Silent Our Gang Short Films - Little Rascals


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Silent Movie Crazy


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I Love Silents - Our Gang / Little Rascals Page


Our Gang is a topic I know quite a bit about - silents as well as the sound era shorts. NOTE: If you are looking for answers or have questions about Our Gang / Little Rascals talkies or silents - feel free to email me. I know quite a lot about the whole series and the actors in them, so can most likely give you the info you need. Here's one FAQ that comes up so much I'll post something right here and now - - silent era child star Jackie Coogan was never in an Our Gang / Little Rascals film.

Lots more information to come, including actor info and film reviews.

The Kids

Jackie Condon - Cute little half-pint and one of the main players in the earliest silent films. He has a blondish messy mop hairstyle and always seems to be getting dragged around by the other kids, dog, etc. The mophead gradually gets tamed (and darkened) as Jackie gets older, and his lead parts move into more regular gang member but not lead type parts. In some of the later films, Jackie takes the leading man role for a short while (such as in Love My Dog and Tired Business Men), sometimes paired with Joe Cobb as the two oldest lead players.

Joe Cobb - Always happy, jolly fat boy.

Mickey Daniels - One of the lead characters throughout his run of the series. Red-haired, freckled face, gap-toothed and usually seen chasing after pretty little Mary Kornman. He is often paired with Jackie Davis in the earlier shorts, and often rivals with Jackie for Mary's attentions.

Jackie Davis - In some of the earlier Pathe silents, he left the series when his sister, Mildred Davis, married Harold Lloyd. Good-looking every boy - often paired up with Mickey Daniels, sometimes played the bully.

Allen "Farina" Hoskins - Tiny in his earliest parts, he is in the Gang so long that he is in a number of talkies as well and he does really well at both silents and talkies. I actually particularly like him in the Miss Crabtree talkies as I think he is very, very funny.

Mary Kornman - Adorable little blonde girl who the boys always have a crush on - she grew up fast and soon leaves the series as she towers over some of the boys.

Scooter Lowry - The mystery boy. He appeared in fourteen shorts in a row from Uncle Tom's Uncle in 1926 to Olympic Games in 1927. He was usually paired with Farina as the two "little kids" (sort of like the talkie pairings of Spanky and Scotty Beckett - and Porky paired with Buckwheat) and he was dressed like a Jackie Coogan lookalike (like Our Gang talkies Scotty). After his run in these shorts - who knows what happened to him? I certainly don't find him that appealing of an actor, so don't find it too surprising he kind of disappeared.

J.R. Smith - Very, very skinny - the freckled red-haired replacement for Mickey Daniels.

The Films

A Quiet Street (1922) - The version I have of this is missing all the intertitles so it is quite hard to follow what is going on. But there are lots and lots of street scenes around Culver City and Palms - and a scene at Laurel and Hardy's Music Box steps in Silverlake. (2.75/4 stars)

Back Stage (1923) - This short is really two separate halves that barely relate to each other. In the first part, the gang is running their own bus - little Jackie is President, Vice-President, and Conductor - Mickey is the Megaphone Man. They pick up friends while riding down Motor Avenue in Palms including Jack Davis and Joe, who are pretending to be "Scientific Bugologists" (bug collectors). Then in the second part, a man offers the boys a dime if they show up at his Opera House that night to help him put on his Vaudeville show. The guy must have wished he didn't make that offer - the gang starts out by our "Bugologists" dropping their bottle of bugs from the balcony all over the patrons below and Joe dangling a fake spider from a string on some poor woman's neck. The audience, jumping up and down, causes the first act on stage to quit. Then the gang helps a magician out with his corny magic act - but pretty much wreck that act too. This short is pretty good, mainly during the first part - with on-location shots and lots of kids having fun with their make-believe bus service (how they get away with riding this real makeshift bus down a real street - well, just gotta suspend belief there!). The film drags during the stage show part. My copy of this short is from Foothill Video. The print is fairly poor quality, but the title cards are all intact and the piano music in this is quite nice. (3/4 stars)

