The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection [8 Discs] [DVD]
  • SKU: 9056585
  • Release Date: 10/28/2008
  • Rating: NR
  • 4.8 (5)
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$49.99
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Overview

Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
4.8
100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (5 out of 5)

Special Features

  • Introductions and commentaries by film historians
  • 3 original silent shorts
  • The story of Hal Roach & Our Gang
  • The Rascals and racial issues
  • Catching up with the Rascals

Synopsis

The Pinch Singer
Hoping to win a 50-dollar prize, the Our Gang kids enter a radio talent contest. Despite the scene-stealing efforts of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, leader George "Spanky" McFarland selects four-year-old vocalist Darla Hood to represent the gang with her stirring rendition of "I'm in the Mood for Love." But come the day of the broadcast, Darla is nowhere to be found. While Spanky searches for the missing singer, a nervous Alfalfa walks up to the microphone in her place, and it is his squeaky, interminable rendition of "I'm in the Mood for Love" that miraculously saves the day. A genial spoof of the radio series Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour, The Pinch Singer was originally released on January 4, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Lazy Days
Lazy Days is built entirely around the fact that the Gang members in general and Allen "Farina" Hoskins in particular are too lazy to perform their chores or even indulge in horseplay. The pace picks up a bit when the kids decide to enter a "beautiful baby" contest in hopes of winning a $50 prize. When fat Joe Cobb tries to pass off his equally porcine pal Norman "Chubby" Chaney as an infant, it is clear that youngsters' chances of winning are slim indeed (and, as it turns out, were nonexistent in the first place!) Described by one observer as a "loud, long, yawn," Lazy Days was originally released on August 15, 1929. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Pigskin Palooka
Even allowing for the fact that it's only a one-reeler, the "Our Gang" comedy "The Pigskin Palooka" goes by so rapidly that the viewer will be gasping for breath! Having written of his football heroics in military school, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer returns home to a hero's welcome. No sooner has he stepped off the train than his old pal Spanky McFarland, manager of the gang's football team, informs Alfalfa that he's been slated to be star player in an upcoming gridiron battle --- which is to be staged within the next few hours. Only one problem: Alfalfa has been exagerrating his athletic prowess, and in fact has never played football in his life. Will Alfie survive this dilemma, or will he be blitzed into the next county? "The Pigskin Palooka" was released just in time for football season on October 23, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bear Facts
Upon learning that Darla Hood's father (Jack Pepper) owns a circus, Our Gang members Spanky McFarland and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer try their best to impress Darla, hoping to land circus jobs. Never letting the facts get in the way of a good story, Alfalfa claims that he is an expert bear tamer, who uses his "magnetic personality" to hypnotize wild bears into submission. Overhearing this, Darla's dad decides to teach Alfie and Spanky a lesson, and to that end he disguises himself as a bear. Best line: "Alfalfa never turns back!" The one-reel "Our Gang" comedy Bear Facts was originally released on March 5, 1938. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Fly My Kite
A real four-hankie picture, "Fly My Kite" is one of "Our Gang"'s most poignant episodes, though it also manages to be hilariously funny at times. Margaret Mann makes a return appearance as the gang's adopted Grandma, who reads Wild West stories to the kids, gives them boxing tips and dispenses valuable advice about honesty and decency. The fly in the ointment is Grandma's hateful son-in-law Dan (played by James Mason -- not the famous British actor) who orders the old lady to pack up and get out so that he and his new wife (Mae Busch) can move in. On cue, the Gang attacks Dan en masse and forces him to make a hasty retreat, though he warns Grandma that she'd better be gone by the time he gets back. While on his way out, Dan peeks into Grandma's mailbox and finds a letter stating that she is in possession of old gold bonds now worth $100,000. Returning, Dan tells her that the bonds are worthless, hoping to get his own grimy hands on the valuable documents. But Grandma, still unaware of her financial windfall, informs Dan that the bonds did "go up" after all: She has tied them to the tail of the kids' kite, which is now flying high in the air. The rest of the film is a slapstick tour de force, as the Gang uses any weapon at their disposal ---rocks, nails, broken bottles, etc. --- to prevent Dan from retrieving the kite. Utilizing one of LeRoy Shield's lushest musical scores (including such unforgettable tunes as the plaintive "Prelude" and the helter-skelter &"Hide and Go Seek"), "Fly My Kite" is among those rare "Our Gang" films that extends its appeal even to non-fans of the series. Originally released on May 30, 1931, the film represented the last "Our Gang" appearance of series stalwart Allen "Farina" Hoskins. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bored of Education
Producer Hal Roach had intended to terminate his "Our Gang" short-subject series at the end of the 1935-36 season, but was talked out of it by Louis B. Mayer, the head of Roach's distributor MGM. As a cost-cutting measure, Roach shortened the running time of each subsequent "Our Comedy" from two reels (approximately 20 minutes) to one (approximately ten minutes), beginning with the first release of the 1936-37 season, "Bored of Education." It's the first day of school, and Gang members Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and Spanky McFarland look forward to meeting their new teacher Miss Lawrence (Rosina Lawrence) with fear and loathing. Hoping to skip out of class, Spanky fabricates a phony toothache for Alfalfa, using a balloon stuffed inside his pal's cheek. But when the boys discover that Miss Lawrence intends to serve ice cream to her new students, they change their minds about playing hookey. Unfortunately, Alfalfa swallows the balloon, causing him a great deal of discomfort and embarrassment when he is called upon to sing in front of his fellow students. Originally released on August 20, 1936, Bored of Education was the only "Our Gang" entry to win an Academy Award. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Spooky Hooky
Finding out that the circus will be coming to town for one day only, "Our Gang" members Spanky McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee conspire to stage an "epidemic" in order to skip out of school. The boys go so far as to write a phony excuse note, to which they affix the name of a local doctor. But then it is revealed out that the schoolteacher (Rosina Lawrence had made plans to close school and take all the kids to the circus for free. Now, the four clever boys are on the horns of a dilemma: How can they retrieve that excuse note from Miss Lawrence's desk, with the schoolhouse securely locked up for the night? The title of this one-reel "Our Gang" comedy should tip off the viewer that our heroes will stage a nocturnal foray into the classroom --- if they don't manage to scare each other silly first. Spooky Hooky was originally released on December 5, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Divot Diggers
After several years away from the Our Gang series, the gang's longtime mentor Robert F. McGowan briefly resumed his directorial activities with the sidesplitting Divot Diggers. The action takes place at an expansive California golf course, where the Our Gang kids merrily play their own ragtag version of golf with their own makeshift clubs. When the course's regular caddies quit en masse, the desperate caddy master hires the gang members as replacements. The kids -- and their gibberish-spouting pet chimpanzee -- proceed to drive an adult foursome crazy, then put the finishing touch on an imperfect day by accidentally commandeering a lawn-mowing tractor. To list the film's best verbal and visual gags would require a website in itself; suffice to say that the film packs an inordinate amount of laughs into its brief 14 minutes. Augmented by a terrific LeRoy Shield musical score (including such familiar Hal Roach leitmotifs as "Hot and Dry," "Standing on the Corner," and "Beyond the Rainbow"), Divot Diggers made its theatrical debut on February 8, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Little Sinner
Anxious to go fishing, Spanky McFarland skips out of Sunday school, despite the admonitions of his pal Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer that "Something's going to happen to you." Actually, everything happens to Spanky and his kid brother (Eugene "Porky" Lee) in the course of the morning. Chased out of a private estate by cantankerous Clarence Wilson, the two boys wander into a dark, mysterious woods --- just as a group of black worshippers are holding a mass baptism ceremony. Inevitably, the kids scare the worshippers, and vice versa, culminating in a hectic chase (accompanied by the strains of LeRoy Shield's "Fastie", a nervous agitato orginally written for the 1935 Laurel and Hardy feature Bonnie Scotland. Originally released on October 26, 1935, "Little Sinner" has been withdrawn from most "Little Rascals" TV packages due to its racial content; those few stations that have run the film in recent years have been forced to rely upon prints so severely edited that they're hardly worth the bother. Fortunately for film historians and purists, the film is available in its entirety on home video. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The First Round-Up
