~by Tony Bensley

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Our Gang Menu

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170. THE LITTLE RANGER (August 06, 1938) [10:43]

This inaugural entry is not only (apart from the opening and closing titles!) indistinguishable from the earlier Hal Roach "Our Gang" series, but is actually quite good!  No doubt the MGM Studio Heads would have been quite pleased with the results, and the transition considered seamless.  All the more a great pity that this didn't last for long!

171. PARTY FEVER (August 27, 1938) [09:35]

Only the second MGM entry and already, at least one early (though not likely very obvious at the time!) sign of what would later become an Our Gang comedy dampening staple, occurs in this still otherwise decent enough Our Gang Short.  This is when the Town Mayor, after a bribery campaign waged by both Alfalfa and Butch Camps, selects his nephew, Waldo to be Mayor for a Day, on account of his excellent essay on Good Government!  What, no vote?  This was also the first Our Gang Short since it's move from Hal Roach to feature significant new casting among the Gang with Twin Brothers (Though I've ironically not as yet, been able to identify them!)  In my opinion, this one is a bit sullied by a flat, thinly veiled moralistically (albeit a slightly twisted one, with the vote apparently vetoed by the Mayor in the "honorable" name of nepotism!), flat ending!

172. ALADDIN'S LANTERN (September 17, 1938) [10:08]

The first of the many Musical MGM Our Gang Comedies, this entry and THE LITTLE RANGER were directed by Hal Roach Director, Gordon Douglas.  These are also considered to be the two likely Titles that were originally to be Filmed at the Hal Roach Studios.  While I've no doubt about THE LITTLE RANGER, if it was true that Hal Roach had retired Spanky McFarland (who wasn't in the last 3 Roach, and first 2 MGM entries), I wonder who he would have cast in his place for this one? 

173. MEN IN FRIGHT (October 15, 1938) [10:33]

A decent enough short that takes place within a Hospital setting.  Alfalfa gets tricked into becoming a patient, and the Gang must come to his rescue.  While having their treats, Buckwheat makes a reference to Watermelon.

174. FOOTBALL ROMEO (November 12, 1938) [10:26]

The first Our Gang Short to veer away from an Our Gang Photo Background, and switching to a Lion motif.  Again, a decent enough early Entry, that's slightly sullied at Film's End by a bit of needless moralizing by Alfalfa's Mother (Martha Bedford, in her first Our Gang appearance), who comes across to me as a less affluent and less pretentious Ellinor Vanderveer type.  Also, why do BOTH Twin Brothers need to simultaneously call the game's 'play by play?'  Also noteworthy:  This is the first Our Gang short to not sport a background photo title card, and also the first in which Spanky and Alfalfa both have the sides of their heads shaved!

175. PRACTICAL JOKERS (December 17, 1938) [08:36]

In this one, Butch transforms from a mere bully to an annoying practical joker, who constantly pranks the Gang.  An attempted act of revenge at Tommy "Butch" Bond's birthday party gets unwittingly sullied by his Mom, who has the Gang (who she unbelievably refers to as Tommy's best friends?????) carry in 'Happy Birthday Tommy' placards, with Alfalfa holding the explosive birthday cake!  Also worth noting is Darla's increasingly annoying side switching tendencies, that are actually present even in THE LITTLE RANGER, are carried to new heights (or lows?), with her going to Butch in the midst of his horrible Practical Joking on the Gang in this Short!  At 8 Minutes And 36 Seconds, this is (perhaps mercifully?) also the Gang's shortest One Reeler to date.

176. ALFALFA'S AUNT (January 7, 1939) [10:42]

This was among my favorite MGM'rs, and a fresh first viewing in well over 30 years did not disappoint!  Remember, "One for all, and all for one!"

177. TINY TROUBLES (February 18, 1939) [10:22]

Cast notables include, Emory Parnell (As the Cop.), who would later be best remembered as local Cape Flattery Salesman Billy Reed in the MA & PA KETTLE Series for Universal/International; Fred Kelsey (As the Judge.), who in 1930, appeared in THE LAUREL-HARDY MURDER CASE as 'Chief Of Detectives;' and Jerry Maren (As Light Fingered Lester.), who later in the same year, appeared as one of 'The Lollipop Guild' in THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Also worth noting is that as of August 2014, Jerry Maren is still with us, and at 94, is the last surviving "Oz Munchkin!"

