Some of the kids came and went, appearing only in a few shoots. Other children were long-time regulars. There were quite a number of children who appeared in the series. There were both boys and girls, but the boys got more attention. Some of the children stood out more than others, such as Alfalfa and Spankey. The boys were Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) and Spanky (George McFarland). George was one of the most important and continued in the series until 1942, 2 years before it ended. Others included Dickie Moore. Unusual for the 1930s, there were always black children involved. The best known was Buckwheat (William Thomas). Some like Jackie Cooper and Bobby Blakely (then billed Michael Gubitosi) went on to have adult film careers. Others like Switzer (Alfalfa) tried and failed.
Alfalfa was one of the more prominent boys on "Our Gang" and stayed with the group several years. He was famous for his legendary cowlick, freckles, and a singing voice that defied description (actually he had a good voice) and became one of the most popular of the 1930 child stars. During a trip to visit their grandparents in Santa Ana, Carl's parents took him and his brother to auditions. Rather shameless about their effort, the parents had the boys do an impromptu" buck 'n wing routine in the Hal Roach commissary and had a contract before they finished their deserts. He became an instant sensation in "Our Gang" (1935-40). Carl and Harold's first film was "Beginner's Luck" (1935). Harold was soon dropped, but Carl became a standout regular. Carl was immediately recognized for his plastered hair, dandy clothes, and putrid renditions of "Oh, Susanna" and "I'm in the Mood for Love." Besides the Our Gang series he appeared in several movies. He was in "General Spanking" (1936) a Civil war vehicle for Our Gang antics, and "Wild and Wooley" (1937). Darla "Sweetheart" Hood was one of Carl's off-camera friends. She reports they used to have lot's of fun. Once they sneaked on a "Tarzan" set and hid in the bushes. During a torrid love scene they came whooping out, ruining the scene. "Kiddie Cure" (1940) was his last Our Gang entry. He was Spanky's best friend. Many of the Our Gang films revolved around Alfalfa and Spanky. The producer loved to focus in on Alfalfa's reactions and expressions. As he got to his teens he triend to continued his career and had often small parts in several different movies, including one with Elizabeth Taylor. His oerformances, however, seem awkward. A good example, was the Bing Crosby film "Going My Way" in which he played a budding juvenile delinquent.
William Thomas played the black boy Buckweat. Although the character may not be preceived well today, he was in fact one of the few black film chararacters that was treated a an equal in the movies until the 1960s and 70s. The producer did not center the various episodes on Buckweat, he appeared in a very large number of the shoots.
Thomas Ross Bond was born in Dallas, Texas on September 16, 1926. He played Tommy in early talkies. He then played the bully in many "Our Gang" films. He wa noted for his wild hair. He was the nemesis of Alfalfa and Spanky. He was in fewer films than Alfalfa and Spanky, but was one of the unforgetable characters.
Bobby Blake began with bit parts, but was soon given speaking roles. His character was Mickey. His real name used at the time was Michael Gubitosi. I don't recall too much about his "Our Gang" performances. He was a popular member of the Our Gang crew. He seemed by most observers to have been happy at the time, although his dad would make him nervous with his coaching. Later Blake would claim that he was terribly abused at home. He had rather a tough time after "Our Gang", but evetually made it big with "Bareta" on television. More recently he was arrested for killing his estraigned wife which resulted in a high-profile Hollywood trial.
Mickey was born in Rock Soprings, Wyoming (1914). His father was actor Richard Daniels His aunt was actress Bebe Daniels. Hal Roach seeing all those freckles signed him up (1923). And he was soon a regular in the early Our Gang films. Mickey was commnly grouped with fat Joe Cobb, scruffy Jackie Condon, pretty Mary Kornman, and smiling "Sunshine Sammy" (Ernie Morrison). Mickey of course stood out because of freckled face and toothy grin. He often quickly turned that toothy grin into a frown as needed. Many of the films were shot around Mickey competing for the affections of
Mary. He and Mary made many public appearances. While a major Our Gag star, he is less well know to modern audiences because they were silents that were not shown on TV like the talkies that Stimie, Alfalfa, and Buckweat made. Roach was impressed enough with Mickey to cast him in "The Boy Friends" series. This was a not very successful attemp to capture the Our Gang magic with a grop of teensagers. After this Daniels had a variety of bit parts in both feature films and asorted shorts. He was often cast as a newsboy. His last appearance was in 1946 except for several well publicized Our Gang reunions. He became a construction worker. He died from liver disease in a lonely hotel room (1970).