Expansively planning a camping trip "for a week, maybe two weeks," the older Our Gang kids refuse to allow little Spanky McFarland and Scotty Beckett tag along. But when the kids reach their predetermined campsite, they find that Spanky and Scotty have already arrived. Even more embarrassing, the two younger kids seem to be a lot more prepared for the camping expedition --- and a lot less scared of the dark. A winning combination of character-driven humor, slapstick, thrills, and a sturdy plotline, the "Our Gang" comedy The First Round-Up was originally released on May 5, 1934. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mike Fright
When open auditions are announced for a radio variety program, the local station is besieged by aggressively overcoached "professional kids." Also auditioning is an impressive-sounding musical aggregation called the International Silver String Submarine Band --- which turns out to be none other than the "Our Gang" kids, equipped (or rather, armed) with home-made instruments. After suffering through an endless parade of cloyingly cute kiddie troupers (and inadvertently wrecking several expensive pieces of radio equipment in the process), the Gang members step up to the microphone and steal the show with a truly unforgettable rendition of "The Man on the Flying Trapeze". The irresistably entertaining "Our Gang" entry "Mike Fright" was first exhibited theatrically on August 25, 1934. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Shivering Shakespeare
The Our Gang kids reluctantly participate in a stage presentation of Quo Vadis, retitled "The Gladiator's Dilemma" by its pretentious director, Mrs. Funston Evergreen Kennedy (Gertrude Sutton). Alas, none of the kids can remember their lines, the props and settings fall apart at the slightest provocation, and worst of all, a gang of tough kids is determined to disrupt the performance by tossing raw tomatoes and rotten eggs at the youthful thespians. Ultimately, the play degenerates into a slow-motion pie fight, with the kids onstage and the adults in the audience all participating with reckless abandon. Edgar Kennedy plays the director's long-suffering husband, while familiar comedy-film stalwarts Lyle Tayo, Ham Kinsey, Charles McAvoy and Harry Keaton (brother of Buster Keaton) show up in bit parts. Also: keep an eye peeled for former "Our Gang" member Mickey Daniels and teenaged terpsichorean Jerry McGowan, daughter of series producer Robert F. McGowan. "Shivering Shakespeare" was originally released on January 25, 1930. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The First Seven Years
Hopelessly in love with little Mary Ann Jackson, seven-year-old Jackie Cooper would like to claim her as a "wife," but doesn't know how to go about it. When the "caveman" approach fails, Jackie tries the candy, flowers and clean-suit technique, only to find he has been beaten to the punch by his kiddie rival Donald "Speck" Haines. Thrilled at being a romantic bone of contention, Mary Ann insists that Jackie and Speck fight a duel in her honor. By the end of the day, the two combatants have all but wrecked the neighborhood with their makeshift swords and shields. A partial remake of the silent "Our Gang" comedy Ask Grandma, "The First Seven Years" features adult actors Edgar Kennedy, Joy Winthrop, and Otto Fries in supporting roles. The film was originally released on March 1, 1930 (A Spanish-language version, "Los Pequenos Papas," apparently no longer exists). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rushin' Ballet
Our Gang members Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and Spanky McFarland form the Sekret Revengers Club, dedicated to protecting such smaller, more vulnerable children as Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee. When Buckwheat and Porky report that their marbles have been stolen by bullies Butch (Tommy Bond) and Woim (Leonard Kibrick), Alfalfa and Spanky vow to retrieve the marbles. Alas, Butch and Woim prove to be more formidable than expected, forcing the two Sekret Revengers to run for their lives. Everything comes together during a ballet recital, in which Alfalfa, dressed in ballerina drag, finds himself at the mercy of "mystery dancer" Butch. The one-reel comedy Our Gang: Rushin' Ballet was originally released on April 24, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Two Too Young
When little Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee bring some firecrackers to school, older kids Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and Spanky McFarland conspire to get the explosives away from the youngsters ---not out of any regard for safety, but because Alfie and Spanky want to set them off themselves! Posing as "G-Men", the two older boys manage to get their hands on the firecrackers, but Buckwheat and Porky have the last laugh during Alfalfa's classroom recitation of "The Charge of the Light Brigade. Rosina Lawrence again appears as schoolteacher Miss Lawrence. The one-reel "Our Gang" comedy "Two Too Young" was originally released on September 26, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Moan & Groan, Inc.
The success of this "Our Gang" comedy is due in great part to the performances of two adult comedians, Edgar Kennedy and Max Davidson. Warning the Gang members to stay away from an old, crumbling condemned house, Officer Kennedy suggests they dig for buried treasure. They do --- in the same house that Kennedy had told them to avoid. Once inside the ramshackle structure, the kids are terrorized by a crazy but harmless old hermit (Davidson), who eats invisible meals, emits loud and eerie howls, and periodically makes the curious announcement "I know --- but I won't tell ya!" The best gags involved a pair of Chinese handcuffs, which manage to incapacitate both Kennedy and the zany hermit. Initially released on December 7, 1929, "Moan & Groan Inc." was originally included in the "Little Rascals" TV package, but has since been withdrawn due to a handful of mild ethnic jokes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Railroadin'
The second "Our Gang" talkie, Railroadin' was filmed entirely out-of-doors, on location in and around the railroad yards behind the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood. The fun begins when train engineer Otto Fries, the father of Gang members Joe Cobb and Norman "Chubby" Chaney, takes a lunch break, leaving Joe and Chubby to their own devices. Goaded on by their pals, the two kids attempt to operate their dad's locomotive, leading inexorably to a riotous runaway-train sequence, expertly combining laughs and thrills. Originally released on June 15, 1929, Railroadin' was long unavailable because its soundtrack discs could not be located. Then in the late 1970s, a complete talkie print was made available from Blackhawk Films, and subsequently released on video. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

A Lad an' a Lamp
Fascinated by the story of Aladdin's magic lamp, the Our Gang kids gather together every electric light fixture in the neighborhood, hoping that by rubbing them vigorously, a genie will appear. Thanks to a series of coincidences -- not least of which involves a friendly stage magician -- the kids become convinced that they've succeeded in emulating Aladdin. But their excitement turns to dismay when Mathew "Stymie" Beard believes that he's transformed his kid brother Cotton (Bobby Beard) into a monkey! Despite a marvelous sequence in which Spanky McFarland enjoys a free meal at a lunch counter, courtesy of a trained monkey, it cannot be denied that this film contains a great deal of casually racist humor that seems tasteless when viewed today. For that reason, "A Lad an' a Lamp," originally released on December 17, 1932, has been withdrawn from the "Little Rascals" TV package, though the film is available to home-video collectors. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Wild Poses
It is time for Spanky McFarland and his family to have a group portrait taken, and prissy photographer Otto Phocus is the man for the job. At least, that's what Otto thinks, before he's worn to a frazzle trying to coax a smile out of the taciturn Spanky. Meanwhile, the rest of the Our Gang kids inadvertently lay waste to Mr. Phocus' developing room. Originally released on October 28, 1933, "Wild Poses" benefits from a strong adult cast: Franklin Pangborn as the persnickety Otto Phocus, the Burns-and-Allen clones Emerson Treacy and Gay Seabrook as Spanky's parents ---and even a surprise guest appearance by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Feed 'Em and Weep
In this followup to the earlier one-reeler Our Gang: Night 'N' Gales, comedian Johnny Arthur reprises his role as Darla Hood's long-suffering father. It's Mr. Hood's birthday, and he has been eagerly anticipating a quiet dinner at home with his family. Alas, Darla has invited a "few friends" to the celebration: Our Gang-ers Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Eugene "Porky" Lee, Philip Hurlic, and Leonard Landy. The well-meaning quartet drive poor Mr. Hood to distraction with loud and interminable choruses of "Happy Birthday, Mr. Hood", but this is nothing compared to the presents they've brought: a frog, a duck, and a cat, all of which get into a noisy confrontation with the family dog. When the kids aren't arguing over their favorite comic-strip characters, they're busily devouring Mr. Hood's birthday dinner; the poor fellow doesn't even get a slice of his own cake! Feed 'Em and Weep was orginally released on May 7, 1938. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Our Gang Follies of 1938
