Birth Date: August 7, 1927
Birth Place: Paris, Illinois, USA
Also Credited as: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer
Date of Death: January 21, 1959 / Age: 31
Location of Death: Mission Hills, California, USA
Cause of Death: homicide
Biography: Carl Dean "Alfalfa" Switzer (August 7, 1927 – January 21, 1959) was an American former child actor, professional dog breeder and expert hunting guide, most notable for appearing in the Our Gang short subjects series as Alfalfa, one of the series' most popular and best-remembered characters.
He was born in Paris, Illinois, the second son, fourth and last child of G. Fred Switzer and Gladys Shanks. He was named Carl after the Switzer family and Dean after many relatives on his grandmother's family. He and his older brother, Harold Frederick Switzer, became famous around their hometown for their musical talent and performances; both sung and played a number of instruments. The Switzers took a trip to California in 1934 to see if Carl and Harold could win a part in the Our Gang series. The Switzer brothers entered into the Hal Roach Studio's open-to-the-public cafeteria, the Our Gang Café, and began an impromptu performance. Producer Hal Roach was present at the commissary that day and was impressed by the performance. He signed both Switzers to appear in Our Gang. Harold was given two nicknames, "Slim" and "Deadpan", and Carl was dubbed "Alfalfa."
The Switzer brothers first appeared in the 1935 Our Gang short, Beginner's Luck By the end of the year, Alfalfa was one of the main characters in the series, while Harold had more or less been relegated to the role of a background player.
Although Carl Switzer was an experienced singer and musician, his character Alfalfa was often called upon to sing off-key renditions of pop standards and contemporary hits, most often those of Bing Crosby. Alfalfa also sported one of the most famous cowlicks in pop culture history.
Something of a bully, Carl Switzer enjoyed playing tricks on his fellow cast and crew. After Roach was forced to sell the series to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in 1938, Switzer was not liked by most of the other members of the cast. He sabotaged the production of Our Gang films on a number of occasions.
Both Switzers' tenures in Our Gang ended in 1940, when Carl was thirteen. He continued to appear in movies in various supporting roles, including Courage of Lassie (1946) and It's A Wonderful Life (1948). He also did some acting for television. His final film role was in 1958's The Defiant Ones. Switzer's difficult reputation and his typecasting as Alfalfa made it difficult for him to find quality work.
While not acting, Switzer bred hunting dogs and led guided hunting expeditions. Some of his more notable clients included Roy Rogers and Jimmy Stewart.
At the age of thirty-one, he was shot and killed in Van Nuys, California, during an altercation over the reward money for a lost dog he felt should be repaid him. The murder was ruled as justifiable homicide; Switzer had apparently pulled a knife on his attacker. Switzer's death was largely ignored in the media, due in large part to the fact that director Cecil B. DeMille had died on exactly the same day.
Carl Switzer is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood.