I grew up watching the Little
Rascals on television. Now they don't seem to be televised anywhere. Are they
available on video?
Recently this was a big "YES!". Unfortunately, the beautifully restored Cabin Fever Videos are no longer available. Read more about this...
What about the silent films? Is there anywhere
I can find them?
Unfortunately it is a bit more difficult to obtain the silent (1922-1928) Our Gang films. It is even more difficult to find good copies. Some films are chopped to bits, others have no title cards, some are just poor quality dubs. However, there are lots of perfectly acceptable copies. Grapevine Video sells a large number of silent Our Gang comedies on video. Other sources you can try are Foothill Video, Eddie Brandt's, and Video Classic. Your best bet is to find others who have videos and trade with them. You can meet other Rascal fans on Our Gang Online Good luck. They are well worth seeking out. Here is a list of some video sources.
Are there any good books on The Little
The "bible" on the subject is "The Little Rascals. The Life and Times of Our Gang" by Leonard Maltin and Richard Bann. This is an incredible body of work which includes in-depth descriptions, analysis and production notes of every short, along with biographies of every Rascal. It is a must-have for all fans.
Are there any other books?
There have been a number of books written over the years about the Gang and by former members of the Gang. Here is a list. Many are probably out of print.
The background music in the Little Rascals was always very memorable. Is there, by any chance a fabulous two-cd set of that music, complete with in-depth liner-notes, available for purchase at my local retailer?
Your wish has come true. There is such a set! The Beau Hunks Orchestra is a Dutch band which has painstakingly and thoroughly recreated that lively LeRoy Shield's background music with authentic instrumentation and period instruments. It is, in a word, reMARKable"! I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys wonderful music, even if you aren't a fan of the Rascals. The CD's are "The Beau Hunks Play the Original Little Rascals Music", and "On With the Show". You can order them online at any number of CD retailers. They are also available at most of the larger music/video retailers.
Say, I'm confused about something. Sometimes
you say "Our Gang" and other times you say "The Little Rascals". What gives?
For the most part, today the two names are interchangeable. The complete story of the rights to the various names is an incredibly complex tale which is detailed in the Maltin/Bann book mentioned earlier. The title of the very first short film made in 1922 was "Our Gang", while the original title to the series was "Hal Roach's Rascals". After copyright ownerships were juggled, and studios changed, Roach began calling the series "The Little Rascals". King World Productions eventually bought the rights to the shorts and created the Little Rascals title cards many of us grew up seeing on television. It is also interesting to note that I have never heard to any of the silents referred to as "The Little Rascals" in casual conversation. I tend to use "Our Gang" when referring to any of the pre-Alfalfa films and "Little Rascals" thereafter. I am not really sure why, and I'm sure there are many instances where I don't follow that rule! And to further muddy the issue, all of the horrid MGM films (1938-1944) were officially "Our Gang". It's not as had as understanding the pros and cons of annuities but I can see how it can get confusing!
about Robert Blake? Wasn't he in these later shorts?
Yes. He played Mickey Gubitosi, using his real name. Thankfully, Robert Blake grew up to be a fine actor.
Well, can I get copies of those MGM films on
Probably. But why torture yourself? Go watch Jackie Cooper in "Teacher's Pet" instead!
I don't even know who many of these kids on
this web site are! I remember Spanky, Alfalfa, and Darla.
Spanky, Alfalfa and Darla appeared in many fine episodes together. However, it is important to know that Our Gang lasted for 22 years! Some of the best shorts were made long before any of those three were even born., beginning in 1922.
That is very interesting. Well which kid
lasted the longest, then?
Farina. Farina joined the Gang at the beginning of the series as a two year old. He was eleven when he left. He was amazing.
I have heard that Bill Cosby bought the rights
to all of the Little Rascals shorts and has taken them out of circulation due to
their perceived negative racial overtones. Is this really true?
No. This is an old rumor. The fact that Cabin Fever has all of the talkies out on video pretty much disproves this.