Briefly digressing from "Our Gang"'s new one-reel format, the series' December 18, 1937 release, Our Gang Follies of 1938, was expanded to two reels -- and the result is often considered to be the best "Gang" comedy of all. Another musical short in the tradition of Our Gang Follies of 1936 and Reunion in Rhythm, this one begins in the basement "theater" of Spanky McFarland, who serves as emcee of a lavish kiddie revue, built primarily around the talents of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, "King of the Crooners." Alas, Alfalfa has decided to forego swing music in favor of grand opera, and to that end he walks out of the show and heads to the Cosmopolitan Opera House, where Mr. Barnaby (Henry Brandon), the troupe's bemused manager, jokingly signs Alfalfa to a contract -- effective twenty years later. Falling asleep, Alfalfa begins dreaming of his future, envisioning his name in lights all over Broadway. Alfie's dream turns into a nightmare when he loses his "gift" on the eve of his operatic debut, whereupon the now aged and wizened Barnaby forces the hapless crooner to sing in the streets. Our hero is rescued when he ventures into fashionable Club Spanky, where lead singer Darla Hood and orchestra leader Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas are now making "hundreds of thousands of dollars." Though at first insisting that he's a "slave to his art," Alfie finally breaks down and agrees to return to crooning -- but his dream, and the film, aren't quite over yet. Seldom has the imagination of a child been so vividly conveyed as in Our Gang Follies of 1938, wherein the standard "show-biz movie" cliches are played out and exaggerated for all they're worth. As a bonus, the film scores as both an uproarious comedy and a legitimately entertaining musical. Highlights include Alfalfa's unforgettable renditions of "I'm the Barber of Seville" and "Learn to Croon"; Darla's interpretation of "The Love Bug Will Get You If You Don't Watch Out"; "Loch Lomond", performed by Annabella Logan (who grew up to become fabled jazz singer Annie Ross); and "That Foolish Feeling" and "There's No Two Ways About It", sung and danced by Georgia Jean LaRue and Phil MacMahon. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dog Heaven
Easily one of the most bizarre and surrealistic of all the "Our Gang" silent films, Dog Heaven begins as the beloved Pete the Pup is rescued from committing suicide (!) by one of his canine pals. The broken-hearted Pete then explains (via dialogue titles) why he wants to end his life. It seems that Petey's lifelong master Joe Cobb has been ignoring him in favor of a pretty young girl. Even worse, Joe has accused Pete of trying to drown the girl, when in fact the dog was rescuing her from a watery grave. Just in the nick of time, Joe and Petey are tearfully reuinited --- but this is hardly the end of our doggie hero's troubles. If the viewer doesn't gasp in astonishment at the opening scene, wherein Pete the Pup fashions a noose and attempts to hang himself, the viewer's jaw will certainly drop during the segment in which Pete and a band of mongrel dogs getting blind stinking drunk on bootleg booze! Originally released on December 17, 1927, "Dog Heaven" was the earliest of the "Our Gang" silents to be reissued under the "Little Rascals" banner in the 1950s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Boxing Gloves
As usual, diminutive Our Gang member Allen "Farina" Hoskins is faced with an adult-sized dilemma. This time, Farina is a self-styled fight promoter, who hopes to strike it rich by staging a "heavyweight" bout between neighborhood fat boys Joe Cobb and Norman "Chubby" Chaney. Unfortunately, for Farina, longtime rivals Joe and Chubby have patched up their differences and are now the best of friends. All this changes, however, when pretty Jean Darling comes between the elephantine duo, whereupon Farina is able to promote the Battle of the Century in his barnyard boxing ring. When originally released on September 9, 1929, Boxing Gloves was advertised as an "all-talking" picture; in truth, however, it hovers hesitantly between a talkie and a silent film. This is never more jarring than during the climactic boxing sequence, in which several scenes are played out in utter silence, with no sound effects of any kind. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Reunion in Rhythm
A followup to the musical-revue short Our Gang Follies of 1936, the one-reel Reunion in Rhythm was apparently filmed under the title Our Gang Follies of 1937. Its release title reflected the fact that, in addition to such current Gang members as Spanky McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Darla Hood, Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas, and Eugene "Porky" Lee, the film also features return appearances by former "Our Gang" stalwarts Mickey Daniels, Mary Kornman, Joe Cobb and Mathew "Stymie" Beard. The occasion is a class reunion at Adams Street Grammar School, where the students stage a show for the entertainment of the alumni. Musical highlights include "Baby Face", performed by Darla and Porky; &"Broadway Rhythm", performed by Spanky and the ensemble; and a medley of &"Going Hollywood" and "I'm Through With Love", sung by Alfalfa and Georgia Jean LaRue. Originally released on January 9, 1937, "Reunion in Rhythm" is the least satisfying of the "Our Gang" musicals, perhaps because the kids seem a tad over-rehearsed this time out. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Lucky Corner
Lovable old Gus (Gus Leonard) is forced to move his tiny lemonade stand when sidewalk-diner owner William Wagner and his bratty son Leonard Kibrick complain that Gus represents "unfair competition." As Gus relocates near a barber shop at the invitation of friendly boot black Joe Mathey, the Our Gang kids decide to drum up business for their favorite merchant by staging a makeshift parade and musical show. Wagner and his son finally get their comeuppance when a scalp-massaging device becomes lodged in Wagner's trousers, forcing the villain into a brief but colorful "dancing" career. Highlights include Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's deathless rendition of "Little Brown Jug" and a lengthy comedy set piece involving soap-spiked lemonade. Though filmed for Our Gang's 1934-1935 season, The Lucky Corner was inexplicably withheld from release until March 14, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Small Talk
The first all-talking "Our Gang" comedy, Small Talk was also one of the few series entries to run three reels rather than the customary two. A sentimental effort, the film details the trials of tribulations of two orphans -- played by Mary Ann Jackson and Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins -- when one of them is adopted by a wealthy matron (Helen Jerome Eddy). Though Wheezer is showered with toys, fancy clothes and other luxuries, he remains lonesome for his sister Mary Ann. The two kids are reunited when Mary Ann, together with the rest of her orphan pals, pay an unanounced visit to Wheezer's new digs. After laying waste to the mansion and accidentally summoning the cops, the youngsters are rescued from a return trip to the orphanage when a group of rich ladies agrees to adopt all of them immediately. Though exhibiting the customary clumsiness of early sound films, Small Talk also contains several surprisingly sophisticated "talkie" gags, including an opening bit involving various makeshift musical instruments. Originally released on May 18, 1929, the film was not included in the "Little Rascals" package released to television in the early 1950s because no decent picture and sound material then existed. Small Talk was restored for the home-movie market by Blackhawk Films in 1974, and released on video and DVD in the 1990s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Helping Grandma
Veteran character actress Margaret Mann makes the first of two memorable Our Gang appearances in Helping Grandma. The owner of a tiny general store, "Grandma" (Mann), loves to have the kids around, even if they pay for their penny candy with expired subway tokens and buttons. Local skinflint Mr. Pennypacker (Oscar Apfel) tries to purchase Grandma's store for a ridiculously low sum, while a pair of representatives from a chain store make a more generous offer. Thanks to the gang's well-meaning "assistance," the chain store men are very nearly scared away, while mean Mr. Pennypacker almost persuades Grandma to give up her store. Truth and decency prevail in the end, again largely thanks to the youngsters. A lengthy comedy segment, in which little Stymie Beard tries to purchase ten cents worth of "It," is often cut from TV prints due to its allegedly offensive content (which is offensive mainly to those who find offense in everything). Enhanced by a marvelous musical score by Marvin Hatley, Helping Grandma was originally released on January 3, 1931. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Fish Hooky
