Coming Up Shorts! with… The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5

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 1935-1936 that have been released together on disc in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5.

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. Anniversary Trouble (1935) (Length: 19 minutes, 22 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) has been elected the treasurer of the Gang’s club (“Ancient and Honery Order of Wood Chucks Club, Inc.”) and the Gang have decided to trust him with the money. However, it’s also his parents’ wedding anniversary, and the envelope containing the Gang’s money has gotten mixed up with his father’s gift to his mother.
  2. Beginner’s Luck (1935) (Length: 18 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • After having Spanky (George McFarland) recite for some of her lady friends, Spanky’s mother decides to enter him in an amateur talent contest. However, Spanky has no desire to win, and enlists the Gang’s help to sabotage his performance.
  3. Teacher’s Beau (1935) (Length: 19 minutes, 3 seconds)
    • The Gang’s teacher, Miss Jones (Arletta Duncan) announces that she will get married, and that they will have a new teacher for their next year, Mrs. Wilson. Not wanting a new teacher, the Gang try to find ways to break up the engagement.
  4. Sprucin’ Up (1935) (Length: 16 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • The kids are all complaining about how their mothers make them clean themselves up. However, when a new truant officer (and his beautiful daughter) move in, everybody changes their tune!
  5. Little Papa (1935) (Length: 19 minutes, 41 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang want to play football, but he’s forced to babysit his younger sister. Hoping that she will be less trouble if she is asleep, Spanky and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) try to find ways to make her sleepy.
  6. Little Sinner (1935) (Length: 17 minutes, 31 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) was just given a new fishing pole for his birthday, and he wants to try it out! However, it’s Sunday, and all the other kids warn him against skipping Sunday School (but he ignores them, to his regret).
  7. Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935) (Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang put on a show for the kids of the neighborhood. However, one highly-demanded act is missing, so the Gang has to figure out what to do instead.
  8. The Pinch Singer (1936) (Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)
    • A local radio station holds an amateur talent contest with a $50 prize. The Eagles Club (that’s the Gang) decide to have Darla (Darla Hood) perform, but when she’s late, it’s up to Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) to go on in her place!
  9. Divot Diggers (1936) (Length: 14 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • The Gang are all out having fun playing golf. When the caddies at the course go on strike, the owner convinces the Gang to help caddie for some of his golfing customers.
  10. The Lucky Corner (1936) (Length: 16 minutes, 21 seconds)
    • Scotty (Scotty Beckett) and his grandfather are selling lemonade, but a bully and his father (who have a store of their own) force them to move their stand when some potential customers go to them for lemonade. So, with Scotty and his grandfather now situated in a different spot where almost nobody goes, it’s up to the Gang to help them drum up some business!
  11. Second Childhood (1936) (Length: 19 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • A cranky old lady (Zeffie Tilbury) is miserable on her birthday (and making her servants miserable) until a toy airplane comes flying in and breaks her vase. Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang volunteer to do some work around the yard for her when they can’t pay for the vase, and in the process, help her start to enjoy life again!
  12. Arbor Day (1936) (Length: 17 minutes, 39 seconds)
    • It’s Arbor Day, and the school is putting on a pageant featuring all the kids, which is something that Spanky (George McFarland) wants to avoid. He is caught by the truant officer, along with a pair of midgets from a nearby circus mistaken as kids.

After nearly forty-five talkie shorts, the Our Gang/ The Little Rascals series was starting to settle into the cast it would become most known for. Matthew “Stymie” Beard left the series after Teacher’s Beau (1935), finishing a run that had started back in Teacher’s Pet (1930). Scotty Beckett left the series to go into the movies after filming Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935), although his appearance in the short The Lucky Corner (1936) was the result of that short’s release being delayed almost a year after filming began. Marianne Edwards left the series after The Pinch Singer (1936), but, like Scotty Beckett, her last appearance was in the delayed The Lucky Corner (1936). Meanwhile, in 1935, the series introduced the likes of Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (making his debut in Beginner’s Luck), Eugene “Porky” Lee (Little Sinner) and Darla Hood (Our Gang Follies Of 1936), cementing some of the series’ most well-known members, and resulting in the shorts becoming a bit more musical.

As I have said in my previous reviews of Volume 1 (which contained the shorts 1929’s Small Talk through 1930’s A Tough Winter), Volume 2 (1930’s Pups Is Pups through 1931’s Dogs Is Dogs), Volume 3 (1932’s Readin’ And Writin’ through 1933’s Forgotten Babies) and Volume 4 (1933’s The Kid From Borneo through 1935’s Shrimps For A Day), these shorts are all quite new to me. For me, the shorts included in this fifth volume have continued to be a lot of fun! As has been the case, I’ve continued to enjoy those focusing on George “Spanky” McFarland, as he continues to be one of the funnier members of the group. Anniversary Trouble (1935), Beginner’s Luck (1935), Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935), The Pinch Singer (1936), The Lucky Corner (1936) and Second Childhood (1936) all left me laughing, and certainly left me with a strong desire to come back to them again! As did Teacher’s Beau (1935), even if that one did border on being a retread of an earlier short. There are a few scattered problems that date some of these shorts, but the worst one would have to be Little Sinner (1935), which goes on a little too long with its portrayal of some rather spirited African-Americans during a baptism ceremony at night. I do admit, I miss Scotty Beckett as he is phased out, since I thought he and Spanky made a great comedy team in their appearances together in some of the shorts included in the fourth volume, but Alfalfa manages to add to the fun rather memorably! All in all, this set was still quite entertaining, and just as highly recommended as some of the earlier volumes (and I eagerly look forward to the sixth and final volume of the talkie shorts from Hal Roach)!

