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Our Gang, also known as The Little Rascals or Hal Roach's Rascals, was a long-lived series of US comedy short films about a troupe of poor neighborhood children and the adventures they had together. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, Our Gang was produced at the Roach studio starting in 1922 as a silent short subject series. Roach changed distributors from Pathé to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1927, went to sound in 1929, and continued production until 1938, when he sold the series to MGM. MGM continued producing the comedies until 1944. A total of 220 shorts and one feature film, General Spanky, were eventually produced, featuring over forty-one child actors. In the mid-1950s, the 80 Roach-produced shorts with sound were syndicated for television under the title The Little Rascals, as MGM retained the rights to the Our Gang trademark.
The series, one of the best-known and most successful in cinema history, is noted for showing children behaving in a relatively natural way. While child actors are often groomed to imitate adult acting styles, steal scenes, or deliver "cute" performances, Hal Roach and original director Robert F. McGowan worked to film the unaffected, raw nuances apparent in regular kids. Our Gang also notably put boys, girls, whites, and blacks together in a group as equals, something that "broke new ground," according to film historian Leonard Maltin. Such a thing had never been done before in cinema, but was commonplace after the success of Our Gang.
Unlike many other motion pictures featuring children that are based in fantasy, producer/creator Hal Roach rooted Our Gang in real life: the majority of the kids were poor, and the gang was often put at odds with snobbish rich kids, officious adults and parents, and other such adversaries. The series was notable in that the gang included both African-Americans and females in leading parts at a time when discrimination against both groups was commonplace.
According to Roach, the idea for Our Gang came to him in 1921, when he was auditioning a child actress to appear in one of his films. The girl was, in his opinion, overly made up and overly rehearsed, and Roach patiently waited for the audition to be over. After the girl and her mother left the office, Roach looked out of his window to a lumberyard across the street, where he saw a group of children having an argument. The children had all taken sticks from the lumberyard to play with, but the smallest kid had taken the biggest stick, and the others were trying to force him to give it to the biggest kid. After realizing that he had been watching the kids bicker for 15 minutes, Roach thought a short film series about kids just being themselves might be a success (Maltin & Bann 9).
Under the supervision of Charley Chase, work began on the first two-reel shorts in the new "kids-and-pets" series, which was to be called Hal Roach's Rascals, later that year. Director Fred Newmeyer helmed the first version of the pilot film, entitled Our Gang, but Roach scrapped Newmeyer's work and had former fireman Robert F. McGowan re-shoot the short. Roach tested it at various theaters around Hollywood. The attendees were very receptive, and the press clamored for "lots more of those 'Our Gang' comedies." The colloquial usage of the term Our Gang led to its becoming the series' second (yet more popular) official title, with the title cards reading "Our Gang Comedies: Hal Roach presents His Rascals in..." The series was officially called both Our Gang and Hal Roach's Rascals until 1932, when Our Gang became the sole title of the series.
The first cast of Our Gang kids was recruited primarily from children recommended to Roach by studio employees, including photographer Gene Kornman's daughter Mary Kornman, their friends' son Mickey Daniels, Roach child actor Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, and family friends Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Jack Davis, Jackie Condon, and Joe Cobb. Most of the early shorts were shot outdoors and on location, and also featured a menagerie of comic animal characters, such as Dinah the Mule.
Roach's distributor Pathé released One Terrible Day, the fourth short to be produced for the series, as the first Our Gang short on September 10, 1922; the pilot Our Gang wasn't released until November 5. The Our Gang series was a success from the start, with the kids' naturalism, the funny animal actors, and McGowan's direction making a successful combination. The shorts did well at the box office, and by the end of the decade the Our Gang kids were pictured on numerous product endorsements.
The biggest Our Gang stars in this period were Sunshine Sammy, around whom the series was structured; Mickey Daniels; Mary Kornman; and little Farina, who eventually became both the most popular member of the 1920s gang (Maltin & Bann 246) and the most popular African-American child star of the 1920s (Bogle 21). Mickey and Mary were also very popular, and were often paired together in both Our Gang and a later teen-aged version of the series called The Boy Friends, which Roach produced from 1930 to 1932. Other early Our Gang kids were Eugene "Pineapple" Jackson, Scooter Lowry, and Andy Samuel.
Show Description Credit: wikipedia.org
|> Airing History & Information|
|Last Airing||Apr 29, 1944|
|Premiere||September 10, 1922|
|Format/Time||Black & White / 30 Minutes|
|Upcoming Airs||Not currently airing|
Alvin Buckelew.... Alvin (1934-1937)
Norman Chaney.... Chubby (1929-1931)
Bobbie Beard.... Cotton (1932-1934)
Carlena Beard.... Cotton/Buckwheat/Marmalade (1931-1934)
Georgie Billings.... Darby (1932-1933)
Dickie De Nuet.... Dickie (1935-1937)
Dorothy DeBorba.... Dorothy (1930-1933)
Matthew Beard.... Hercules (1930)/Stymie (1930-1935, 1937)
Jackie Cooper.... Jackie (1929-1931)
Jean Darling.... Jean (1929)
Joe Cobb.... Joe (1929, 1933, 1936, 1937)
Marianne Edwards.... Marianne (1934-1936)
Mickey Daniels.... Mickey/Various (1930-1931, 1933, 1937)
Pete the Dog.... Pete (1929-1930)
Rex Downing.... Rex (1935-1937)
Scotty Beckett.... Scotty (1934-1936)
Sherwood Bailey.... Sherwood "Spud" (1931-1932)
Tommy Bond.... Tommy (1932-1934)/Butch (1937-1938)
John Collum.... Uh-huh (1933)
Harry Bernard.... Various (1930-1935)
Otto Fries.... Various (1929-1933)
Wally Albright.... Wally (1934)
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