Four of the "Our Gang" kids fabricate elaborate excuses to get out of school so they can go fishing. Unfortunately, the boys have picked the very day that their teacher is taking the whole class for a free excursion to the Seaside Amusement Park. The rest of the picture finds the would-be fishermen trying to sneak into the park without attracting the attention of the eagle-eyed truant officer. Originally released on January 28, 1933, Fish Hookey is a watershed "Our Gang" film: in addition to featuring the current crop of "Gang" members, the film also accommodates guest-star appearances by four former members from the silent era: Mary Kornman as the teacher, Mickey Daniels as the fun-loving truant officer, and Joe Cobb and Allen "Farina" Hoskins. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mush and Milk
This time around, the Our Gang Kids are residents (or rather, inmates) of the Bleak Hill Boarding School, where the crabby old lady in charge forces them to do all the chores and feeds them a strict diet of mush. Fortunately, the kids have a strong ally in the form of lovable old Cap (Gus Leonard), the school's combination handyman and teacher. Cap promises the youngsters that he'll rescue them from Bleak Hill once his back pension comes in -- and, by golly, he does! Highlights include Spanky McFarland's garbled telephone conversation with perennial Laurel and Hardy foil James Finlayson, and 6-year-old Tommy Bond's stirring rendition of the very adult torch song "Friends, Lovers No More". Our Gang: Mush and Milk was originally released on May 27, 1933. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bear Shooters
Popular child actor (and later radio and TV stalwart) Leon Janney made his one and only "Our Gang" appearance in "Bear Shooters." Ordered by his mother to look after his kid brother Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, nine-year-old Spud (Janney) is worried that he won't be able to join his pals on a hunting trip --- while his pals know that if Spud doesn't go, Spud's mule Dinah can't go either. A compromise is reached whereby Wheezer tags along with the rest of the Gang as they seek out "big game" in a nearby woods. But instead of capturing a bear, as they had hoped, the kids are confronted by a gorilla --- actually a heavily costumed bootlegger (Charlie Hall) who wants to scare the youngsters away from his hideout. Unfortunately for the crook and his partner (Bob Kortman), the kids are a lot more resourceful than they appear. Originally released on May 17, 1930, "Bear Shooters" slipped into Public Domain in 1984, and as such is one of the most readily available "Our Gang" talkies. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Free Wheeling
Confined to a neck brace, poor little rich boy Dickie Moore would like to play with the neighborhood kids, but his overprotective mother (Lillian Rich) won't let him. On the sly, however, Dickie sneaks out of his bedroom in search of adventure in the company of his best pal, Matthew "Stymie" Beard. Purchasing a ride on the donkey-driven "taxicab" piloted by Breezy Brisbane (Kendall McComas), the boys, along with hitchhikers Spanky McFarland and Jacquie Lyn, experience enough thrills and excitement to last a lifetime when the taxi begins rolling down a steep hill ---with no brakes! A classic "Our Gang" entry (who could forget the shot of the "runaway" spare tires, or Stymie's instant "cure" of Dickie's stiff neck?), Free Wheeling was originally released on October 1, 1932. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hearts Are Thumps
It is Valentine's Day, and Our Gang members Spanky McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee aren't impressed. Deciding that romance is the bunk, the boys form the He-Man Woman Hater's Club. Alfalfa is willing to go along with this until he falls head over heels in love with classmate Darla Hood. Hoping to scotch this relationship, Spanky, Buckwheat and Porky insert soap in the sandwich and cream puff that Darla has prepared for Alfalfa. Tortuously, Alfie downs the nauseating repast, rather than hurt Darla's feelings. Things get worse for the would-be Romeo when schoolteacher Miss Lawrence (Rosina Lawrence) prevails upon Alfalfa to offer a bubbly (in every sense of the word!) rendition of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". The "Our Gang" one-reeler Hearts Are Thumps (sometimes misidentified as Hearts Are Trumps) was originally released on April 3, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pups Is Pups
The Our Gang kids prepare to enter their scraggily pets in a high-society dog show, where their pal Allen "Farina" Hoskins is working as an usher. Meanwhile, Jackie Cooper tries vainly to prevent his troublesome kid sister (Dorothy "Echo" DeBorba) from jumping into every mud puddle that she sees. And little Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins has a high old time trying to round up his runaway puppies, who change directions every time they hear a bell ringing. A truly delightful two-reeler, "Pups is Pups" expertly combines slapstick, verbal humor and pathos in one neat, entertaining package. Originally released on August 30, 1930, this was the first "Our Gang" comedy to utilize the captivating background music of LeRoy Shield, notably such familiar tunes as the lilting "Teeter-Totter", the rousing "Hide and Go Seek", and the lively "On to the Show", later made famous as the secondary opening theme for Hal Roach's Laurel and Hardy comedies. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mama's Little Pirate
The first in a brace of "Our Gang" fantasy outings, "Mama's Little Pirate" begins when the mother of Spanky McFarland refuses to allow him to participate in a treasure hunt in a nearby cave (actually a spooky standing set left over from the 1934 Laurel and Hardy feature Babes in Toyland). Confined to his room, Spanky argues with his "inner self", who advises him to disobey his mother and join the rest of the Gang in their search for buried treasure. Though the kids miraculously unearth a fortune in gold and jewels, their triumph nearly turns to disaster when they encounter a surly giant (played by 7'6" Tex Madsen). Originally released on November 3, 1934, "Mama's Little Pirate" is enchanced by LeRoy Shield's brilliant background music composition "Cascadia", originally written for the equally thrilling "Boy Friends" comedy Air Tight (1931). Though he has never admitted it, Steven Spielberg may well have used this humble two-reeler as the inspiration for his own comedy-adventure feature The Goonies (1985). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Our Gang Follies of 1936
The first of "Our Gang"'s musical revues, this one gets under way as master of ceremonies Spanky McFarland entices the local kiddies to attend the Gang's "big show," staged in Spanky's basement. "There's dancing music, and hotcha too," Spanky sings, "It's only a penny --- it won't break you." Highlights include, in order of presentation, an opening chorus number (&"Hello, Hello, Hello"); The Bryan Sisters' rendition of "How You Gonna Keep Him Down on the Farm" (with the not inconsiberable assistance of Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas); Darla Hood, making her "Our Gang" debut with a zingy performance of "I'll Never Say 'Never Again' Again"; the spooky "Ghost Frolic" (a segment often cut to ribbons on TV); Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's version of the Pinky Tomlin hit "The Object of My Affection"; and the grand finale, "The Florydory Girls", with Spanky and the male cast members pressed into service as "drag" performers. One of the best and most successful "Our Gang" entries of all, "Our Gang Follies of 1936" was originally released on November 30, 1935. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Roamin' Holiday
Upset at being forced to do the household chores all weekend long, Our Gang-ers Spanky McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee decide to run away from home. Taking a breather in the tiny village of Jenksville, the boys manage to cadge a meal from kindly storekeeper Mrs. Jenks (May Wallace). But when she finds out that the kids are runaways, she passes this information along to her husband, Constable Hi Jenks (Otis Harlan), who jovially decides to teach the boys a lesson. Pretending to arrest the four youngsters, Constable Jenks dresses them in convict stripes and forces them to work on the rockpile, figuring that after an hour or so they'll be glad to return home. But an unanticipated swarm of bees brings this little morality play to a sudden and painful conclusion for all concerned. One of the few "Our Gang" one-reelers to boast an original background-music score (courtesy of Marvin Hatley), "Roamin' Holiday" was originally released on June 12, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Birthday Blues
A superb combination of belly laughs and pathos, the "Our Gang" comedy "Birthday Blues" was originally released on November 12, 1932. When their pennypinching father (Hooper Atchley) refuses to buy a birthday gift for their long-suffering mother (Lillian Rich), brothers Dickie Moore and Spanky McFarland decide to purchase Mom a gift on their own. Unfortunately, the "late 1922 model" dress they've selected is way beyond their price range (a daunting $1.98); thus, acting upon the advice of their pal Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Dickie and Spanky decide to bake a cake with hidden prizes, then auction off the cake at ten cents a slice. This is the film in which the kids' oversized cake --- a truly frightening creation --- emits a low "woooooo-owww" sound as it cools off in the oven. It is also the film in which, responding to Spanky's suggestion that they buy their mom a shotgun, Dickie moans "Aw, what would she do with a gun?" --- whereupon Spanky replies "Shoot Papa!!!!" ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Choo Choo!
