Film / The Little Rascals
Hal Roach created this series of short comedy films in the 1920s. During the silent years (1922–29), Roach tried such titles as Hal Roach's Rascals
, but since the first short was titled Our Gang
, moviegoers started calling them the "Our Gang Comedies". The series moved into sound just prior to the Great Depression. In 1938, Roach sold the series to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
. The sell is generally regarded by fans as the series' Seasonal Rot
period. The child cast changed almost annually until the series ended in 1944.
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 among some children in a lot next door arguing over discarded scraps of wood they were trying to split up for salvage.
In 1949, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
, which had purchased the series from Roach in 1938, sold the films back to him but retained the rights to the Our Gang
name. When Roach packaged the films for television syndication in the mid-'50s, the series was retitled The Little Rascals
, leading to a certain amount of Title Confusion
over the years.
A revolving cast of child stars came and went throughout the course of the series. Among the better-known personalities were George "Spanky" McFarland, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Eugene "Porky" Lee, Tommy "Butch" Bond and Darla Hood. Cast members who went on to adult acting careers include Switzer, Robert Blake
, and Jackie Cooper
- The earliest issues of The Dandy in the late 1930s featured a Comic-Book Adaptation of Our Gang, drawn by legendary comics artist Dudley Watkins.
- Dell Comics published a 12-issue Little Rascals comic book series from 1957 to 1962. It featured Spanky and Alfalfa, along with some original characters. The cover of the first issue featured an unnamed girl who was probably intended to be Darla Hood, but bore a greater resemblance to Dorothy DeBorba.
- A series of clay-animated Little Rascals Color Specials, produced for television in the 1960s, presumably by Bura and Hardwick, the British studio responsible for Camberwick Green.
- A 1979 animated Christmas Special on NBC, whose voice cast included Matthew "Stymie" Beard and Darla Hood, as well as a series of public service announcements.
- A 1994 feature film, directed by Penelope Spheeris and released by Universal Pictures. It won Young Artist awards for no fewer than six members of the cast: Ross Bagley, Juliette Brewer, Bug Hall, Brittany Ashton Holmes, Travis Tedford and Kevin Jamal Woods.
- A direct-to-video sequel, The Little Rascals Save the Day, directed by Alex Zamm, released in April 2014.
For the Saturday Morning Cartoon
produced by Hanna-Barbera
in 1982, see this page
Contains examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Buckwheat and Porky begin laughing at Alfalfa's predicament at the end of Two Too Young. Spanky, initially shocked, can't help but join them.
- Adults Are Useless: Part of the series' charm was that the kids would regularly (and unintentionally) teach the adults a lesson.
- Aesop Amnesia: Alfalfa has a cocky side to him that always lands him into trouble. Despite the number of times he has had his ego knocked down, Alfalfa can't help but return to his old traits.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Every now and then, Darla will prefer Butch over Alfalfa.
- All Just a Dream: Seein' Things, Mama's Little Pirate, and Our Gang Follies of 1938.
- An Aesop: The later MGM entries regularly end with an adult lecturing the kids on good behavior.
- And the Rest: Because so many characters appeared in the series, modern day promotional material will often list a few of the Rascals' names, followed by "and the rest." Example, from an old AMC promo:
- "Join Spanky, Alfalfa, and the rest of Our Gang..."
- Animal Reaction Shot: Pete's specialty.
- Animals Hate Him: In "Dogs is Dogs," Wheezer and Dorothy's spoiled, whiny stepbrother is pushed into a well by his own dog.
- To be fair, it's difficult to tell whether the dog is being mean or is just incredibly stupid.
- Animal Talk: In Fire Fighters, the first few minutes depict several neighborhood animals acting like humans.
- Dog Heaven has Pete interacting with other neighborhood dogs.
- Tale of a Dog ends with the kids' new dog randomly talking (in an African-American dialect).
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Several. Notable ones include Spanky (in his early years), Wheezer (again, in his early years), and Junior.
- The Artifact: Darla didn't really seem to serve much of a purpose when Carl Switzer (Alfalfa) was dropped from the series. Her role in the series was largely someone for Alfalfa to pursue.
- Asian Speekee Engrish: Allen Tong in Pups is Pups and Harry Lowe, Jr. in Washee Ironee ("washee clothesee, washee clothesee").
- Bald Black Leader Guy: Stymie, on occasion.
- Big Damn Heroes: The kids fall under this trope in a handful of shorts, notably when they rescue their adopted grandma in Fly My Kite.
- Big Damn Movie: The box office bomb General Spanky.
