Coming Up Shorts! with… The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with the Hal Roach theatrical shorts featuring The Little Rascals, and some of their shorts from 1930 and 1931 that have been released together on disc in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the shorts included in this set (for my comments on the individual shorts, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

  1. Pups Is Pups (1930) (Length: 18 minutes, 39 seconds)
    • Farina (Allen Hoskins) gets a job as a page at a pet show, and the rest of the Gang get their pets ready to enter in the show.
  2. Teacher’s Pet (1930) (Length: 20 minutes, 54 seconds)
    • The Gang have a new teacher, and, since they don’t think they will like her as much as their previous one, Jackie (Jackie Cooper) makes plans to play some pranks on her.
  3. School’s Out (1930) (Length: 20 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • When a man (Creighton Hale) shows up to meet Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe), the Gang try to dissuade him from marrying her (not knowing that he is actually her brother).
  4. Helping Grandma (1931) (Length: 21 minutes, 4 seconds)
    • Mrs. Margaret Mack, A.K.A. “Grandma” (Margaret Mann) is considering selling her store to a chain store or to the local skinflint Mr. Pennypacker (Oscar Apfel). The Gang really don’t want her to sell out, so they try to help her out.
  5. Love Business (1931) (Length: 20 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) comes to stay at Jackie’s (Jackie Cooper) house. Meanwhile, both Jackie and Chubby (Norman Chaney) have a crush on her.
  6. Little Daddy (1931) (Length: 21 minutes, 10 seconds)
    • Farina (Allen Hoskins) has been taking care of Stymie (Matthew Beard) by himself, but the authorities are coming to put Stymie in an orphan’s home.
  7. Bargain Day (1931) (Length: 19 minutes, 1 second)
    • Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Stymie (Matthew Beard) take the other kids’ things, and try to sell them door-to-door. When they come to the home of a poor little rich girl (Shirley Jean Rickert), they come in and get into trouble.
  8. Fly My Kite (1931) (Length: 21 minutes, 4 seconds)
    • Grandma (Margaret Mann) faces eviction by her former son-in-law, but the Gang do their part to help stop his plans.
  9. Big Ears (1931) (Length: 21 minutes, 8 seconds)
    • Wheezer’s (Bobby Hutchins) parents fight constantly, and the word “divorce” is thrown around. When he finds out what “divorce” means, Wheezer turns to Stymie (Matthew Beard) and Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba) for help in getting sick to keep them together.
  10. Shiver My Timbers (1931) (Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)
    • The kids all play hooky from school to listen to the tales of a sea captain (Billy Gilbert) and dream of being pirates themselves. When Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) complains to the captain, he offers to help cure them of their dreams of going to sea.
  11. Dogs Is Dogs (1931) (Length: 20 minutes, 53 seconds)
    • Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba) are stuck with the unkind Spud (Sherwood Bailey) and his mother (Blanche Payson) when their father doesn’t return.

Continuing on from where we left off with Volume 1 (which contained the shorts Small Talk up through A Tough Winter), Jackie Cooper had become the Our Gang series’ newest star. However, his performances in several shorts resulted in him getting the lead for the 1931 film Skippy, and he soon left the series. Several others, including longtime Our Gang star Allen “Farina” Hoskins, plus Norman “Chubby” Chaney and Mary Ann Jackson aged out of the series. Newcomers during this group include Dorothy DeBorba and Matthew “Stymie” Beard (who was broken in as Farina’s replacement before he left). While those older kids were still around, we were introduced to their new teacher, Miss Crabtree (as played by June Marlowe), who captivated the hearts of some of the kids (and viewers as well). This group of shorts also introduced what would become the theme song for the Our Gang shorts, “Good Old Days” by Leroy Shield (starting with Teacher’s Pet).

As I indicated when reviewing the first volume, I’m essentially being introduced to these shorts as I go through these sets. Like those in the first set, I also found these next eleven to be quite entertaining! In particular, those featuring June Marlowe as Miss Crabtree were some of the best (and I can certainly see the attraction). Admittedly, I think she worked best with the older group (like Jackie Cooper, Norman “Chubby” Chaney, etc.) before they left, as she awakened their desire to be in school. By the time the series moved on to Wheezer, Stymie, and the younger group being her students, they didn’t care so much and were willing to play hooky (like in Shiver My Timbers), so I can understand why she wasn’t around for a huge number of shorts. Personally, amongst the new kids, I only really found Matthew “Stymie” Beard to be that much fun. As an actor, he doesn’t seem to be that good, as he delivers his lines with a straight face and then grins. Still, even with that, he manages to be funny and entertaining! I do think that the short Shiver My Timbers is the best one in the set (followed closely by the likes of Teacher’s Pet and Love Business). Honestly, the only one that wasn’t as fun was Big Ears, due as much as anything to Wheezer’s parents and their borderline abusive relationship. Other than that, I’m still a fan of these shorts, and look forward to seeing more of them when I get the chance!

As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, ClassicFlix announced (in late 2020) that they had licensed the Little Rascals shorts, and planned to restore the talkies (and the silents as well if the talkies do well enough). The film elements for many films and shorts originally produced by Hal Roach’s studio have changed hands a number of times over the years, and haven’t been as well preserved as most would hope. ClassicFlix tried a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the restorations for the Little Rascals series, but that ended up falling short. Still, they went through with their plans to restore the shorts, and, much like the first set, these shorts look fantastic (some minor damage is still present, but is BARELY noticeable)! This set doesn’t necessarily give any hints as to what film elements were used like the first one did (beyond the comment on the disc case about scanning from original Hal Roach 35mm film elements), but the results speak for themselves (and if you don’t believe me, I included some of the YouTube clips posted by ClassicFlix at the bottom of the post so that you can get a better idea)! Once again, the team at ClassicFlix have put a lot of hard work into restoring these, and I would certainly recommend the second volume (and the first as well, if you haven’t gotten it already)! The third set (with the next eleven shorts) has already been released (and from what I’ve heard, it looks at least as good, if not better than this one), and the fourth is on the schedule for release in early 2022! It’ll be a little while before I continue on with more, but I certainly hope to get around to them when I get my hands on some copies!

The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 is available on Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. The whole set has a runtime of three hours, forty-five minutes.

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