Originally released on May 7, 1932, the "Our Gang" comedy "Choo-Choo!" was a loose remake of the 1923 two-reeler A Pleasant Journey. Exchanging clothes with a group of mischievous orphans, the Our Gang kids end up on a train headed for Chicago. Pressed into service as the kids' supervisor, effeminate Travelers Aid attendant Mr. Henderson (Dell Henderson) suffers the torments of the darned, especially when he tries to prevent three-year old George "Spanky" McFarland from punching the nose of every adult in sight. Things to come to a head when the kids manage to get hold of some fireworks, at the same time accidentally releasing a menagerie of circus animals from the baggage car. Listen carefully and you'll hear the voice of Oliver Hardy as the fireworks salesman yells for help. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bargain Day
The "Our Gang" two-reeler "Bargain Day" gets off to a lively start as the kids help their pal Norman "Chubby" Chaney purchase a new hat. Meanwhile, Jackie Cooper's kid brother, played by Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, steals the Gang's baseball equipment, intended to go into business as a door-to-door salesman with his best friend Matthew "Stymie" Beard. One of their first customers is poor little rich girl Jean Darling, who ends up inviting the entire Gang into her parents' luxurious mansion. A slapstick riot ensues, with perennial Hal Roach policeman Tiny Sandford making a futile effort to round up the rampaging kids. The best bit is an ancestor of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First", with Jean, Wheezer and Stymie attempting to ascertain the location of Watt Street. Originally released on May 2, 1931, "Bargain Day" was Jackie Cooper's last "Our Gang" film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

For Pete's Sake
When neighborhood bully Leonard Kibrick wrecks little Marianne Edwards' favorite doll, the "Our Gang" kids promise to purchase a new doll for the brokenhearted girl. Unfortunately, the local toy store is run by Leonard's equally obnoxious father William Wagner, who agrees to give the kids a doll only if they'll hand over their beloved Pete the Pup in exchange. Balking at this arrangement, the kids concoct a variety of moneymaking schemes, all of them doomed to failure. Tearfully, the youngsters trade Pete for the doll --- but fear not, a happy ending is waiting in the wings! Originally released on April 14, 1934, "For Pete's Sake" is highlighted by the bantering byplay between the two youngest "Our Gang" members, Spanky McFarland and Scotty Beckett. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Forgotten Babies
A partial remake of the 1924 Our Gang: Cradle Robbers, "Forgotten Babies" finds the Gang members trying to escape their babysitting chores. They manage to coerce little Spanky McFarland to mind their baby brothers and sisters while the rest of the Gang goes swimming. Unfortunately, the infants would prefer to run (or crawl) amok, forcing Spanky to take desperate measures. Best bits: Spanky's impromptu bedtime story about Tarzan and Jane, and the little brat who keeps on saying "Remark-a-ble". "Forgotten Babies" was originally released on March 11, 1933. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Free Eats
To further her husband's political career, wealthy Mrs. Clark (Lillian Elliot) throws a lavish party in her home for the poor children of the community. Among the invitees are the Our Gang kids, including Matthew "Stymie" Beard, who of late has been getting into trouble because of his tall tales. Thus, no one believes Stymie when he claims that a pair of midgets, disguised as infants, have invaded the party for the purpose of stealing everybody's wallets and jewelry. As it turns out, however, Stymie is telling the truth for the first time in his life. Originally released on February 11, 1932, "Free Eats" benefits from a strong adult supporting cast, including Billy Gilbert and Paul Fix (the latter in female drag!) as a pair of crooks. The film is best remembered, however, as the "Our Gang" debut of 3-year-old George "Spanky" McFarland, who delivers a rambling, impromptu monologue about monkeys, swings, and airplanes --- hardly a high point in American comedy, but enchanting nonetheless. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Teacher's Pet
An indisputable classic, the "Our Gang" comedy "Teacher's Pet" is introduced by a brace of pretty twin girls (Beverly and Bette Mae Crane), who recite the opening credit titles. The story proper begins with the Gang members facing the first day of school with fear and loathing. Their beloved teacher Miss McGillicuddy has gotten married, and her replacement is one Miss Crabtree, whom the kids fear will be as ugly and foreboding as her name. Meanwhile, Jackie Cooper hitches a ride from a beautiful and charming young lady. Immediately at ease with his travelling companion, Jackie tells her that he and his pals have conspired to humiliate their new teacher Miss Crabtree with a variety of practical jokes --- and then spend the rest of the day fishing, having been released from school via a series of contrived excuses. Imagine Jackie's surprise when, upon arriving at school, he discovers that Miss Crabtree and the gorgeous woman who gave him a ride are one in the same! At turns hilarious and poignant, "Teacher's Pet" is as entertaining today as it was upon its first release on October 11, 1930. As a bonus, the film represented two firsts: The first appearance of the lovely June Marlowe as Miss Crabtree, and the first utilization of the unforgettable "Our Gang" theme song "The Good Old Days", written and orchestrated by LeRoy Shield. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Three Smart Boys
The Three Smart Boys in this one-reel "Our Gang" comedy are Spanky McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee. Once again anxious to get out of school, Spanky once again decides to stage a phony epidemic. This time it's the measles, requiring the boys to paint black blotches on their faces (yes, this is the film in which Buckwheat, a black child, gets white measles!). The plan comes a-cropper when, while visiting the doctor (Sidney Bracey), the boys are led to believe that Buckwheat has been transformed into a monkey. Originally released on May 13, 1937, Three Smart Boys should not be confused with the much-later MGM-produced "Our Gang" short Three Smart Guys (1943). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Kid From Borneo
In this classic "Our Gang" comedy, Dickie Moore, Spanky McFarland and Dorothy DeBorba play siblings who, through a misunderstanding, become convinced that the local carnival's "Wild Man of Borneo" is really their prodigal Uncle George. Though basically harmless, the Wild Man really goes wild when he's hungry for candy. Shouting "Yum, yum! Eat 'em up," the Wild Man sparks a hectic chase that doesn't let up until the "End" title. Best scene: little Spanky prodding the Wild Man into eating the entire contents of the family refrigerator. Originally released on April 15, 1933, "The Kid From Borneo" has been withdrawn from the "Little Rascals" TV package due to its allegedly offensive "racist" content; even so, it remains a favorite on the home-video market. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Little Daddy
Originally released on March 28, 1931, the "Our Gang" comedy "Little Daddy" is no longer available in the "Little Rascals" TV package, due to the perceived offensiveness of its "ethnic" humor. The focus is on talented black youngsters Allen "Farina" Hoskins and Mathew "Stymie" Beard, here cast as orphaned brothers. As Stymie's self-appointed guardian, Farina does not look forward to the day that his kid brother will be sent to an orphanage. When the officials arrive, Farina puts up a struggle to keep Stymie, with the rest of the Gang members helping out. Though topheavy with sentiment and pathos, the film delivers an abundance of laughs, especially during the scene in which Stymie pretends to take a bath. In addition, there's a curious segment wherein Norman "Chubby" Chaney sings in a basso profundo voice (supplied by Hal Roach comedy star Charley Chase), and a guest appearance by June Marlowe as the beloved Miss Crabtree. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

School's Out
In this sequel to the 1930 "Our Gang" comedy "Teacher's Pet," the Gang members eagerly await each school day, so that they can bask in the beauty and charm of their new schoolteacher Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe). Little Jackie Cooper is so smitten by the teacher that he circulates a "perdition" to keep school open all year round. When Miss Crabtree's brother Jack (Creighton Hale) pays a visit to the schoolhouse in his sister's absence, the kids begin to worry that Jack is actually their teacher's fiancé. Remembering that marriage was "the way we lost Miss McGillicuddy" (their previous teacher), the youngsters hatch several schemes to get rid of Jack, culminating with the theft of his clothes. An amusing subplot involves a verbal general-knowledge quiz, in which the kids provide foolish answers gleaned from an old joke book. "School's Out" was originally released on November 22, 1930. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Spook Spoofing
The rest of the "Our Gang" kids rather cruelly taunt their black pal Allen "Farina" Hoskins, who is deathly afraid of ghosts. After driving poor Farina into a frenzy of fright in a spooky graveyard, the kids cap their mischief by convincing the nervous boy that one of the Gang members, Harry Spear, has died, and that Farina had better bury his "cold and clammy" pal in a hurry. Fortunately for Farina, the tables are turned on the prankish kids, thanks to an unexpected solar eclipse. Originally released on January 14, 1928, "Spook Spoofing" was the only silent "Our Gang" comedy to run a full three reels (approximately 27 minutes). Long available in the "Little Rascals" TV package, the film has been withdrawn in recent years due to the its stereotypical and demeaning "scared darkie" comedy content. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Honkey Donkey
Capriciously defying his loving but overprotective mother, wealthy young Wally Albright orders family chauffeur Barclay (Don Barclay) to drive through the town's "dirtier" alleyways. Here, Wally befriends the Our Gang kids, who have rigged up a merry-go-round powered by a contentious mule named Algebra. Inevitably, Wally invites the kids --- and Algebra --- to his palatial home, where the mercurial mule drives poor Barclay crazy. And remember: Don't sneeze! Listen for the voice of former "Our Gang" member Mickey Daniels when Algebra brays out a laugh at the end; also, watch for a leftover exterior set from the Laurel and Hardy feature comedy Sons of the Desert (1933). "Honkey Donkey" was originally released on June 2, 1934. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bouncing Babies