- The 1994 movie also probably falls under this trope.
- Big Eater: Chubby Chaney and Porky Lee.
- Big Friendly Dog: Pete the Pup.
- Bigger on the Inside: The boat in Captain Spanky's Show Boat, and pretty much every barn or cellar appearing in the MGM era.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mr. Crutch in Shrimps For a Day.
- Black Best Friend: Several.
- Black Face: Appears in Uncle Tom's Uncle, Spanky, Anniversary Trouble, The Pinch Singer, and Ye Olde Minstrels.
- Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: Several examples, usually involving a character secretly spiking the food of another for revenge. Dickie does this to Spanky in "Birthday Blues" and Wheezer does this to his spoiled stepbrother Sherwood in "Dogs is Dogs."
- Blind Without 'Em: Froggy in Baby Blues.
- Bowdlerized: A lot of the TV reruns of the shorts have had scissors taken to them to remove scenes which have negative racial overtones.
- The Boxing Episode: The Champeen!, Boxing Gloves, and Glove Taps.
- Gender Scoff: The boys in The Buccaneers, Hearts Are Thumps, and Mail and Female, among other episodes.
- Rich man Dick in Shrimps For a Day.
- Mickey and Sally in The New Pupil.
- Heel–Face Turn: Rivals Mickey and Jack become pals at the end of The Champeen!
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Stymie's frequently-mentioned jailbird father.
- Spanky's Uncle George in The Kid From Borneo.
- Froggy's many relatives that have strange sayings.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Trope Namer, though NOT an actual example of the trope.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Jackie at the end of Teacher's Pet.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Buckwheat and Porky, Spanky and Alfalfa, Butch and Woim.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show: Several examples. Sometimes goes awry, as when Spanky and the guys tried to stand in for the 'Flory Dory' girls.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Alfalfa, to the point that it became a Berserk Button during public appearances, when fans asked him to sing off key.
- Identical Stranger: Alfalfa's Double.
- Idiot Hair: Alfalfa's trademark.
- I Got Bigger: Porky, hired to play Spanky's little brother, eventually grew taller than Spanky.
- Dorothy was let go after just a couple of years because of a growth spurt.
- Intergenerational Friendship: The kids had a few elderly friends in the series, notably Grandma (Margaret Mann) and Cap (Gus Leonard). In the earlier silent films, the role of the much older friend/mentor was normally given to either Richard Daniels or Florence Lee.
- It's Like I Always Say: Froggy regularly makes references to his relatives' strange sayings (example: "Like my Uncle Walt always says...")
- Jerk Ass: Several. Notable ones include:
- Jerry Tucker in Hi'-Neighbor!.
- Butch and Woim.
- Leonard Kibrick and his dad in For Pete's Sake! and The Lucky Corner.
- Spike (Dickie Jones) and the military academy captain in The Pigskin Palooka.
- The stepmother in Dogs is Dogs.
- Dan, the son-in-law, in Fly My Kite.
- Every kid given the nickname "Toughey."
- Long Runner: Over twenty years (9/10/22-4/29/44).
- Long-Runner Cast Turnover: Allen Hoskins (Farina) and George McFarland (Spanky) had two of the longest runs in the series. But both were eventually retired due to the series' revolving door cast.
- Lovely Assistant: Jean Darling to Johnny Downs in Chicken Feed.
- Menace Decay: Partially averted, even then the earliest stories have some kind of "shouldn't they be at school" undertone.
- Missing Mom: In Wedding Worries, Darla's father remarries.
- Also the missing mother in Little Mother.
- Motivation on a Stick: In one short, Free Wheeling, the boys have a "taxi" powered by a mule/donkey pushing from the back and a carrot on a stick in front of it that's used to make it push.
- The Movie: The Little Rascals (1994), The Little Rascals Save the Day (2014).
- My God, What Have I Done?: Jackie, at the end of Teacher's Pet.
- Mythology Gag: Several of the talkie shorts borrow gags from the silents.
- Negative Continuity: As was common for short comedy series, Our Gang almost never contained any continuity. For instance, in one film the kids might be seen living with parents, but may suddenly be living in an orphanage in the next outing.
- Nice Guy: Dickie Moore.
- Nice Hat: Stymie's derby (given to him by Stan Laurel), Spanky's striped beanie, Scotty's sideways baseball cap.
