Gang kids encountered? I loved him as the repentant sea salt in Shiver My Timbers (1931) teaching those kids playing hooky from school the error of their ways.
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby JackFavell » January 6th, 2011, 8:48 am

Ha ha! And you know Stymie got to stay at the big mansion too, when they found out. Thank goodness! He looked so cute riding away on that wheel.

I loved trying to find Billy in his different guises! One of the pleasures of watching is recognizing the actors. Charlie Hall (Laurel and Hardy's nemesis in Tit for Tat) was in one last night, but I missed it. Gilbert with his operatic voice was incredible playing all those different roles, and then he was doing all the other movies at the same time. A very talented man, and a sweetheart of a sea captain. There was a man name Charlie Gilbert in some of the silents, I was wondering if he was related? Theresa Harris was the maid in Free Wheeling, and Stymie's mother was also in it, playing...Stymie's mother.

Some of the silents were more than a little disturbing. One of the haunted house shorts had a guy dressed up in a ghost outfit with a pointy hood..... naturally, he found Farina first and chased him around the room - very Ku Klux Klan. I was terrified for little Farina, what a horrible real life nightmare! In fact, the poor kids were always being scared silly by adults, either bad guys, or parents, "for their own good". Yipes!

Farina was an impressive actor. In Dog Daze, I think it was, the mean old dog catcher took Farina's dog (not Petey), and the kids had to raise five dollars to get him out of the pound. When that horrible man took his dog, Farina cried and cried! It was so sad! He begged the man not to take him, then held on to the man's leg all the way down the stairs and out into the street before his other big crying scene. The gang spent the rest of the time getting socked on the jaw by a rich kid for quarters.... meanwhile the dog catcher decided to off Farina's dog a few minutes early. There was a title inserted asking the audience to clap if you wanted Farina's dog to make it! I'll admit it, I clapped like crazy sitting in my living room and made Andrew and Alice clap too! I couldn't believe they actually showed the little gas chamber and the gas coming out - Roach sure didn't pull any punches when showing the horrific world of poor little kids (or rich little kids in braces too). When Farina got there with the money, the man told him it was too late. It was terrible! I was horrified. Farina asked for the remains - and when they opened the door, Pup had his tail stuck in the hole where the gas was supposed to come out! Whew! If he hadn't made it, I would have raised Hal Roach from the dead and socked him a few times on the nose, no quarters involved.

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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby moira finnie » January 6th, 2011, 10:32 am

Boy, I'm glad that I didn't see Dog Daze. I have a very hard time watching the silent versions of Our Gang. I just know that the children and the animals involved were not protected and were probably the main support of their families. I've met many aficionados who prefer the earlier movies to the later, MGM streamlined, cleaned up versions, (I prefer the early '30s to the later ones) and even though I know that those later cast members were not treated well necessarily either, but by comparison with the rawness of the silent films, they are not as difficult for me to watch now.

One aspect of all the Our Gang movies that I enjoy in both silents and the early sound movies: seeing Los Angeles streets, homes and regular people who just happen to walk into the frame. I love that glimpse of everyday lives.
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby JackFavell » January 6th, 2011, 10:59 am

Awww! Where'd you find that cute picture of Petey and Spanky?

The early ones were raw...that's an excellent word for it. I find that they take more concentration - I really had to exert myself to watch them at first. Joe Cobb is actually very good and Farina too, Mary Kornman was a beautiful child, and could act mad convincingly. The others blend together for me. Most of these silents I have stayed away from before because they creeped me out. I think the rawness has something to do with it.

My favorites have Stymie, of course, and that's the time period I like best, early thirties - they seem innocent, not necessarily wholesome (did you see that kiss Miss Crabtree planted on Jackie?) but ... totally kid-like, unaffected and fresh. A kid's dream world of life, the good and the bad. I wonder how much of it has to do with the director, Robert MacGowan... I noticed that many of the silents were directed by different people, I think he was sick much of the time. The ones by other directors were not as realistic as the MacGowan shorts. His lack pretense. These other silents are marked by more attention to the main outward characteristics of each child - the fat kid, the freckled kid, the rich kid, the cute girl...and less to their personality. I think this makes it hard to enjoy them as much. Both Farina and Joe Cobb are remarkably sweet, and their personalities start to shine through in the late twenties shorts.

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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby ChiO » January 6th, 2011, 3:56 pm

Although nostalgia may not be what it once was, I recorded them all and thoroughly enjoyed those that I watched (remembering most of them). But I have questions, questions, questions...maybe even some that would be answered if I sit and watch them in an organized fashion.

Is there a book, or an extended essay, on the social history of the Our Gang series? Would love to know whether Roach had a target audience in mind. Did that change over time? Did the Depression change the arc of the series? Did the reaction to the series differ by region or urban vs. rural locales?

(Impressionistic oversimplified generalization ALERT!)
Farina strikes me, for the most part, as being just another one of the gang. Stymie is the lovable shyster, charming con-man (quite, in crit-speak, a subversive character -- the bit about hearing the eggs talk made me howl as a kid and it was even funnier this time around). And Buckwheat seems saddled with being more of a stereotype in less than a flattering way (from a modern perspective). If that is in any way a reasonable argument, then what was behind that evolution?
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby JackFavell » January 6th, 2011, 4:27 pm

Those are great questions, ChiO. I would love to read an in depth book about the Gang, and how the movies were received, leaving out the idea of a"curse" and any other gossip mongering. Leonard Maltin has a book co-written with Richard W. Bann, but I don't know how detailed it is. It was written in 1977 and is available on ebay. I also saw a book by Eugene "Pineapple" Jackson on ebay which looks very interesting. Other Gang alums have written their own books.(* see credits below)