Accustomed to being the center of attention in his family, little Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins is upset when the spotlight is stolen by his new baby brother. Envious of the new arrival, Wheezer scheme to take the infant back to the maternity hospital whence he came. But Wheezer's sister Mary Ann Jackson and the kids' mother concoct a scheme that is guaranteed to teach the "little rascal" a good lesson. Originally released on October 12, 1929, this "Our Gang" comedy is seen at a disadvantage today due to a substandard soundtrack. Nonetheless, "Bouncing Babies" contains a generous supply of laughs, thanks largely to a typical Hal Roach running gag wherein Wheezer practices an ingenious method of "traffic control." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pay As You Exit
Hoping to attract customers to Spanky McFarland's barnyard production of Romeo and Juliet, star performer Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer proposes a "pay as you exit" policy: If the kids like the show, they'll pay the alotted one-cent admission on the way out. Alas, the show is nearly over before it starts when leading lady Darla Hood walks out, complaining that Alfalfa has been eating onions (which, he insists, improves his splendid speaking voice). After stalling for time, Spanky hits upon a replacement for Darla: black youngster Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas, decked out in a glorious blonde wig! Joe Cobb, an "Our Gang" star from the series' silent days, makes an amusing return appearance. Among the "mood songs" played on the Victrola by stagehand Eugene "Porky" Lee in the course of the show are LeRoy Shield's familiar background tunes "In My Canoe" and "Hide and Go Seek, as well as "Walking the Deck, a tune written for (but deleted from) the 1936 Laurel and Hardy feature Our Relations. The one-reel "Pay as You Exit" was originally released on October 24, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Arbor Day
Spanky tries to escape his "command performance" at the Spring Street School's annual Arbor Day show, but local truant officer Smithers (George Guhl) is a little too fast for him. Meanwhile, a pair of wisecracking midgets (George and Olive Brasno) take an unauthorized day off from their performance schedule at a local sideshow. Disguised as children, the midgets are spotted by the indefatigable Smithers, who assumes that they're also trying to duck out of the Arbor Day festivities. Forceably dragged into the School, the midgets are told to sit down and keep quiet while the show proceeds. After an endearingly clumsy kiddie ensemble piece and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's ear-piercing rendition of "Trees, the midgets decide to get even with Smithers by putting on a show that no one will ever forget. In addition to the aforementioned adult cast members, the film is also graced by the presence of Maurice Cass as the pompous principal, future Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel as the mother of Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas, and Rosina Lawrence in her first appearance as the Gang's pretty schoolteacher Miss Lawrence. Originally released on May 2, 1936, "Arbor Day" was the last two-reel "Our Gang" comedy; thereafter, with the special exception of "Our Gang Follies of 1938," all of the series' releases would be one reel (approximately ten minutes) in length. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Pooch
Cheerful vagrant Mathew "Stymie" Beard tries to get back in the good graces of the Gang after stealing their pies. Stymie's not a bad kid, just hungry, as proven when he cadges a meal from a friendly housewife -- a meal supposedly for his faithful pet Pete the Pup, but actually consumed by himself. When a mean dogcatcher (Budd Fine) tries to round up the Gang's dogs, Stymie comes to the rescue, earning the undying devotion of the kids and the animosity of the dogcatcher, who vengefully bundles Petey off to the pound, intending to consign the poor pooch to the gas chamber. Desperately, Stymie prays for the five dollars necessary to spring Petey, whereupon a five-spot blows out of the hands of a lady shopper and lands at Stymie's feet. For a while, it seems as if Stymie and the Gang are too late to save Petey from being destroyed, but the dog has a trick or two of his own up his. . .er. . .sleeve. A semi-remake of the 1927 "Our Gang" comedy "Love My Dog," "The Pooch" was originally released on June 11, 1932. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Glove Taps
After appearing as a peripheral player in several earlier "Our Gang" shorts, Tommy Bond made a spectacular return to the series in Glove Taps. Here and in all future appearances, Bond is cast as neighborhood bully Butch, the bane of the existence of Spanky McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and the rest of the Gang. Normally, Butch explains, he beats up every kid in school to prove that he's Big Man on Campus; but to save time, he'll lick the toughest kid in school. By a fluke, weak-kneed Alfalfa is chosen to face Butch in the barnyard boxing ring --- and he has only one day to train for the big bout! If the background music in this one-reel comedy sounds familiar, it should; much of it was lifted from Marvin Hatley's Oscar-nominated score for the Laurel and Hardy feature Way Out West (1937). A fast and funny exercise in adolescent wish-fulfillment, "Glove Taps" was originally released on February 20, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hi'-Neighbor!
When wealthy young Jerry Tucker moves into town, the Our Gang kids line up to greet him. Alas, Jerry is a snobbish sort, though he immediately turns on the charm when he meets little Jane (Jackie Taylor), the erstwhile girlfriend of Wally Albright. Worried that Jane's head will be turned by Jerry's shiny new toy fire engine, Wally and the Gang build a fire truck of their own --- an impressive effort, constructed from virtually every piece of scrap metal and every stray wheel in the neighborhood. The story comes to a riotous conclusion when Jerry and the Gang race their respective fire engines down one of those very steep hills that one finds only in two-reel comedies. Originally released on March 3, 1934, "Hi'-Neighbor!" was the first of many top-rank "Our Gang" films directed by Gus Meins. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Awful Tooth
Hoping to earn enough money to buy baseball equipment, the Our Gang kids elect to have all their teeth pulled out. Their logic is sublime: If the Good Fairy is willing to slip a dime under the pillow for one tooth, imagine how much the kids will earn if they extract all of their ivories. Upon learning of this scheme, playful dentist Dr. Schwartz (played with unaccustomed sobriety by perennial movie "drunk" Jack Norton) decides to teach the little rascals a lesson -- beginning with a terrified Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer. The Awful Tooth was originally released on May 28, 1938. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bedtime Worries
Originally released on September 9, 1933, "Bedtime Worries" was the first of two "Our Gang" comedies in which the vaudeville team of Emerson Treacy and Gay Seabrook (a second-echelon Burns and Allen) were cast as the parents of little Spanky McFarland. On the day he is promoted to head clerk (or "head cluck," as Spanky puts it), Treacy declares that it is high time Spanky stopped sleeping in his parents' room and go to bed in his own room. During his first night alone, Spanky envisions all sorts of imaginary horrors, from a bat (actually a moth) to "the boogeyman." Thus, when a burglar (Harry Bernard) climbs into Spanky's window, the boy's dozing parents fail to believe his story. Passing himself off as Santa Claus, the burglar steals everything that isn't nailed down until the rest of the Our Gang kids come to the rescue. A quote from Mae West caps this delightful two-reeler. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Barnum & Ringling, Inc.
Originally released on April 7, 1928, "Barnum & Ringling, Inc." was the first "Our Gang" silent comedy to be released with a synchronized musical and sound-effects track. All of the action takes place at the fashionable Ritz-Biltmore hotel, where the Our Gang kids have elected to stage a circus. The fun really begins when the circus animals escape and begin roaming in and out of various hotel rooms. And when an ostrich manages to consume a full bottle of bootleg booze, it's "Katie Bar the Door." Watch for brief appearances by character actor Eugene Pallette as a house detective, future B-western heavy Charles King as a would-be Romeo, and comedian Oliver Hardy as a startled guest. (Ollie is in fact, so startled that he swallows a cork!) ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dogs Is Dogs
Another expert blend of genuine sentiment, moving pathos and belly laughs, the "Our Gang" comedy "Dogs is Dogs" was orginally released on November 21, 1931. This time, Gang members Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins and Dorothy DeBorba are cast as brother and sister, left in charge of their hateful stepmother (Blanche Payson) while their absentee father weathers a serious illness. In addition to being abused by their stepmom, the kids must suffer the taunts of their prissy stepbrother, played by Sherwood "Spud" Bailey. Fortunately, their old pal Matthew "Stymie" Beard is around to brighten their lives and to outfox the despicable Spud. Also figuring in the proceedings is the beloved Pete the Pup, who very nearly meets an unpleasant demise thanks to the combined machinations of the villains. A variety of plot complications both hilarious and heart-breaking occur before the inevitable happy ending. Incidentally, this is the film in which the crafty Stymie explains how "ham and eggs can talk" --- thereby obtaining a free meal in the process. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Teacher's Beau
On the last day of school, the Our Gang kids learn that their beloved teacher Miss Jones (Arletta Duncan) is going to be married; thus, come September, the kids will have a "new" teacher, Mrs. Wilson. Miss Jones' fiancee Ralph (Edward Norris) playfully paints a frightening picture of Mrs. Wilson as "a dried-up mean old woman" ---neglecting to inform the kids that his last name is Wilson, and that Miss Jones will continue to be their teacher under her new married name. Thanks to Ralph's ill-timed joshing, the youngsters convince themselves that the only way to retain their favorite teacher is to break up the wedding --- starting with the pre-nuptual reception, where the kids surreptitiously "spike" the food with tabasco sauce, horseradish and garlic peppers. Originally released on April 27, 1935, "Teacher's Beau" marks the final "Our Gang" appearance of series stalwart Mathew "Stymie" Beard. Note: the version included in the "Little Rascals" TV package has been severely edited, rendering the film's punchline incomprehensible (a complete and uncut version is available on home video). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Fishy Tales