Why do people accuse the Little Rascals of
being racist? I remember the series showing black kids and white kids as equals.
This is the subject of much discussion. I believe the series was years ahead of its time in race relations; even more so than today's entertainment in many ways. Never was race an issue to these kids; they seemed pretty much color-blind. However, looking back on these films with today's "color-conscious" eyes, some scenes seem racially stereotypical. At the time, racial and ethnic jokes were not uncommon. The writers thought nothing of including watermelon jokes and the like. None of these scenes are malicious, and are actually quite innocent. However, to avoid confrontations, television stations have regularly chopped out many scenes in the series. Some entire episodes have been pulled from television broadcast and have not been seen in a generation. Today, we can see these films uncut, in their entirety on volume #20 of the Cabin Fever collection. They include "Lazy Days", "Moan & Groan, Inc.", "A Tough Winter" (With Stepin Fetchit), and "Little Daddy". I won't go into the issue more here, except to say that I would ask anyone to withhold criticism until you have actually viewed these shorts, and to look at them from an historical perspective.
Well my favorite Rascal was the dog with the
circle around his eye! What was his name? And what kind of a dog was he?
Pete the Pup. A lot of people list Petey as their favorite. He was a pit bull.
I have a friend who lives in New York. He
insists that many Our Gang films were shot in Ithaca. He has even shown me the
hill the kids drove their homemade fire engine down. I thought they were shot in
Hollywood. Who is right?
The Ithaca story is another old myth about Our Gang. I have no idea how it got started. All the Rascals films were shot in or around Roach studios in Culver City, California. Count how many palm trees there are in Ithaca!
Was Shirley Temple ever a member of Our Gang?
Yikes! Nope. Interestingly, she did try out for the Gang but was not accepted.
One thing has always confused me about Our
Gang. Buckwheat. Wasn't Buckwheat a girl at one point?
Ah, yes...the Our Gang mystery-gender phenomenon! Buckwheat's character was indeed a little girl when he started with the series. So was Farina for that matter. At times, Buckwheat's sex was truly a mystery. Go figure.
Well, at least we know him best by his
Actually, it was Porky who said "Otay". Many people mistakenly think it was Buckwheat due to Eddie Murphy's inaccurate impersonation on Saturday Night Live.
I heard Alfalfa murdered a guy. Or he was
killed in a barroom brawl. Er, oh wait...yes...didn't he kill a guy who looked
at him wrong? Was he involved in the mafia?
It is amazing how many stories and misinformation there is surrounding Alfalfa's death. Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer was a man with a very short temper. It seems this temper eventually got the best of him. Alfalfa pulled a knife on a man who owed him $50 and the man pulled out a gun and shot Alfalfa in self-defense. Alfie was 31. If you would like to read Tommy "Butch" Bond's description of what happened, see my interview with him here.
Are any of the Rascals still alive?
Indeed. Let's see, Shirley Jean Measures (Rickert) is extremely active today and is even a member of Our Gang Online. (You can even send her an email if you like, [email protected]). Tommy "Butch" Bond is also very active promoting the Cabin Fever videos. Porky (Eugene Gordon Lee) lives in Minnesota. Going way back to the silents, Joe Cobb and Eugene "Pineapple" Jackson are both living in Southern California, as is Mary Ann Jackson. Jerry Tucker lives on the East coast. Dorothy DeBorba is also quite active and lives here in Northern California. It is rumored that Harry Spear is alive, but nobody knows for sure. Of course, Jackie Cooper is still working in Hollywood, and Robert Blake has had a long movie career. Jean Darling lives in Ireland.
What happened to Hal Roach Studios? If I am in
L.A. can I see it?
The "Lot of Fun", Roach Studios, was demolished in 1963. If you are curious what it looked like, here is a neat aerial photo. Today, there is a nearby plaque commemorating the site. Here are detailed directions to get to the site. (Thanks to Chris Bungo for these directions!)