Nothing like ice cream to drown a man's sorrows

Our Gang Nostalgiathon

This post is part of the ongoing NOSTALGIATHON Blogathon, hosted Andy Watches Movies and Cinema Schminema.

Nothing like ice cream to drown a man's sorrows

Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (left) and George “Spanky” McFarland are oblivious to hungry Petie.

When we were young, our family lived in a rural area without cable. There were two channels on our television set, and neither of them aired classic movies. Ever.

Not that we’re bitter about this.

Fortunately, our grandparents lived in a city with amenities: a public library with thousands of books; corner stores filled with junk food; and cable! Lovely, precious cable that featured old movies on Sunday.

In our grandparents’ living room, we learned about film from Hollywood’s early days. We discovered Abbot and Costello, Astaire and Rogers and, reluctantly, the Our Gang series.

The Our Gang shorts were our least favourite. We felt they wasted valuable airtime should have been devoted to More Important Movies. (Yes, at the age of 10 we felt Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein was more important than the Our Gang series.) We felt these kids were irrelevant and uninteresting.

The Our Gang series, also known as The Little Rascals, centered around the adventures of a group of poor, street-smart city children and their dog. Rumour has it producer Hal Roach first conceived the series as he watched a group of children play in a lumberyard across from his office. It occurred to him that a series of short films about kids being kids might appeal to the movie-going public.

He was right. Our Gang had a remarkably long run, from 1922 until 1944. It was also a ground-breaking series for its time because of its treatment of African-American children; they played and went to school with their caucasian friends. This was unheard of in other motion pictures.

During a recent sleepless night, we re-watched some of the Our Gang shorts. We wanted to see how they compared to our childhood memories, and we were astonished.

We love them.

We love that the kids seem so natural on screen. We love the scripts and the really funny lines. We love the series’ charm. (Of course, we try very hard to not think about what happened to some of these children when they became adults.)

Some episodes are funny, like the one where two boys go to outrageous lengths to set off firecrackers at school. Some are surprisingly moving, like the one about a boy adopted from an orphanage. They’re all entertaining because of those crazy kids. The kids are simply terrific.

If you haven’t seen the Our Gang series, we urge you to check it out. But be warned! These shorts are like potato chips; you can’t stop at just one.

Our Gang Series: starring 41 child actors. Produced by Hal Roach. Directed by Robert. F. McGowan (original director). 1922-1944, B&W, approx. 10-20 mins. each.

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24 comments

  1. Awesome post! Thanks so much for participating
    I’ve never known the series as anything but Little Rascals and I’ve never really watched any of the shorts. I should check them out and see how they fare.

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  2. I think you said it best when you stated you liked the series’ “charm”. It was a charming series, and the kids, especially early on, were adorable. It’s also great to see a time when kids went out to play and not sit in front of a video game.

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      1. Although I probably won’t go out of my way to find the Our Gang movies, if I come across them I will definitely give them another whirl. I watched them a lot as a kid, because they were always on my local (pre-cable) television stations in the 1980s. Not as much as the Blondie movies were (a couple of the latter aired every Saturday), but enough that I knew them pretty well.

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  3. Love this! Thanks so much for the reminder of how great these shorts are. I received the collection last Christmas as a gift and have yet to sit and watch them.

    Aurora

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  4. While reading your post, I somehow felt as though I’d seen one of the series when I know I actually haven’t. This is a gap in my cultural knowledge that should be filled. Thanks for this!

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  5. I never liked these growing up either, but a friend of mine swears by them and has the complete set. I’ll be happy to give them another shot. I love the Hal Roach Laurel and Hardy shorts, so I’ll give these a try.

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  6. I love that you refer to these as “comfort food.” I have the complete sound era collection (minus the MGM years). I know some of the episodes are not politically correct, but overall they stand the test of time. The amazing talent Hal Roach discovered throughout the years is staggering. Those kids were brilliant comedians!

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  7. I remember tyhe Our Gang shorts fondly; I liked them better than the Little Rascals (I know…many of the kids were the same). When I was a youth, one of our local stations ran them whenever a movie ended early in its two-hour block. Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

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