While staging a "William Tell" exhibition in a vacant lot, junior marksman Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer accidentally incurs the wrath of neighborhood bully Butch (Tommy Bond) -- or, as he announces himself, "you're darn right it's Butch!" When Alfalfa faints, his pal Spanky McFarland tries to save face by insisting that, were Alfie still conscious, he'd knock Butch silly. The bully responds by threatening to bounce Alfalfa around "like a rubber ball" when he wakes up. To prevent this, Spanky cooks up a scheme to convince Butch that Alfalfa has suffered a broken leg while defending Butch's reputation. A large dead fish, previously caught by Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas, proves to be a suitable stand-in for Alfalfa's "damaged" leg -- until a couple of cats show up unannounced. The "Our Gang" one-reeler Fishy Tales made its theatrical debut on August 28, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

When the Wind Blows
Officially an "Our Gang" comedy, "When the Wind Blows" is really a vehicle for adult comic Edgar Kennedy, here playing his usual role of a boastful, clumsy and cowardly cop. On a dark and windy night, Officer Kennedy tries to keep the peace in a small neighborhood, only to be frightened at every turn by loud noises, most of them emanating from the tarpaper shack where Allen "Farina" Hoskins and his brother live. Meanwhile, Jackie Cooper, accidentally locked out of his house, tries to regain entry without alerting his parents, or revealing that his pajama bottoms have been torn asunder. The plot thickens when a burglar shows up, affording both Jackie and Officer Kennedy the opportunity of becoming heroes (but guess who succeeds?) Originally released on April 5, 1930, "When the Wind Blows" was the first "Our Gang" comedy to feature a wall-to-wall musical score, though the familiar Hal Roach background tunes by LeRoy Shield and Marvin Hatley had not yet been composed. The film was also released in a Spanish-language version, which apparently has not survived. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Beginner's Luck
Much against his will, Spanky McFarland had been entered in a kiddie talent contest by his ambitious mother (Kitty Kelly). Hoping to dissuade his Mom from forcing him into a theatrical career, Spanky arranges for the other Our Gang kids to "razz" him during the performance, thereby making certain that he'll lose. While backstage, however, Spanky befriends little Marianne Edwards, who desperately needs the prize money to buy a new dress. Stricken by stage fright, Marianne rushes offstage in tears before she can go into her act. Touched by the girl's plight, Spanky is now determined to win the contest and turn the prize money over to the girl--but the other Gang members don't know that, and they're primed to greet Spanky's recitation with a barrage of boos, catcalls, noisemakers and peashooters. As in the previous comedy Our Gang: Mike Fright, this two-reeler scores its biggest laughs by contrasting the pretensions of "professional kids" with the down-to-earthness of the Gang. As an added bonus, this film marks the debut of future series stalwart Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer. "Beginner's Luck" was originally released on February 23, 1935. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Big Ears
An angry divorce is the curious source of humor in the offbeat "Our Gang" comedy "Big Ears." Though little Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins loves both his father and mother (Creighton Hale and Ann Christy), he wishes that they would stop quarrelling. Overhearing their plans to split up, Wheezer is at first delighted, assuming that a divorce is some sort of present. Learning the truth, he begs his pal Matthew "Stymie" Beard for advice. Stymie suggests that, if Wheezer were to get a bellyache, his folks would forget their differences. Acting upon this, Wheezer consumes vast quantities of lard and soap, then samples the entire contents of the family's medicine chest! Fortuately, he survives, whereupon his parents promise to stop fighting --- at least for now. Originally released on August 29, 1931, "Big Ears" is absent from the "Little Rascals" TV package, but is, however, available on home video. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Framing Youth
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Our Gang's resident crooner, has been preparing for weeks to perform in a radio talent contest. With Spanky McFarland as his manager, Alfalfa is a shoe-in for first prize -- until neighborhood bully Butch (Tommy Bond), who intends to perform a violin solo on the same radio show, threatens to blacken Spanky's eye unless Alfalfa withdraws from the contest. The terrified Spanky convinces Alfalfa that he has "a frog in his throat" and will be unable to perform. Eventually, however, Spanky's conscience gets the better of him, and he urges Alfalfa to sing anyway -- with surprising results. In the early scenes of the serial, the viewer is given a guided tour of the Gang's paste-and-paper "voice studio" (complete with Darla Hood as receptionist and Eugene "Porky" Lee and Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas as go-fers). Framing Youth was originally released on September 11, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Night 'n Gales
Came the Brawn
Last week, fickle Darla Hood declared that she would not go out with neighborhood bully Butch (Tommy Bond) until he started behaving like a gentleman. This week, however, Darla is ga-ga over "muscle men" in general and self-styled wrestler Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer in particular. Thanks to the machinations of his manager Spanky McFarland, "Wildcat" Alfalfa is set to defend his championship title in a fixed bout against the "Masked Marvel"--in reality, the wimpy Waldo (Darwood Kaye). But what Alfie doesn't know is that a revenge-seeking Butch has traded places with Waldo. As he prepares to mop up the floor with the helpless Alfalfa, Butch is defeated through the trickery of Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee -- but this time, both Alfalfa and Butch are losers when it comes to Darla. Originally released on April 16, 1938, Our Gang: Came the Brawn marked Spanky McFarland's final appearance in Hal Roach's "Our Gang" series, though Spanky would return to the property when it was purchased by MGM later in the year. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Second Childhood
Veteran character actress Zeffie Tilbury steals the show in this immensely satisfying "Our Gang" comedy. On the occasion of her 65th birthday, a crotchety hypochondric (Tilbury) goes through her daily rant as her snooty servants (Sidney Bracey and Greta Gould) ply her with colorful but uncessary pills. Her "celebration" is interrupted when a toy plane owned by the "Our Gang" kids crashes through her dining room window and shatters a vase. Forced to do the old lady's yardwork to pay for the damage, the kids ever so gradually win her heart, mostly by refusing to mollycoddle her as her servants have done for so many years. Before long, the Gang's new "Grandma" is singing along with Spanky McFarland and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, demolishing her pill bottles with a slingshot, embarking upon a wild roller-skate ride through her drafty mansion --- and having the time of her life in the process. "Second Childhood" was originally released on April 11, 1936. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Shiver My Timbers
The Our Gang kids spend so much time listening to the tall tales spun by a salty sea captain (Billy Gilbert) that they haven't any time to attend school. Their teacher Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) angrily trails the kids to the docks, then gives the captain a piece of their mind. Apologizing, the captain suggests a drastic plan to cure the kids of their fondness for maritime stories, enlisting Miss Crabtree as co-conspirator. Inviting the youngsters to sign on as crew members, the captain orders them to board ship at midnight, whereupon he and his crew, disguised as buccaneers stage a mock pirate raid guaranteed to scare the kids out of his wits. But when the captain pretends to kidnap Miss Crabtree (who of course is in on the scheme), the kids vow to come to her rescue, turning the tables on the "pirates" in a most painful fashion. Originally released on October 10, 1931, "Shiver My Timbers" is a lesser but amusing "Our Gang" entry. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Shrimps for a Day
Like the previous "Mama's Little Pirate," "Shrimps for a Day" was a rare "Our Gang" foray into pure fantasy. In this one, the Our Gang kids are cast as the inmates of the Happy Home Orphanage, a inaptly-named organization run by the nasty and dishonest Mr. and Mrs. Crutch (Clarence Wilson and Rosa Gore). Invited to a garden party at the home of wealthy Mr. Wade, the children enjoy a good time and are showered with gifts, though they know full well that their new clothes and toys will be appropriated and sold by the Crutches once they return to the orphanage. Meanwhile, Mr. Wade's daughter Mary (Doris McMahan) and her boyfriend Dick (Joe Young) stumble upon a magic lamp, which grants them their wish --- to be children again. Now played by midget actors George and Olive Brasno, Dick and Mary are summarily rounded up by the Crutches and bundled off to the orphanage, where they manage to get the goods on the underhanded operation. The closing gag is a gem, with little Spanky McFarland getting sweet revenge against a decidedly "reduced" Mr. Crutch. "Shrimps for a Day" was originally released on December 8, 1934. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mail and Female
Acting as if the previous "Our Gang" one-reeler Hearts are Thumps never happened, the Gang's male members, headed by Spanky McFarland, decide to create the He-Man Woman Hater's Club. When the kids ask who will be elected president, Spanky nominates his pal Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer in absentia -- because everyone knows that Alfalfa "hates women." Alas, at this very moment Alfie is writing a love letter to his sweetheart Darla Hood. Just as he sends Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee to deliver the note, Alfalfa is informed that he has been unanimously elected president of Spanky's new club. Without even asking what the club is all about, Alfie declares that all rules must be obeyed, lest the members suffer a paddling at the hands of "sergeant-at-arms" Henry "Spike" Lee. Only then does he discover that he has agreed to take charge of the He-Man Woman Hater's Club -- and from this point forward, it's every He-Man for himself! One of the best-remembered "Our Gang" comedies, Mail and Female was originally released on November 13, 1937. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Sprucin' Up