According to WIki ( I know :roll:)


According to Roach, the idea for Our Gang came to him in 1921, when he was auditioning a child actress to appear in one of his films. The girl was, in his opinion, overly made up and overly rehearsed, and Roach patiently waited for the audition to be over. After the girl and her mother left the office, Roach looked out of his window to a lumberyard across the street, where he saw a group of children having an argument. The children had all taken sticks from the lumberyard to play with, but the smallest child had taken the biggest stick, and the others were trying to force him to give it to the biggest child. After realizing that he had been watching the children bicker for 15 minutes, Roach thought a short film series about children just being themselves might be a success.[7]


Also according to Wiki:

The Our Gang series is notable for being one of the first times in cinema history that blacks and whites were portrayed as equals. The four black child actors who held main-character roles in the series were Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Matthew "Stymie" Beard and Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas. Ernie Morrison was, in fact, the first black actor signed to a long-term contract in Hollywood history,[3] and was the first major black star in Hollywood history as well.[4] In the 1940s he was the only black cast member in the popular East Side Kids film series.

In their adult years, Morrison, Beard and Thomas became some of Our Gang's staunchest defenders, maintaining that its integrated cast and innocent story lines were far from racist. They explained that the white children's characters in the series were similarly stereotyped: the "freckle-faced kid," the "fat kid," the "neighborhood bully", the "pretty blond girl," and the "mischievous toddler." "We were just a group of kids who were having fun," Stymie Beard recalled.[5] Ernie Morrison stated that "when it came to race, Hal Roach was color-blind".[6] Other minorities, including Asian Americans (Sing Joy, Allen Tong, and Edward Zoo Hoo) and Italian Americans (Mickey Gubitosi), were also depicted in the series, with varying levels of "stereotyping" – commonplace in the stylized, slapstick comedy tradition in which the Our Gang films are firmly rooted.


* Maltin, Leonard & Bann, Richard W (1977, rev. 1992). The Little Rascals: The Life & Times of Our Gang. New York: Crown Publishing/Three Rivers Press. ISBN 051-758325-9
* Bond, Tommy, w. Genini, Ron (1994). Darn Right It's Butch: Memories of Our Gang/The Little Rascals. Delaware: Morgan Printing. ISBN 0-9630976-5-2.
* Cooper, Jackie (1982). Please Don't Shoot My Dog: The Autobiography of Jackie Cooper. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-425-07483-8.

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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby moira finnie » January 6th, 2011, 8:20 pm

The Little Rascals: The Life & Times of Our Gang by Maltin and Bann was great, though I haven't read it in at least 15 years. Not gossipy, but interesting and most revelatory about how the Hal Roach studio evolved. My most vivid memory of the book was the info about Hal Roach's admiration and attempt to form a creative alliance with Mussolini, whose bust was reportedly on display in Roach's office for decades, even if this whole arrangement cheesed off Roach's other allies, especially those image conscious boys at MGM. Vittorio, one of Benito's sons, even arrived in Hollywood in '37 to finalize this attempt to co-produce stories of Italian national interest in movies made in Italy. Funny, it never went anywhere, huh? Btw, check out Petey's expression in the photo below...I think he may have been a premature anti-fascist...Hal Roach, Jr. was the lad who drove the company into bankruptcy within 5 years of succeeding his Dad, who returned to fix things when he was over 70.
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Above: Vittorio Mussolini, son of Italy's dictator who is here to study motion picture production technique, is shown being greeted by "Our Gang" when he visited Hal Roach Studios. Left to right: "Alfalfa" Switzer; Hal Roach, Jr., "Porky" Lee; "Spanky" McFarland; Vittorio Mussolini; Baby Patsy May (on Vittorio's knee) and Darla Hood with Pete the pup.

Even more insightful in a more personal way was Jackie Cooper's autobiography, which is the memoir of a survivor who didn't let bitterness ruin his life or cloud his vision of his days in Our Gang and anywhere else in Hollywood. Cooper's stories are harrowing and funny, sometimes simultaneously.

I found that pic of Spanky and Petey that is my present avatar by just doing a google image search.

One other thing that I should mention:
I wasn't born there, but I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Hal Roach's hometown. I went to one of the several grammar schools that Hal Roach was thrown out of in Elmira, NY, where he grew up until he landed in Booth School nearby (those kids were tough!!) and might have been bounced from there too until he discovered football, which carried him on to EFA (Elmira Free Academy, which still exists). Hal, who I suspect may have had a touch of ADHD, was "given his walking papers" according to Sister Mary Helen, who just might have been old enough to have known Hal in Elmira when he tore through the hallowed halls of the 1892 firetrap called St. Patrick's where I and Mr. Roach were first educated. That's the end of my brush (with a gap of about 50+ years) between myself and Hollywood pioneer Hal Roach--except that I used to ride my bike past his family house on Columbia Street every day. Whenever Roach returned to Elmira, he talked about spending his boyhood playing on the banks of the Chemung and around the railroad tracks, both of which were still places kids gravitated to in the '60s and '70s. I have often wondered if the flights of fancy in the Our Gang series were inspired by some of the freedom and boredom we shared as children in Elmira.

Hal Roach is now buried in Elmira in Woodlawn Cemetery, not far from the resting place of Mark Twain, who used to have Hal as his paper boy. I only return there once every few years, but if I go next time I'll try to squeeze a visit to Hal's dust and give him our best wishes. ;)
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Re: Roach Clips - Hal Roach Comedy Shorts

Postby movieman1957 » January 11th, 2011, 1:24 pm

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Some of these I don't think have been on cable for 25 years. My recorder is ready to go.
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