Sankey George was one of the most important characters in "Our Gang". He continued in the series until 1942, 2 years before it ended. George was one of the most memorable members of the "Our Gang" boys. George was born in Fort Worth, Texas on October 2, 1928. He became a Dallas celebrity when his parents enlisted him as a model for a local bakery. When the public reacted favorably to the cherubic face on the trucks and baked goods wrappers, the company signed George for an advertising film. An aunt sent a picture of George to Hal Roach who was seeking a new "fat kid" to replace maturing "Fat Joe" Cobb in the "Our Gang" screen comedies. Roach expressed an interest and the McFarlands moved to Hollywood. "Spanking" as he came to be called, caught on fast with the public. As he grew older, he became the ring leader with Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Darla "Sweetheart" Hood, and others. For the next day, George labored incessantly in movie shorts and features. He says that "I was 8 or 9 before I realized that all kids weren't in the movies." Besides playing in the "Our Gang" two reelers, George performed in several feature films, including "O'Shaughnessy's Boy (1935) with Jackie Cooper. He was among the hillbilly offspring in the outdoor drama "trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1936) and had a titled role in "General Spanking" (1936). The latter film directed by Hal Roach was designed to transform the "Our Gang" series into feature films, but it was unsuccessful. George started off at $40 a week, but by the end of his juvenile career he was earning $1,250 a week and became every bit as independent as an adult actor. Interviewers rarely got any where with him. One reporter wrote, "He'd shake hands politely enough. But after that, he was about as garrulous as Garbo. It didn't seem to be shyness. He was just bored." When a director called him before the camera, he'd often exclaim, "Aw, nuts." When he was sure of his lines and ready for a take, he would say "Okay toots." He usually learned his lines from the director who would explain each scene. He rarely worked from a script. He apparently often failed ti deliver the sought after expression, but rarely blew his lines.
Stymie was the other black boy that appeared in "Our Gang".
Dickie first appeared in films as an infant. He began to become well known when he joined Our Gang in 1932. Looking back he says he disliked the whole school experience at Hal Roach studios, he says that he never really felt "part of the gang." He says that the one he felt closest to was Stymie (the Black boy) and his family. He only did Our Gang films until 1933. He was, however, one of the boys who had an important film career after appealing on "Our Gang".
Jackie Cooper began his very successful film careet on "Our Gang". Jackie appeared in only fifteen "Our Gang" films, but remains one of the best remembered. His episodes included: "Boxing Gloves", Bouncing Babies, Moan & Groan Inc., Shivering Shakespeare, The First "Seven", "Years", "When The Wind Blows", "Bear Shooters", "A Tough Winter", "Pups Is Pups", "Teacher's Pet", "School's Out", "Helping Grandma", "Love Business", "Little Daddy", and "Bargain Day".
He went on to become a major child star, appearing in major productions like "Treasure Island". He also defied the odds and had a successful film and TV career as an adult.
Jerome H. Schatz was born in Chiczago, Illijnois (1925). He became a child actor from h\an early age, billed as Jerry Tucker. He is best known for playing "rich kid" in the Hal Roach "Our Gang" short commedies beginning 1931. Short afterwards he got the role of Buster in the Marie Dresler film, "Prosperity" in 1932. He had long curls like the rich kid stereotyoe. He appeared as one of Mother Peep's children in the Roach film "Babes in Toyland" which
featured the popular Laurel and Hardy in 1934. He continued with the "Our Gang" shorts through 1938 and ebnded his filn vareer in 1939. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean War. After the war he pursued a career with RCA.
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