Stage Fright (1923) - My version of this is a Mischief Makers cut with all intertitles removed and one or two of their own "Mischief Maker" titles inserted. The only redeeming thing I can say about the Mischief Maker versions of these shorts is I quite like the perky music they have attached to them. Stage Fright is the silent version of the early Our Gang talkie Shivering Shakespeare. Shivering Shakespeare is probably my least favorite pre-MGM talkie and Stage Fright is only slightly better (although my opinion could change if I ever saw a version of this with the titles intact). The kids put on a performance of a play set in ancient Rome (complete with togas, Joe as Nero, and Farina as some sort of African bushman!) while moms and meanie school marm push them around and the audience howls with laughter. Blah. (2 stars)

Tire Trouble (1924) - My copy (Video Yesteryear) is a Michief Makers version with all intertitles removed and the rather catchy music of "Rosa Rio at the Hammond Organ". The gang have made their own real car and are seen having a great old time driving the rickety vehicle every which way down Motor Avenue in Palms (the big "white house", brick building, and "dirt alley with old garage" - see location info below - can all be seen in this film). Later the kids help "cure" a rich old man of his sicknesses and gout by giving him a ride in their car through the old L.A. streets. The old guy actually takes over the wheel, pulls the top off the car (literally the entire top of the whole car!) and takes the gang to the Venice Pier for a trip through the fun house and a ride on the rollercoaster. (My memory of "Pacific Ocean Park" aka POP - we used to ride bicycles along a beachfront path in Venice in the early 70's and POP was still there but, sadly, all boarded up and in ruins with the tops of all the old rides and booths sticking up above the fencing that surrounded the area. Neat to see though and kinda spooky.). Tire Trouble is a great short and loads of fun - full of lots of street scenes of old L.A. (4/4 stars)

The Big Town (1925) - No L.A. scenes in this (poo) - in this one, the gang lives in Elmira, New York (Hal Roach's hometown) and get a postcard from Skinny, who tells about his trip to New York CIty (and complains of the wormy apples the gang sent him!). The gang decides they would like to see the sites of New York too - such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the "Panama Canal" (and Farina would like to catch himself one of those "Broadway chickens" likes his daddy talks about). Next thing you know while searching for their dog they accidently start a barn fire, hide on a freight train where the door accidently shuts on them, and off they go - what do you think happens?! They end up in New York City. They take a city tour - mainly in a double-decker bus being driven by Mickey. The gang is soon caught up with and sent back home via overnight train where trouble ensues when a man (Gus Leonard, best known as "Old Cap" in the talkie: Mush and Milk) who is in the "wholesale bug business" suitcase of cargo get's loose - and beetles, grasshoppers, and other assorted "yucky" insects are loose on the train. Most of the humor in this short is actually from H.M. "Beanie" Walker's amusing title cards. Interesting, Joe has quite a mop of hair in this short - almost more of a mop than Jackie! Mary's hair is longer than usual too - was the Hal Roach Studio barber on vacation or did they use fake kids as the gang in New York and use wigs to match them? My copy (from The Picture Palace: picpal.com) of this is kind of washed-out looking, but the music is okay, and kind of perky. (2.75/4 stars)

Circus Fever (1925) - It's "Circus Day" - the circus is in town for one performance only - but the gang has to go to school! On their way to school, Mickey, Jackie, and Joe stop off at Farina (introduced as "she" in this short) and Gene's house and find out they are sick in bed with "speckled fever" and don't have to go to school for six weeks. The three boys decide to paint their faces with spots and pretend to be sick, then sneak off to the circus. The moms are frantic when they see their kids, and apparently it takes a "clever" Doctor - Doctor Pipp - to see immediately that the spots on the boys faces are made from paint. Mary (she believes in long engagements - she'll marry Mickey in 1944) arrives to tell the boys that the whole class was given a half holiday and free tickets to the circus - - but Doctor and moms have decided to teach the "little rascals" a lesson and give them all a dose of castor oil. Pretty good short. Includes a bit of a politically incorrect scene when Farina is pulling stuff out of the pockets of the black doctor treating them which includes such items as a deck of cards, dice (which Farina starts rolling immediately) and a lucky rabbit's foot. Farina and Gene's spots are painted white and look a bit ridiculous! (The later Talkie short, Three Smarts Boys, has a similar theme with the boys painting spots on their faces to get out of school.) The main location shot in this short is the street where Farina and Gene live (their doctor is seen driving down the street), which is Motor Ave. near Woodbine in Palms. My copy (from The Picture Palace: picpal.com) is a bit washed-out looking in parts, the music is a mix of different tunes and is okay. (3/4 stars)