As I mentioned in my reviews of the earlier volumes, ClassicFlix announced (in late 2020) that they had licensed the Little Rascals shorts, and planned to restore the talkies and the silent shorts. 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 four sets, these shorts look fantastic (some minor damage is still present, but it’s just about not even worth mentioning)! 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 this fifth volume (plus the first four as well, if you haven’t gotten them already)! With the sixth set already released (thus completing all the talkies before MGM took over the series), we only await the arrival of the silents in 2023 and beyond (some of which will be on Blu-ray while others will be DVD-only due to the quality of the available elements)! In the meantime, there is also The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection Centennial Edition on Blu-ray (or DVD) from ClassicFlix. This set includes all the talkie shorts included in the six volumes (although it has been condensed onto five discs instead of six) plus a bonus disc of extras (that bonus disc, a limited release, is also available separately, and comes with a six-disc box for all those that previously bought the individual volumes).

The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 is available on Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. The whole set has a runtime of three hours, thirty-four minutes.

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“Star Of The Month (November 2022)” Featuring W. C. Fields in… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

We’re here now with our first look at a film featuring the Star Of The Month for November 2022 (W. C. Fields), the 1934 comedy The Old-Fashioned Way!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang put on a show for the kids of the neighborhood. However, one highly-demanded act is missing, so the Gang has to figure out what to do instead. This one was a lot more amusing than some of the previous shorts. The music is fun, but, as usual, it’s the comedy that manages to be memorable, with the monkey leading the way, either when he’s chasing Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) with a pitchfork, or when he’s hiding in the dress that Spanky has to wear to lead the others when they impersonate the Flory-Dory Sixtette. The only problem with this short for modern audiences is the way that they light up the eyes of the black kids whenever the lights are turned off (which only happens a few times for brief moments). Other than that, this one was quite entertaining, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The Great McGonigle (W. C. Fields) and his troupe of performers leave a town by train, barely getting past the sheriff who was trying to serve McGonigle for not paying his bills at the boarding house (or for anything else). The troupe is joined by Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison), a young college student who is courting McGonigle’s daughter, Betty (Judith Allen) (although she is trying to urge him to go back to college, to no avail). They soon arrive in the small town of Bellefontaine. McGonigle had been telling the troupe that the theatre there had sold out for their performance, but they quickly find out that only a handful of tickets have been sold. At their boardinghouse, they meet the stagestruck Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan) and her son Albert (Baby LeRoy). Cleopatra auditions to join the troupe, and, although she displays a complete lack of talent, McGonigle decides to let her join anyway (since she is the richest woman in town). When another member of the troupe leaves (on account of the lack of business), Wally auditions and becomes a member of the troupe (and, unlike Cleopatra, he does have talent). Another sheriff tries to force McGonigle to pay his bill by threatening to prevent the show from going on, but Cleopatra offers to pay the bill so that she can have her chance. So the troupe puts on the show for a full audience (since everybody in town wants to see Cleopatra make a fool of herself). The audience includes Wally’s father, who has come to convince his son to go back to college and to stay away from Betty. Will Wally listen to his father (and Betty), or will he stay with the show? For that matter, will the Great McGonigle be able to keep the show going, or will Cleopatra’s presence get them laughed out of town?

Like most of the other W. C. Fields films that I’ve reviewed in the past, this one was entirely new for me. Personally, I thought it was a lot of good fun, with W. C. Fields being the most enjoyable part! From his opening appearance when he deftly evades the sheriff, to his night on the train, to all his lies even to his own troupe members, Fields manages to be quite humorous! Personally, the most memorable moments are when he has to deal with Cleopatra’s child (played by Baby LeRoy), who ruins his dinner, and Jan Duggan’s Cleopatra auditioning (in that old “singing poorly while performing a song that the spectators keep thinking is about to end, only to go yet another verse and chorus” way) with “Gathering Up The Shells From The Sea Shore”. But some of the real fun here is seeing Fields juggle (which is what he originally broke into show business doing, as he quickly became one of the best), using balls and cigar boxes. The film is slowed down for about twenty minutes as we see the troupe perform the old temperance play The Drunkard, especially with it being performed in what seems to be the style of acting that would have been prevalent for the time this movie is set in (but which seems extremely odd now to us more modern audiences). This isn’t exactly the best W. C. Fields film that I’ve ever seen, but it’s entertaining, and kept me laughing throughout. In my book, that’s certainly worth recommending (especially to see Fields juggle, which I would argue is a thing of beauty to watch)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD master, but it looks pretty good. The detail is good enough (soft for some, but it is what it is), and while there is some damage present, it’s relatively minor and doesn’t take away from the film itself. Overall, this is likely to be as good a transfer as this film will get, making it the recommended way to see this fun movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 12 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alice In Wonderland (1933)W. C. FieldsMississippi (1935)

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