- No Name Given: Most of the kids are only known by their nicknames, though in the 1994 movie, the trophy and prize money are announced to be given to Alfalfa Switzer and Spanky Mc Farland, effectively showing their last names, however, the rest of the gang is still known only by their nicknames.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Unlike series creator Hal Roach, MGM was noticeably reluctant to let the cast members go once they outgrew their roles. Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, and Buckwheat were all on the onset of puberty (and wearing costumes that no longer fit them) when they were finally dropped from the series.
- Numbered Sequels: Parodied; Alfalfa's boat is called Darla the Fourth in Three Men in a Tub and his balloon in Party Fever is Darla 2nd.
- Official Couple: Darla and Alfalfa, Mickey and Mary.
- Only Barely Renewed: Hal Roach nearly cancelled the series in 1936, but distributor Louis B. Mayer convinced him to continue the series in a one-reel format (reducing the running time of the shorts from twenty minutes to ten minutes).
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Several of the characters.
- Orphanage of Fear: "Mush and Milk" and "Shrimps for a Day."
- Panty Shot: A few in some early 1940a Our Gang shorts that involved music and dancing. Even Darla had a few panty shots in a few of the shorts.
- Passing the Torch: Occurred regularly, due to the series' revolving coor cast.
- Pie in the Face: Playin' Hookey and Shivering Shakespeare.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: A Tough Winter was intended to be the pilot for a proposed Stepin' Fetchit series. Fetchit turned down the offer for a series, not wanting to go from being a feature film player to a short subject one.
- Poverty Food: In the short "Mush and Milk" the gang are all living in a boarding school run by an old man who serves mush & (spoiled) milk every day because he doesn't have any money. He's waiting for his pension to come in. Once his pension comes in he treats the kids to a high class meal...which turns out to be porridge.
- Precocious Crush: Jackie Cooper for Miss Crabtree.
- Prince and Pauper: Alfalfa's Double
- Promotion to Opening Titles: George "Spanky" McFarland had his name in the opening titles for three of the films, making him the only cast member to receive such an honor. His name also showed up on many of the 1930s' lobby posters.
- Punchline: Many of the Roach era films would end on some sort of a visual gag.
- Several of the MGM era films would end with a lame joke from Froggy, usually followed by an Everybody Laughs Ending.
- Regal Ringlets: Dorothy.
- Real Song Theme Tune: For a brief period, the series' theme music was Ray Henderson's "That Old Gang of Mine..."
- Replaced the Theme Tune: ...after which the theme music became "Good Old Days," an original piece by LeRoy Shield.
- During the MGM years, the theme tune became David Snell's "Our Gang," a medley consisting of "London Bridge," "Mulberry Bush," and "The Farmer in the Dell."
- Rearrange the Song: Happened to "Good Old Days" several times, notably shifting from a quiet piece to a louder, marching band piece in the mid-late 30's.
- Revolving Door Cast: Used to keep the group young.
- Re Tool: Occurred several times, usually when several crucial cast members left at the same time.
- Perhaps the most notable example is when MGM bought the rights to the series in 1938, and gradually turned the comedy series about a gang of kids getting in trouble into a series of wholesome morality plays about a gang of kids acting like mini adults.
- Reunion Show: Silent cast members Jackie Condon, Mickey Daniels, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Joe Cobb, and Johnny Downs were reunited on the television show You Asked For It.
- Revival: The Little Rascals (failed TV pilot) (1977), The Little Rascals' Christmas Special (1979), The Little Rascals Animated Series (1982-1984), The Little Rascals (1994), The Little Rascals Save the Day (2014).
- Rube Goldberg Device: Farina and Stymie have a few in their home in Little Daddy.
- Running Gag: Something going wrong whenever Alfalfa sings.
- Saving the Drugstore: The main plot for both Our Gang (the series' first film) and Helping Grandma.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Alfalfa and Spanky.
- Separate Scene Storytelling: Jubilo Jr. features Jubilo (Will Rogers) telling a three hobos about his childhood. separate
- Time Out For Lessons features Alfalfa's dad telling his son to imagine what college life will be like for him.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Waldo in Three Men in a Tub.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Several, including Happy, who was brought in to replace Spanky following his departure in 1942. Happy was dropped after only a few episodes.
- Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Typical with most series focusing on kids, several episodes show the kids out of school. On rare occasions, this is justified:
- July Days, Boys Will Be Joys, and Wiggle Your Ears reference Summer vacation.
- Ask Grandma mentions a two week vacation (according to the silent film title card, the kids could bear the shock if the vacation lasted two years).
- Several episodes take place on a Saturday.
- Smug Snake: Jerry Tucker in Hi'-Neighbor!