Love My Dog (1927) - The gang is putting on a dog show with their dogs displayed as such things as "bird-dog" (dog with feathers pinned on him) etc. Then they find out the dog catcher is after the dogs (Farina: "I wish every dog catcher would get bit, and I could do the bitin' "), so they disguise the dogs as such things as bear, cow, and "Swiss goat". The final part of the short is later remade into the talkie short The Pooch. Farina needs five bucks to save his dog from being gassed to death. The gang helps him by taking punches in the nose by a sort of psycho bully kid who is willing to pay two bits for every punch he makes. This short is pretty good - especially the numerous on location street shots on Motor Ave. and Woodbine in Palms. Seeing these streets and Palms neighborhood so quiet and suburban, full of vacant lots and Twenties houses is really interesting to me - and it is such a big contrast to the way that area is now! The music on my version is quite nice and the print has a good amount of contrast compared to most of the other shorts I have on video. (3.5/4 stars)

Locations
Around about 1994 I really got into researching the locations where these films were shot. I knew the general area, Palms and Culver City, and since it is near where I live, I drove over there a number of times to do my own research. Though the area has quite changed since the 1920's (that's putting it mildly!) I was still able to find some of the original buildings and houses still in existence. As a matter of fact, a large number of the silent films of Our Gang (as well as some of the Our Gang talkies) are filmed at one particular intersection - the corner of Motor Ave. and Woodbine Ave. in Palms, California (Palms is a small area right next to Culver City). You see different angles and shots from different sides of the street seeing all four corners, as well as looking down Woodbine and down Motor Ave. in loads of these films. I have some photos I took too, misplaced somewhere amongst my large collection of "stuff" - when I find the photos, I can scan.

The "Big White House" - Large, white house seen in many, many Our Gang films (also seen prominently during the chase scene in the Harold Lloyd film Girl Shy - when Harold is driving along with the bootleg whiskey in the back of his car. Also, it's Dickie's house in the talkie Free Wheeling). Located on a small hill at the end of Motor Avenue in Palms, I have the address of this house somewhere - will have to look it up. The house was evidently torn down to make way for the 10 freeway. (NOTE: I will list each film this house is seen in as I review them.)

The Two-Story Brick Building - On the Southeast (I think, I'm not good with directions) corner of Motor and Woodbine, seen in many of the silent films (I've noticed it in some of the talkies too - what comes to my mind right now - I will verify this - is in the background of Bear Shooters when the kids are first seen riding off in that rambling camper they have. Also, across the curb where the kids are talking about the "Wild Man from Borneo" in The Kid from Borneo early in that short). The building was a drug store in those days. In the talkie episodes it appears to have been added on to, as well as stuccoed. I found this building sometime in 1994 - it had been a Masonic Lodge when I saw it, but sadly it was boarded up and condemned because of damage from the Northridge Earthquake. I got some photos, checked it out a few more times over a year or two after that, then one day went over there and - sad - it had been torn down.

The Dirt Alley and Old Garage - Well, I'm sure no one can tell from that description what I am talking about. I will mention the films this is in as I see them again for review. But what interests me about this location is, first - it's in more films than you think (I notice that dirt alley a lot), second - I found the garage still intact in 1994 - it was still there five or so years after that. I haven't looked recently. It was in VERY rambling, paint scraping off, bad shape - but still exactly the same. Located behind the one-story brick building at the Northeast corner of Motor and Woodbine.


Workin' on it! More film reviews and info coming.



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