(Theatrical short subjects, since 1922;
Syndicated on TV, since 1955 -)
[aka: "'Our Gang' Comedies";
The original theatrical film shorts released from 1922 - 1944
were titled "Hal Roach's Rascals"; another name Roach tried
during the silent years from 1922 - 1928 was "The Terrible Ten";
But since the first short was titled "Our Gang", the public
began to refer to them as "'Our Gang' Comedies"; so Roach
finally adopted that name for this series of shorts; and by
the sound era (circa 1928) "Our Gang" was the official name;
The first Little Rascals "talkie" was "Schools Out" (1928);
Quite a few child actors were used for years until they
began to get too old, at which time they were unceremoniously
replaced by a fresh face; Several TV actors got their start
working in this series including Jackie Cooper (1929-1931),
Robert Blake known as "Mickie" (1939-1944) and West-coast
local TV children's show host Johnny Downs (1925 - 1927);
But perhaps the best-known was Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, who
was only involved in the series for five years (1935-1940.)
Another memorable character was "Buckwheat", played by
young Billie Thomas who was there for the final ten years
of production (from 1934-1944.) And the series also featured
the little boy known as "Spanky" played by George McFarland
(from 1932-1942.) A rock vocal group during the hippie 1960's
used the name "Spanky & Our Gang", although there was no
connection to the Hal Roach films.
It is said that Hal Roach got the idea for the comedies that
revealed the world as seen from a child's point of view when
he heard through his office window a conversation between some
children in a lot next door arguing over discarded scraps of
wood they were trying to split up for salvage;
The shorts were filmed at the Hal Roach Studios in Culver
City, a Los Angeles suburb; and exteriors at the Arnaz Ranch
near what is now Robertson Blvd. in Hollywood;
MGM bought Hal Roach in 1938, and some "Our Gang" fans say
the quality of stories and production started to decline
at that point, when they became more "slickly produced."
The final three episodes were released in 1944. They were
"Radio Bugs", "Dancing Romero" and "Tale of a Dog."
In 1955 MGM offered a package of the original "Our Gang"
shorts to television under the name "The Little Rascals";
At one point they seemed to be oversold -- running almost
continuously on many stations all the time -- a phenomenon
only matched by the reruns and syndicated episodes of "I
Love Lucy" during the same era...but television had quite
an appetite so it gobbled up all the "Rascals" episodes
that were available;
The Hal Roach studios complex was the site of many low-
budget TV series during the 1950s and was eventually torn
down and sold to land developers to be gobbled up in the
expansion of Los Angeles.]
Theme: "Good Old Days"
[According to a book on "Our Gang" by Leonard Maltin, composer
Dave Franklin (co-writer of the Looney Tunes THEME song, "The
Merry-Go-Round Broke Down") composed a song in 1936 that was
called "Our Gang" which was intended to take the place of the
original LeRoy Shield "Our Gang" THEME "Good Old Days" which
was a waltz, and not particularly child-like except as a kind
of ironic lullabye.
But Dave Franklin's theme song failed to catch on with the
public, so "Good Old Days" remained as the signature song.
Franklin's "Our Gang" song was featured in published sheet
music where it was sub-titled "The Theme of the 'Our Gang'
Comedies", which it was not. Its only use was occassionally
for in-person performances and other promotional events.
The next year (1937) Franklin co-wrote with Clif Friend the
novelty song, "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" which became
the very popular and memorable "Looney Tunes" THEME song.
In 1994 a group of Swedish musicians calling themselves
"The Beau Hunks" researched the many cues and themes used
by various Hal Roach series including "Laurel and Hardy"
and "Our Gang", and recorded several different arrangements
of the THEMES on the two CDs which they transcribed of
original "Our Gang Comedies" cues, lovingly recreated
with authentic instrumentation.]
Composer: Leroy ("Roy") Shield (ASCAP)
1978 Publisher: Roy Shield Music Co. (ASCAP)
1997 Publisher: Roy Shield Music Co. (ASCAP)
of Portland, OR
Copyright Date: Dec. 30, 1930; EP 20 477.
Renewal Date: Dec. 26, 1957; R 205 827.
CD - "The Beau Hunks the Little Rascals Music" (1994)
by The Beau Hunks
Koch Screen 3-8702-2
CD - "On To The Show!" (1995)
["The Beau Hunks play More Little Rascals music"]
by The Beau Hunks
Koch Screen 3-8705-2