- Schoolmarm: Miss Crabtree
- Special Guest: Will Rogers in Jubilo Jr, Laurel and Hardy in Wild Poses.
- Speech Impediment: Buckwheat and Porky (actors William Thomas and Eugene Lee really did have speech impediments). Both eventually grew out of it.
- Spin-Off: Hal Roach's The Boy Friends series of the early 1930's is considered by some to be a spin-off, especially since it makes a semi-reference to the Little Rascals in the 1932 entry Too Many Women. Furthermore, former Rascals Mickey Daniels and Mary Kornman were among the series' stars.
- Spiritual Successor: Hal Roach produced two Our Gang-like films (Curley and Who Killed Doc Robbin) during the late 1940's.
- Squirrels in My Pants: In Framing Youth, Alfalfa gets a frog stuck in his tuxedo while he is performing at a talent show.
- Stage Mom: Spanky has one in Beginner's Luck.
- Stock Yuck: Chubby's Limberger cheese. Makes all but him hold their nose and cower.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Mickey and Mary, Alfalfa and Darla.
- Superstition Episode: Farina carries around a 'mumbo gumbo charm' in Spook-Spoofing.
- Syndication Title: The Little Rascals.
- Also Mischief Makers and Those Lovable Scallawags With Their Gangs for the silent films.
- Tagalong Kid: Every generation of the series had one. Spanky, Stymie, Buckwheat, Porky, Scotty, Jackie Condon, and Farina were all in this position in their early years.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: Porky in Three Smart Boys.
- Those Two Guys: Spanky and Scotty, Buckwheat and Porky, Stymie and Wheezer.
- Title Drop: In the later MGM shorts, the Rascals are sometimes officially called "Our Gang."
- Tomboy: Mary Ann is the closest thing to this in the series. Dorothy also has her moments.
- The Tonsillitis Episode: Darla has a tonsillectomy in "Men in Fright", and Mickey has one in "No Noise".
- Took a Level in Badass: Alfalfa in Football Romeo.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Several of the kids seemed to get dumber as they got older. A notable example is both Spanky's and Alfalfa's stupidity in Canned Fishing.
- Totem Pole Trench: Used several times:
- Spanky and Alfalfa tried it in both Teacher's Beau (to scare their teacher's fiancé into leaving town) and Two Too Young (posing as a G-Man in order to convince Buckwheat and Porky to give up their firecrackers).
- Stymie and Dickie tried this in Fish Hooky to get past truant officer Mickey Daniels.
- Johnny Downs and younger Mickey Daniels did this when posing as Santa Claus in Good Cheer.
- Farina and Pleurisy tried it in Election Day in order to get past the other kids.
- Verbal Tic Name: Uh-huh is named that because it's the only thing he (usually) says.
- The Voiceless: Buckwheat and Porky in their earliest appearances.
- Wacky Sound Effect: The moaning noises coming from the cake filled with household items (thanks to Spanky) in "Birthday Blues".
- Women Are Wiser: The adult women in this series (usually mothers or teachers) tend to be kinder and more grounded than the men, who are often bumbling or pompous at best and downright abusive at worst.
- Would Hurt a Child: The step-mother in Dogs is Dogs.
- You Meddling Kids: The gang occasionally battled evil grown-ups. They are arguably the Ur-Example.
- Your Other Right Hand: Unintentionally happens in Hide and Shriek when Alfalfa has Porky and Buckwheat raise their right hand to take an oath. Three-year-old Eugene Lee mistakenly raises his left hand, but switches when he notices William Thomas has raised his right.
Tropes specific to the 1994 movie:
- Mythology Gag: The movie borrows gags and situations from the original shorts:
- Three Smart Guys (1943): Porky and Buckwheat unknowingly reeling each other in while fishing.
- Anniversary Trouble (1935): The gang and the "hi/high-sign".
- Hearts are Thumps (1937): The gang spiking Alfalfa & Darla's lunch.
- Hook and Ladder (1932): The gang as firefighters.
- Teacher's Beau (1935): Spanky and Stymie imitating adults by sitting on each other's shoulders in order to appear taller
- Mail and Female (1937): Porky and Buckwheat as messengers for Alfalfa's love letter
- Rushin' Ballet (1937): Alfalfa and Spanky in drag at a ballet recital
- Hearts are Thumps (1937): Alfalfa's "bubble song" (during the talent show)
- Hi'-Neighbor! (1934): building the go-kart (a fire engine in the original)
- Auto Antics (1939): the go-kart race
- Hi'-Neighbor! (1934) and Divot Diggers (1936): knocking over pedestrians in the go-kart
- Numbered Sequels: Parodied; The go-kart that Alfalfa ends up driving is called "The Blur 2: The Sequel".
- Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Alfalfa and Darla have one.
- Re Cut: The film on DVD and VHS was actually trimmed down for time and content from the original theatrical release (Universal had done this to other films, including Ghost Dad and Problem Child 2). The extended edit on TV is actually the original theatrical cut with the scenes that were taken out for the home video release, although that version also edits a few scenes out for content or language (the girls referencing that boys like "farting and farting" as an example of grossness is one bit trimmed from TV airings).
- The Rival: Waldo.
- Road Sign Reversal: While on their way to the race, Porky pushed the race track arrow from right to straight ahead. Three go-karts (Alfalfa/Spanky, Waldo/Darla, and Butch/Woim) follow that direction. A guy assigned by the arrow quickly moved the check back to right as the other go-karts were coming.
- Sad Times Montage: Occurs after Alfalfa tells off Spanky for ruining his chances of making up with Darla at the talent show.
- Samus Is a Girl: A.J. Ferguson
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Waldo did this a lot, as did Uh-huh, as revealed at the end of the movie, though Uh-huh is actually a case of Brilliant, but Lazy, as he explains that while he may have an extensive vocabulary, he just chooses not to use it.
- Setting Update: A subtle variant. Waldo has a boom box, and the original "Our Gang" shorts predate the songs used in the talent show.
- Shout-Out: The climactic derby race is similar to Wacky Races.
- Smug Snake: Waldo.
- Something Else Also Rises: Darla flattens Alfalfa's hair point and then gives him a kiss, causing his hair to spring right back up again.
- Spiked Wheels: It happens during the go-kart race scene. The resident Spoiled Brat uses his money-fueled rocket car to take out Alfalfa's new MacGyvered car. Darla then seeing Waldo for the jerk that he truly is, promptly throws him outta his own cart.
- Stealth Insult: Waldo calls his dad on his mobile phone to tell him he's en route to the race, to which said father (played by Donald Trump, of course) tells him, "Waldo, you're the best son money can buy." Waldo, however, takes this to be a sincere compliment and thanks his dad.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Alfalfa and Spanky's dads look like adult versions of their kids.
- Tempting Fate: While running around town in his underwear, Alfalfa says, "Things couldn't possibly get any worse!", just before running straight into Butch and Woim.
Alfalfa: (After the above happens) And then the clouds opened up and God said "I Hate You Alfalfa!"
- Those Two Bad Guys: Butch and Woim.
- Title Drop: "YOU LITTLE RASCALS!"
- Took a Level in Badass: Alfalfa, when he punches Butch into the pig pen after the race, and threatens to do the same thing to Woim, who just jumps into the mud with Butch to avoid getting hit.
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: The boys and girls complain simultaneously about their troubles with the opposite sex, with the camera constantly switching between the boys' tent and the girls' Slumber Party.
Spanky and Darla: Why do they have to be so different?
- It even contains a lampshade / fourth wall break, with Buckwheat responding with "No we don't!" to a line he couldn't possibly have heard.
- Verbal Tic Name: Uh-huh is named that because it's the only thing he (usually) says.
- You Answered Your Own Question: This might be justified, because Buckwheat is 5 years old.
Buckwheat: Quick! What's the number for 911?
- Your Other Left: "All raise your right hand! Your other right hand..."
Tropes specific to the 2014 movie:
- Cameo: Bug Hall, who played Alfalfa in the 1994 film, appears as the ice cream man in the beginning.
- Mythology Gag: The movie borrows gags and situations from the original shorts:
- Anniversary Trouble (1935): The gang and the "hi/high-sign".
- Teacher's Pet (1930): Mistakenly getting kicked out of school just before a classroom party.
- Helping Grandma (1931): Helping save Grandma's business.
- Birthday Blues (1932): Preparing a cake with disastrous results.
- Divot Diggers (1936): Working as caddies at a country club.
- Forgotten Babies (1933): "REMARKABLE!"
- Free Wheeling (1932): The home made taxi cab.
- Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935): A hole in a fence used as a secret entrance.
- Came the Brawn (1938): Alfalfa facing the Masked Marvel in the wrestling ring.
- Mike Fright (1934): The International Silver String Submarine Band. A deleted scene reuses the gag in which two of the kids eat lemons, interrupting a performer's trumpet solo.
- A deleted scene references 1933's The Kid From Borneo ("Yum, yum! Eat 'em up!").