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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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Bride Comes Home (1935)

We’re back for some more screwball fun with the 1935 comedy The Bride Comes Home starring Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray and Robert Young!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Love Business (1931)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 27 seconds)

Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) comes to stay at Jackie’s (Jackie Cooper) house. This causes trouble for some of the kids, as both Jackie and Chubby (Norman Chaney) have a crush on her. This was another fun one, as has been typical so far of June Marlowe’s appearances as Miss Crabtree. There were many wonderful moments, from Jackie’s mother accidentally knocking a box of mothballs into the soup (and everybody’s reactions when they try to eat it) to Jackie’s attempts to distract Chubby when he tries to propose to Miss Crabtree. Not to mention Wheezer’s (Bobby Hutchins) complaints about Jackie kissing him at night. Overall, very fun, very memorable, and one I look forward to watching again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

One night in Chicago, Jack Bristow (Robert Young) throws a party with his society friends to celebrate him inheriting nearly three million dollars. In trying to get ready for the party, one of his friends, Jeanette Desmereau (Claudette Colbert), finds out from her father, Alfred Desmereau (William Collier, Sr.), that they are broke, since he had to let most of their servants go. So, she makes plans to find a job (although, at her father’s insistence, she will pretend that she is just doing it for a lark so that nobody knows they are broke). Jack’s bodyguard, Cyrus Anderson (Fred MacMurray), is looking forward to being able to quit his job after Jack inherits the money (since he was appointed to his position by Jack’s guardian). However, Jack doesn’t look forward to going back to his big mansion alone, and stays the night with Cyrus. As they talk, Jack learns about Cyrus’ dream to be the editor of a magazine, and decides to use his new inheritance to start the magazine (and be the publisher). The magazine is called The Man, which Cyrus intends to be for men who have earned their way (as opposed to inheriting their money like Jack). Jack promises to let Cyrus do all the hiring, but when Jeanette comes around asking for a job, Jack breaks that promise and hires her as the assistant editor (much to Cyrus’ annoyance). The next day, when they come in to work, Cyrus decides to give her some of the most mundane tasks he can think of to get her out of his hair, but she still keeps pestering him as she tries to follow his orders (even though she knows that he’s trying to get rid of her). When all three go to lunch at the same place, Jack and Jeanette find out why Cyrus has been giving her a hard time, and she reveals that she and her father are broke. Cyrus now feels ashamed of his actions, but Jeanette isn’t immediately willing to forgive him. It’s only when she comes to Cyrus and Jack’s apartment (since Jack had moved in with him), intending to start another fight with Cyrus, that the two of them realize they love each other. They start going out together as a result. Jack, who has been proposing to Jeanette since childhood, keeps trying, but, as usual, she turns him down. Cyrus proposes, and she accepts. However, on the day they plan to get married in his apartment, Jeanette comes over early to clean up the place. When Cyrus arrives earlier than expected with the Judge (Donald Meek), she is a bit of a mess, and he finds that she’s moved around some of his important papers. After an argument, they decide to break things off, since all they seem to do is argue. After a while, Jack again proposes, and she decides to accept. But will this relationship work out, or will Jeanette and Cyrus come to the conclusion that they belong together?

The Bride Comes Home, which was the second of seven movies that paired up Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, was based on a short story (of the same name) written by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding for Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan. I hadn’t heard of the film until the Blu-ray was announced (more on that in a moment), and, upon that announcement, I found myself wanting to see it for several reasons, including the description of it as a screwball comedy, the fact that it starred Claudette Colbert (whom I’ve seen in several good comedies and whom I had just featured as a Star Of The Month), and Fred MacMurray’s presence (since I’ve enjoyed a number of his films over the years). Having seen it, I now find myself with mixed feelings towards this movie. I will readily admit that I did enjoy this movie, and got a few good laughs out of it. However, I find it to be a film that I would not recommend. My biggest problem? That the film almost promotes domestic violence. I say that, because Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray’s characters (Jeanette and Cyrus, respectively) almost seem to be the type that are sexually aroused by engaging in it (ok, the movie doesn’t go quite that far, but that’s most likely because of the then-recent implementation of the Code that would have prevented them from going that far). To be fair, there is no actual violence shown on the screen, it is just hinted at in the conversations for the characters. Admittedly, this does in some respects lead to some of the funnier moments in the film, particularly the end when we see Jeanette wanting to argue with somebody, but dealing with some wishy-washy people until she meets Edgar Kennedy’s justice of the peace. The other main part that is funny is watching her try to follow Cyrus’ orders on her first day. Admittedly, that brings up another problem, in the early emphasis on her needing work, but all the work stuff disappears completely from the movie once she admits to being broke. It would have been nice to at least see what Cyrus actually had her doing once he realized how much she actually needed the job. Like I said, I did enjoy this movie. But, when all is said and done, I would much, much prefer to watch any of the other comedies that I’ve seen her in so far (like It Happened One Night, The Palm Beach Story or Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife). Purely on the domestic violence aspects of this movie, I cannot bring myself to recommend it.

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to have an older HD scan. For the most part, the transfer looks quite good. There are some moments here and there that look like they might have used lesser elements to work with, and the film has not been cleaned up of all the dirt and scratches. Still, the transfer is quite watchable, and likely to be the best this movie will look for some time.

Film Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Cleopatra (1934)Claudette ColbertBluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Fred MacMurray – Remember The Night (1940)

Robert Young – Honolulu (1939)

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