Hoping to get on the good side of the new truant officer (Dick Elliot), the Our Gang kids go out of their way to impress the man's cute little daughter Marianne (Marianne Edwards), even unto making such sacrifices as taking baths, combing hair, shining shoes, and washing behind the ears. Both George "Spanky" McFarland and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer pay a social call on Marianne, and before long, the two lifelong pals have become romantic rivals. Ultimately, Spanky and Alfalfa stage an athletic competition to determine who is the better man, an undertaking with (literally) prickly results. Originally previewed under the title Good Night Ladies, Sprucin' Up was officially released on June 1, 1935. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Three Men in a Tub
Seven-year-old heartbreaker Darla Hood throws her steady beau Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer over in favor of wealthy Waldo (Darwood Kaye), who owns a junior-sized motorboat. Determined to win Darla back, Alfalfa challenges Waldo to a boat race for the championship of Toluca Lake. Alfie's vessel is a typical spit-and-vinegar "Our Gang" creation, powered by a couple of overworked ducks. Despite his amateurish means of conveyance, Alfalfa not only defeats Waldo, but also gets a chance to play hero by rescuing Darla from a watery fate. Could those little nemeses Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee have had anything to do with Waldo's downfall? A slick and entertaining single-reel effort, Three Men in a Tub was originally released on March 26, 1938. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Anniversary Trouble
Little Spanky McFarland's appointment as treasurer of the Ancient and Honery Order of Woodchucks occurs on the same day as his parents' wedding anniversary. Absent-minded as usual, Spanky's father (Johnny Arthur) inadvertently hands over the Woodchucks' treasury as an anniversary present for his wife (Claudia Dell). Meanwhile, Spanky accidentally gets hold of the real anniversary money, and, mistaking it for the treasury, hides it in the cookie jar -- an act witnessed by his Mom, who jumps to the wrong conclusion. Inevitably, the other Woodchucks demand the return of their "dough," but Spanky can't accommodate them, leading to a wild and wooly conclusion wherein Spanky's dad is duly punished for his faulty memory. A brisk and bright comedy of errors, the "Our Gang" comedy "Anniversary Trouble" was originally released on January 19, 1935. The version included in the present "Little Rascals" TV package has been radically edited, removing the sequence in which Spanky dons blackface to disguise himself as Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hide and Shriek
Opening his own detective agency, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer dons a deerstalker cap and rechristens himself "X-10, Sooper Sleuth." His first assignment: to find out who stole a box of candy from Darla Hood. Suspecting that little Leonard Landy and Gary "Junior" Jasgar are the culprits, Alfie and his chief (and only) operatives Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee put a tail on the two youngsters. Unfortunately, the three junior gumshoes are sidetracked to a seaside amusement pier, where they find themselves trapped in the fun-house. Scared out of their wits by various ersatz ghosts, monsters and spooky moans and groans, our heroes vow to give up the detective business forever -- if they live that long! Originally released on June 18, 1938, the one-reel Hide and Shriek was the final entry in producer Hal Roach's "Our Gang" series, and indeed, Roach's final short-subject release on any kind. Within a few months, however, the "Our Gang" property would be revived by MGM, remaining in production until 1943. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Spanky
Earning instant stardom via his appearance in the 1932 "Our Gang" comedy "Free Eats," 3-year-old George "Spanky" McFarland was rewarded with his own two-reel vehicle, appropriately titled "Spanky." One suspects, however, that the film, a remake of the 1926 "Our Gang" entry "Uncle Tom's Uncle," was on the drawing boards long before Spanky signed with Hal Roach, inasmuch as the youngster's "showcase" scenes are largely unrelated to the plot proper. While Spanky toddles around the house attempting to kill bugs with an outsized hammer, the older Gang members endeavor to stage a barn production of Uncle Tom's Cabin, with black youngster Mathew "Stymie" Beard pressed into service as both Uncle Tom and Topsy. Comedy buffs will enjoy the brief but explosive appearance by Billy Gilbert as Spanky's loutish father, and the clever utilization of a Negro spiritual lifted from the soundtrack of the Laurel and Hardy feature Pardon Us (1931). "Spanky" was originally released on March 26, 1932. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Love Business
The final entry in "Our Gang" 's unofficial "Miss Crabtree trilogy", "Love Business" more or less picks up where "School's Out" left off. Little Jackie Cooper has a schoolboy crush on his lovely teacher Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe), as does Jackie's classmate Norman "Chubby" Chaney. When Miss Crabtree rents a room from Jackie's mother (Lyle Tayo), our hero is both thrilled and dismayed: Now he'll have to take a bath every day, and wash his neck besides! Even so, Jackie is determined to propose to Miss Crabtree, but his efforts are thwarted by the sudden arrival of Chubby --- whose eloquent line of romantic patter strikes a strangely familiar chord with Jackie's mom. Eschewing the sentiment of its predecessors "Teacher's Pet" and "School's Out," "Love Business" plays strictly for laughs, and gets them. The film was originally released on February 14, 1931. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Readin' and Writin'
June Marlowe made her final "Our Gang" appearance as Miss Crabtree in "Readin' and Writin'." Despite his mother's admonitions that he'll "never be President" unless he attends school, little Breezy Brisbane (Kenneth McKenna) contocts a plan that will earn him expulsion from Miss Crabtree's classroom. But though Breezy is able to escape the halls of learning, he is unable to elude his own conscience, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the Eugene O'Neill play Strange Interlude. Along the way, Miss Crabtree tries to conduct another "pop quiz," apple-polisher Sherwood "Spud" Bailey recites a sappy poem, and the classroom is invaded by both a donkey and a skunk. "Readin' and Writin'" was originally released on February 2, 1932. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Washee Ironee
On the day that he is scheduled to perform a violin solo at a swank bridge luncheon held by his social-climbing mother, rich kid Wally Albright opts instead to play football with the Our Gang kids. With Wally's help, the kids win the game, but his expensive clothes are covered with mud. Unofficial "Gang" leader Spanky McFarland declares that he and his pals are perfectly capable of washing Wally's duds on their own --- and the result is a slapstick smorgasbord, culminating in a typically outsized Hal Roach traffic jam. Originally released on September 29, 1934, "Washee Ironee" was the only "Our Gang" comedy helmed by perennial Laurel and Hardy director James Parrott --- which may explain the presence of stalwart L & H supporting players Ellinor Van der Veer and Tiny Sandford in the cast. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hook and Ladder
Originally released on August 27, 1932, Hook and Ladder was a remake of the 1926 "Our Gang" comedy The Fourth Alarm, with several gags repeated verbatim. Answering the Fire Chief's request for volunteers, the Our Gang kids form their own firefighting squadron, replete with ersatz uniforms, a fire pole, a dog-and-cat-powered alarm, and a jerry-built fire engine that must be seen to be believed. After a few false alarms and delays, the kids are afforded the opportunity to put out a real fire, which they do with the expertise of veteran smoke-eaters. Some of the sequences in the blazing warehouse may be a bit intense for modern viewers, but rest assured that the kids back in 1932 were both thrilled and delighted. An amusing running gag involving little Spanky McFarland's worm medicine punctuates this lively series entry. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Little Papa
Although Spanky McFarland would like to play football with the rest of the "Our Gang" kids, he is stuck at home taking care of his baby brother. Hoping to lull the kid to sleep, thereby allowing himself to sneak out of the house, Spanky tries all sorts of "sure-fire" beddie-bye methods. But neither he nor his co-conspirator Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer are able to coerce the little brat into drifting off dreamland --- though they do briefly fall asleep themselves. A none too successful reworking of the 1932 Laurel and Hardy two-reeler Their First Mistake, the "Our Gang" comedy "Little Papa" was originally released on September 21, 1935. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Canned Fishing
Again concocting an elaborate hooky-playing scheme, Our Gang kid Spanky McFarland places a block of ice on the chest of his pal Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer. The strategy this time is to convince their mothers that Alfalfa has a bad cold, and that Spanky must remain by his side to nurse him back to help. In fact, the boys plan to go fishing the moment their mothers' backs are turned -- and the scheme might have worked, had not little Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas and Eugene "Porky" Lee spilled the beans to Spanky's mom. Vowing to teach the boys a lesson, she orders Spanky and Alfalfa to remain in the house all day and look after Spanky's kid brother Junior. This turns out to be a major mistake when, while trying to clean Junior's clothes, the boys end up locked in a steam cabinet, while poor Buckwheat finds himself stuck in the washing machine's rinse cycle. Though adhering strictly to formula, the "Our Gang" one-reeler Canned Fishing pleased the crowd when it was originally released on February 12, 1938. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

A Tough Winter
Originally released on June 21, 1930, the "Our Gang" comedy "A Tough Winter" was designed as a "pilot" film for a proposed series of two-reelers starring legendary black comedian Stepin Fetchit. Beginning with a lengthy sequence in which the Gang helps Stepin read a love letter (which segues into an impromptu song-and-dance), the film comes to a sticky conclusion as the kids try to clean up the aftermath of a messy taffy pull. Some of the best gags involve the hundred-and-one labor saving devices built by Fetchit to allow him ample time to goof off; also worth noting is a climactic bit involving crossed electrical wires, which was later reworked into the Laurel and Hardy feature Saps at Sea (1940). Because the comedy of Stepin Fetchit is today considered offensive by many observers, "A Tough Winter" has been withdrawn from the "Little Rascals" TV package, though it is available on home video. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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