178. DUEL PERSONALITITES (March 11, 1939) [09:54]

The earliest series reference to the town of Greenpoint occurs at the 39 second mark, at which point the following text is visible onscreen: One Performance - As is his custom, Prof. Delmore will present a free public demonstration in front of the Greenpoint Herald, Saturday Morning at 10:00 o'clock.  Once again, Darla stands Alfalfa up for Butch!  Surprise, Surprise!!

179. CLOWN PRINCES (April 15, 1939) [10:34]

Former Hal Roach Alumni (And Occasional HRS Our Gang Foil!) Clarence Wilson, makes a welcome MGM 'Our Gang" debut as the Cranky Landlord who wants the rent from Porky's Family.  The Gang decide to put on a Circus to raise the necessary funds.  Worth noting is that when the Landlord falls at about the 8:22 mark, it is a Stunt Double and not 62 Year Old Clarence who takes the tumble!

180. COUSIN WILBUR (April 29, 1939) [10:30]

Former Hal Roach 'Our Gang' Alumni Scotty Beckett makes his MGM 'Our Gang' debut as Alfalfa's pro insurance Cousin Wilbur in this so-so outing.  The small and slight of build Wilbur's unseen taking down of Butch and Woim is in my opinion, simply not to be believed!

181. JOY SCOUTS (June 24, 1939) [10:31]

Mickey Gubitosi (Later changed by MGM to Bobby Blake, and later as an Adult, to Robert Blake.) makes his Our Gang Debut.  For the first time, it is evident that 6 year old Eugene "Porky" Lee is now taller than George "Spanky" McFarland, who is about 5 years his senior!  After the mixed, but generally positive results of the Gang's first full MGM Season, this is probably where the Series downhill slide really began.

182. DOG DAZE (July 01, 1939) [10:39]

The Gang has to make good on a loan from Butch and Woim.  When an unexpected reward for a missing Dog they had been nursing gets eaten by a Goat, they hatch a scheme to earn plenty of reward money, which of course backfires when the pet owners report that their animals have been kidnapped.  This one ends with a decidedly mixed moral message, and by now, it is quite apparent that the MGM Our Gang Series isn't what it was at the Hal Roach Studios, though at least most of the core Gang is still present.

183. AUTO ANTICS (July 22, 1939) [10:10]

A rare example of an MGM Our Gang Short that captures at least some of their past "Rough and Tumble" quality, what with the Homemade Go Carts that are featured.  While none of the Hal Roach "Rascals" Comedies featured such a Full Scale Race, do watch for the reworking of a "Rolling down a Hill" gag, that had previously been done at Roach in a 1930 Two Reeler, Titled THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS, in which Wheezer and Pete the Pup Roll down in some Tubing.  Notes: Just after Woim throws two sheets of Flypaper at Alfalfa and Spanky during the Go Cart Race, at about the 6:20 mark, freeze-framing clearly shows a hand at extremely close range throwing a sheet of Flypaper at Spanky's Face!" Also, Roach Alumni Baldwin Cooke appears as the Official Starter of the Race, before the start of which Spanky & Alfalfa's "Mystery Rocket" is clearly over the Starting Line!

184. CAPTAIN SPANKY'S SHOW BOAT (September 09, 1939) [10:46]

A Musical entry that in my opinion, falls flat a bit too much to rise above so-so status.  The basic plot consists of Butch (The Butch & Woim Scenarios are in my opinion, really over milked during the MGM Programmer's First Cinematic Season!) trying to ruin Alfalfa's Singing Performance.  Butch's line to Woim "Wake me up when Alfalfa Sings" is funny for all the wrong reasons!  Mickey Gubitosi's "Buzz Word" (Actually, his ONLY word!) in this is "Yep!"  Watch for a most "Frightful" looking finish to this!  Though Tommy bond and Sidney Kibrick would each make one more 'Our Gang' appearance, CAPTAIN SPANKY'S SHOWBOAT would mark the final time that both Butch & Woim characters would appear.  Note:  The Showboat that is shown in the initial exterior shot simply appears to be way too small for the cavernous interiors that we see!

185. DAD FOR A DAY (October 21, 1939) [10:53]

The first Our Gang Short that's centered around Mickey Gubitosi, in which the basic plot is a Father & Son Picnic.  Unfortunately, Mickey doesn't have a Father.  I say unfortunately more because of the most painful (And I do mean PAINFUL!) crying scene for Viewers to endure, rather then out of any sympathy for the Mickey character!  While the adult characters are affable enough, while viewing this, I couldn't help but wonder whether MGM had issued a memorandum to the adult actors to avoid being funny at all costs?!?  Finally, while I love my daily Java hit, when a Comedy Short ends with "May I have a Cup of Coffee?,"  in my opinion that just doesn't bode very well!

186. TIME OUT FOR LESSONS (December 02, 1939) [10:53]

A mixed morality mini-play, in which Alfalfa's Dad delays his going out for Football Practice with his brother Mickey and the Gang, in order to talk to him about the importance of getting good grades for when he goes to College.  What follows an apparent Dream Sequence of sorts, in which the Gang are bizarrely all Students of "Hayle" (Why not "Hale," instead?) College, that ends with Alfalfa unable to play in the big game due to poor grades, is in my opinion, a mixed message that's the stuff of kids growing up just a little bit mixed up in life!  For me, Darla Hood's singing and the dancing that follows are the TIME OUT FOR LESSONS highlights!  Again, why can't any of the adults be funny?

187. ALFALFA'S DOUBLE (January 20, 1940) [10:47]

A welcome respite after the previous One Reeler, some Roach Like Comedic situations do occur in this Short, in which Alfalfa switches places with his double, a Rich Greenpoint Newcomer.  Their Scene does actually appear quite seamless!  Even the adult actors appear to have had their "No funny stuff Moratorium temporarily lifted!  Martha Bedford (Who previously appeared in FOOTBALL ROMEO) once again, plays Alfalfa's Mother.  Note: While switching places with his posh look-alike named "Cornelius," Alfalfa tips him to the various 'Our Gang' Members, including the "Colored" boy named Buckwheat!  So much for the MGM Shorts being less Racist then the Hal Roach ones, in which I don't recall such a reference ever having been made in the Talkies, at least!  Still, this is much better than TIME OUT FOR LESSONS, though I think it could hardly have been worse!

189. THE BIG PREMIERE (March 09, 1940) [10:34]

An above average MGM Our Gang Entry, in which they stage their own "Big Premiere" after getting tossed out of a "Real" one.  It appears to me that these MGM Shorts fare much better whenever the Gang is the center focus, as they are here!  It's charming ending causes me to think of the Pathé Exchange.  The Silent 'Our Gang' aficionados familiar with their Pre 1927 Two Reelers (Or the Silent Pathé Films, in general!) who view this will understand my meaning!  Shirley "Muggsy" Coates, who also appeared in a few of the Hal Roach 'Our Gang' Shorts (And the first MGM Entry, THE LITTLE RANGER, which is in my opinion, a Gem!) and a few of the early MGM'rs, makes her final Our Gang Appearance in this Short.

190. ALL ABOUT HASH (March 30, 1940) [10:53]

A return to the mini-morality play format.  Mickey's Parents are fighting over having Hash on Monday after Roast Beef Sunday, which in my opinion, nicely sums up the feeling of viewing this after the Weekend helpings of the prior two MGM 'Our Gang' Entries!  Thus far, I've found my recall of Mickey Gubitosi's poor acting to be all too accurate!  Perhaps if Shorts such as these were presented as morality plays, rather than alleged Comedies, MGM might have been onto something?
Note:  The actors who portray Mickey's parents previously appeared in DAD FOR A DAY.

191. THE NEW PUPIL (April 27, 1940) [10:53]

This is for me, a middle of the road MGM Entry.  Veteran 1930's child actress Juanita Quigley makes her first of two 'Our Gang' appearances, as the new student who turns Spanky and Alfalfa's heads, and they forget (Temporarily) about a broken up (also temporarily!) Darla Hood.  On the upside: The Payoff Gag, a product of Darla and Juanita's (who doesn't like Alfalfa and Spanky!) revenge on the boys' is much anticipated, and in my opinion, does, indeed pay off handsomely!  Oh, and Bill "Froggy" Laughlin also makes his 'Our Gang' debut in this Short!

188. BUBBLING TROUBLES (May 25, 1940) [10:48]

Tommy "Butch" Bond, in his final 'Our Gang' appearance, channelling  his inner Chemistry Nerd, develops a liquid "explosive," which Alfalfa drinks, after having earlier drank a Water/Settles-itt Powders Mix!  Some nice sight Gags liven up this final 'Our Gang' One Reeler of the 1939-40 Cinematic Season.

193. GOOD BAD BOYS (September 07, 1940) [10:58]

This first 'Our Gang' entry of the 1940-41 cinematic season suffers from an identity crisis.  In my opinion, this would have been a better fit as part of MGM's long running "CRIME DOES NOT PAY" short subject series.  In fact, both George Lessey (who is credited within the title card, the first 'Our Gang' MGM'r to feature such a credit!) and Hugh Beaumont (who is best remembered as Ward Cleaver in the 1950's/60's family sitcom, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) as the Judge and Judge's aide, respectively, would later appear in the CDNP two-reeler, FORBIDDEN PASSAGE the following year.  Alfalfa, who obviously experienced a significant growth spurt during the Summer hiatus, had clearly outgrown his suit by this time!  I suppose that any series' budget for wardrobe must have been rather limited!

194. WALDO'S LAST STAND (October 05, 1940) [10:44]

This title, in hindsight, is appropriate on multiple levels, not the least of which is that this represents the final 'Our Gang' Appearance by the Waldo character, as played by Darwood "Waldo" Kaye.  Janet Burston makes her second 'Our Gang' appearance (her first being in ALL ABOUT HASH), and Bill "Froggy" Laughlin is the lone prospective Customer!  For better or worse, this is likely the most seen of the MGM 'Our Gang' entries, due to its Public Domain status!
Note: This is the first 'Our Gang' entry in the MGM Series to feature a separate "Directed By" Credit.

192. GOIN' FISHIN' (October 26, 1940) [09:41]

This is, in my opinion, among the better MGM 'Our Gang' entries, which basically involves the Gang trying to take a city bus to the East River for some early morning fishing.  Also, watch for a clever sight gag early on!  Darla Hood and Bill "Froggy" Laughlin do not appear in this Short.  Character actor Paul Hurst (whose name is credited within the opening title card), as the irritable bus driver turns in what is, I think a fine performance.  For me, the only real downside pertains to the non replaced wardrobe, which is now noticeably too small for the growing Alfalfa and Spanky, neither of whom could have been too comfortable in these!  Honestly, where was MGM's wardrobe replacement budget here?

195. KIDDIE KURE (November 25, 1940) [10:51]

A reworking of the 1936 Two Reel Hal Roach 'Our Gang' entry, SECOND CHILDHOOD, features Thurston Hall (yes, he is credited in the opening title card!) as the "sick" old man, whose wife thinks that adopting a couple of children will be just the "cure" that he needs!  This is Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's final 'Our Gang' appearance, and none too soon, as the poor guy is about to burst out of his clothes that just might have been leftover from his earlier Hal Roach period!
Notes:  Though released near the end of 1940, we see at least two "41" references, the first being the 1941 License Plate on the Rear of  Dr. Malcolm Scott's vehicle in the opening shot, and the prescription he fills out bears a 4/6/41 beside the date heading.  KIDDIE KURE marked Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's 26th MGM 'Our Gang' Appearance.  Thus, he was in exactly half of the MGM Entries!

196. FIGHTIN' FOOLS' (October 25, 1941) [08:57]

Something of a rarity for an MGM 'Our Gang' Entry, in that there aren't any adults anywhere to be seen.  Not to worry though, as this so-so short ends with Spanky and Froggy (Who is by now an 'Our Gang' regular.) engaging in a bit of moralizing of their own!  Noteworthy is a sight gag that involves a Fat Kid (Played by Joe Strauch Jr, whose only other 'Our Gang' appearance was in the 1937 One Reeler, TWO TOO YOUNG.) who manages to empty the Water Hole (With the help of extra effects!) that the 'Our Gang' (!) had been playing in, by merely jumping into it!  Buckwheat also displays the racial sensitivity of the MGM Scriptwriters with his "I wanna get me a suntan first" line!  And people accuse the earlier Hal Roach Series of being racist?  This was also Leonard Landy's last appearance.

197. BABY BLUES (February 15, 1941) [09:22]

In this, Mickey Gubitosi's parents (Who for once, actually look Italian!) are about to have a fourth child.  Mickey gets upset upon reading that every fourth child born is Chinese.  The mixed messages regarding race does admittedly, lean towards the positive in this otherwise rather pedestrian (In my opinion!) entry.  The two "punches" that Froggy delivers in defense of Lee Wong (Edward Soo Hoo) are just about the most unconvincing that I've ever seen!  Mr. Gubitosi is played the Italian born William Edmunds (Best remembered today as Mr. Giuseppe Martini in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE), whose birth name is apparently the subject of some dispute. Future 'Our Gang' regular Janet Burston plays one of the Gubitosi sisters, while Mickey's real life brother James, plays one of the toughs that bully Lee Wong.  Note:  Ironically, no one seems to know the name of the actress that played the expectant Mrs. Gubitosi!

198. YE OLDE MINSTRELS (March 18, 1941) [10:54]

The Gang decide to raise some funds for the Red Cross by putting on a show (What else?).  Musical highlights from this sort of sequel to WALDO'S LAST STAND (Whose reference, I consider to be a bit ironic!) include an interesting sit down Tap Dance, Froggy becoming a "singing" replacement for recently departed 'Our Gang' member Alfalfa, and an "Auld Lang Syne" finale.  As Master of Ceremonies, Spanky also actually gets to don properly fitting attire!  During the "Magic Blackface" sequence, watch out for Buckwheat's expression as his version of this suddenly appears on his face!  Note:  Walter Wills, who makes his first of three 'Our Gang' appearances as the featured dancer, curiously doesn't get a special within Opening Title Credit!  Darla Hood also displays some real vocal ability, in my opinion!  This was the first MGM 'Our Gang' short to not end with an abbreviated version of "London Bridge Is Falling Down."  It ends with a bit of "Auld Lang Syne," instead!

200. 1-2-3-GO! (April 26, 1941) [10:25]

The Gang seems to be veering more towards Public Service promotion than Comedy in this entry, in which Mickey gets run over when chasing a Baseball into the street.  This inspires the 'Our Gang' to start a 1~2~3~GO! Safety club.  There is one laugh at film's end that's related to Froggy's unusual croaky, Popeye like voice, but in my opinion, it's simply not enough for this to qualify as an actual Comedy!  Pay as you exit might not be the best strategy, here?

201. ROBOT WRECKS (July 12, 1941) [10:56]

In this short, the gang tries to build a robot that's just like the model named "Volto," that was demonstrated at Black's Department Store, to do their yard work for them.  However, they are tricked by Slicker & Boxcar (very weak sort of Butch & Woim successors, played by Fred Walburn & Vincent Graeff), who sell a box of "invisible rays" to the gang to make their robot work.  Sadly, in my opinion, this entry doesn't work very well at all!  While the guest appearance of former Roach player, Billy Bletcher (as Froggy's dad) is most welcome, he was also unfortunately scripted to do a bit of end of short moralizing, with some help from Froggy! 

202. HELPING HANDS (September 27, 1941) [10:48]

For me, this one actually sort of works on a public service level, but not as a comedy.  By this time, a big problem has become evident:  MGM, the studio that was at this time self billed as having "More Stars than in Heaven!", seemed woefully incapable (or perhaps they simply lacked the will?) of recruiting any kids who could actually act (or be funny!) in these "comedies!"  On that note, am I the only one who finds the Italian boy "recruits" attempt at acting utterly painful to watch?  Darla Hood does sing, though in my opinion, not quite as well as she did in the earlier 'Our Gang' entry, YE OLDE MINSTRELS.  Note:  This was the first 'Our Gang' short since their 4th entry, MEN IN FRIGHT to sport a photo background on the opening title card.  HELPING HANDS does also display "The End" title in an unusual manner, accompanied by marching band music!

199. COME BACK, MISS PIPPS (October 25, 1941) [10:58]

A number of notables apply what is, in my opinion for 1941, an above average MGM 'Our Gang' entry:  Billed cast members Sara Haden (best remembered as "Aunt Milly" in the long running MGM Andy Hardy series!) and German actor Christian Rub (who provided the voice of Geppetto in Walt Disney's PINOCCHIO, released just the year before!), portray the title character and the Swedish sounding Mr. Swenson, respectively.  Former Hal Roach feature players making an appearance include Billy Bletcher (once again, as Froggy's dad); and Clarence Wilson (as Alonzo K. Pratt), in what would be his final film appearance before his passing on October 5, 1941 (a few weeks before this film's release) at age 64. 

203. WEDDING WORRIES (December 13, 1941) [10:56]

In what would be Darla Hood's final 'Our Gang' appearance, the Gang tries to prevent her father's remarrying (on account of  some unbelievable tale of mean stepmothers by Froggy), by use of laughing gas at the wedding.  In my opinion, theater goers might have benefited from some by this time!  Notes:  The judge was played by Chester Clute, who was unbelievably sometimes mistaken for James Finlayson.  Darla's stepmother-to-be was played by Barbara Bedford, who previously played Alfalfa's mother in some of the earlier MGM 'Our Gang' entries.  Occasional Hal Roach player, William Irving (appearances include, YOU'RE DARN TOOTIN' and MIKE FRIGHT) makes his final of 221 film appearances as the first of the wedding patrons that we see mete out the Gang's punishment at film's end!

204. MELODIES OLD AND NEW (January 24, 1942) [10:59]

Darla Hood's absence is almost immediately felt in this relatively decent musical short (Though Spanky at times, appears a bit uncomfortable in his "Tux!"  Couldn't the MGM wardrobe department ever dress the poor guy a bit more age appropriate?), which features the Gang attempting to raise funds for some Football Uniforms.  While Janet Burston delivers an OK (Spanky refers to her as Jenny.) singing performance, I find her almost whispery calling of various dances in a later dance sequence, a bit bizarre, to say the least!  Janet later stated in an interview that she did exactly what she was told to do while at MGM, which was to basically "Ham it up!"  I can't help but wonder just how much better she might have fared at the Hal Roach Studios?  On another note, why did Froggy always have to "Sing" in his speaking, croaky voice?  Note:  Walter Wills makes his second of three 'Our Gang' appearance, this time as Froggy's Uncle, though he doesn't do any dancing this time around.

205. GOING TO PRESS (March 07, 1942) [10:48]

Juanita Quigley makes her second and last 'Our Gang' appearance, though in my opinion, it is Daryl Hickman who gives this solid (by 1942 'Our Gang' standards, anyway!) entry a boost, though explaining why would give too much away!  I will state that for once, somebody other than Spanky winds up wearing far too short a pair of trousers!  This short wraps up nicely with a cleverly funny gag line!
Note:  Janet Burston doesn't appear in either this, or the following 'Our Gang' short.

206. DON'T LIE (April 04, 1942) [10:49]

While the bulk of this entry works well enough in my opinion, the premise that the Gang uses to justify punishing Buckwheat for his lying (about the fate of his homework?  PUH-LEEZE!) is rather stomach churning, to say the least!  One upside is that Mickey Gubitosi's acting ability seems to have noticeably improved (i.e no bizarre eyebrow wriggling that's somewhat prevalent in previous MGM 'Our Gang' entries) by this time.
Note:  Only the male 'Our Gang' members appear in this short.  The man in the Chimpanzee suit is not Charles Gemora, but Billy Curtis, whose acting career spanned from 1938's THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN , to a voiceover as Teddy from the 1987 Horror flick, BLOODY WEDNESDAY.  Billy is also the Munchkin Father in THE WIZARD OF OZ.

207. SURPRISED PARTIES (May 30, 1942) [10:56]

I find it a bit ironic that just as Mickey Gubitosi's acting had noticeably improved, the 'Our Gang' series then became subjected to Janet Burston's decidedly limited (in my opinion!) "ham acting" capabilities.  These are first really displayed in this weak entry, in which the Gang try to throw a surprise party for Froggy, who was born on Leap Day, and thus, only gets to celebrate every four years!  Note:  While Billy "Froggy" Laughlin was indeed, born in a leap year (1932), his actual birthday was on July 5th, although sadly, it can be said that in his far too short 16 years of life, Billy had just about as many birthdays as a leap baby who lives an average lifespan!

208. DOIN' THEIR BIT (July 18, 1942) [10:59]

Walter Wills, in his third and final 'Our Gang' appearance, asks the Gang for a favor this time around, and they put on a show for the Troops!  While I do admittedly have a soft spot for the musical based shorts, I'm once again really missing Darla Hood's musical capabilities in this entry!  In my opinion, Janet Burston just sounds like any number of typical classmates performing at a school assembly, rather than possessing any real special talent.  In the final sequence, in which each child performer has a flag for a different nation, George "Spanky" McFarland (Great Britain) and Billy "Froggy" Laughlin (Norway) don't look at all happy to be there!

209. ROVER'S BIG CHANCE (August 22, 1942) [10:53]

In my opinion, this appears to be one of the better post Darla Hood 'Our Gang' entries, in which the 'Our Gang' resident pet Dog Rover gets spotted catching a Baseball by Mammoth Studios director (Played by Horace McNally, who gets within the title card billing.) Bill Patterson, who then gives him a shot at the big time.  A couple of nice bits of ventriloquism by "Ventriloko" (Played by Hugh McCormack in his last of four known film appearances, dating from 1929.) are featured.  Note:  I'm finding that the less Janet Burston has to do in any given film (And she thankfully, has relatively little to do here!), the better!

210. MIGHTY LAK A GOAT (October 10, 1942) [09:44]

In this gem of a short (Which does not feature Janet Burston!), an on the way to school mud splashing of Spanky Froggy, Mickey & Buckwheat, leads Froggy to use his new chemical set for an emergency cleaning that, in turn, leads to an at school emergency that gets the gang excused for the day!  This leads to the real fun that takes place at the local Bijou Theater!  Is it a mere coincidence that two of the very best MGM 'Our Gang' shorts involve a "Movie within a Movie" Cinema sequence?  This one actually tops that from THE LITTLE RANGER with some hilarious "Breaking of the fourth wall" from the "Movie within a Movie!"  The final closing bit is also, in my opinion, great fun!  Notes:  Then MGM starlet Ava Gardner does a nicely amusing turn as the Box Office Attendant!  By coincidence, her first husband Mickey Rooney's father, Joe Yule Sr. plays one of the Theater patrons.  This is easily the best of the post Alfalfa/Darla 'Our Gang' entries!  If only more of the MGM'rs were like this!  Just one question:  Why was this gem titled MIGHTY LAK A GOAT?

211. UNEXPECTED RICHES (November 28, 1942) [10:55]

The same four principle 'Our Gang' cast members appear in this entry, which finds them getting conned into digging a hole (Thinking they were looking for buried treasure!) for Tree planting.  Not horrible, but a pretty big come down after the previous 'Our Gang' gem!  Notes:  All of the present 'Our Gang' members get a dream sequence, in which they imagine what they will do with their share of the treasure, except Spanky, for whom this is his last of 95 'Our Gang' appearances!  Beyond one last 1943 MGM short, titled SEEING HANDS, George "Spanky" McFarland would make just five more cinematic appearances in his lifetime, though he would make one last television appearance (As himself.) in one of the last episodes of the long running U.S. sitcom, CHEERS in the same year of his passing (1993), at age 64.

212. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN JR. (January 30, 1943) [10:58]

If viewed purely from a period public service piece, I suppose this entry about making due with less during wartime actually works fairly well.  The trouble is, this is supposed to be a comedy, but it is unfortunately pretty much completely devoid of laughs!  The fact that this one time lucrative and highly profitable franchise was by now losing money probably should have screamed "No more public service 'Our Gang' shorts!" to the head of the MGM shorts department!  However, as Froggy states that his Aunt Minnie says. "Talk is cheap, but a sleeping dog gathers no moss"....????  Trust me, this line doesn't make any sense in the short either, and worse, it isn't even remotely funny!  In addition, Janet Burston's character is in my opinion, simply beyond annoying, and the series would have been better off without her!  Notes:  From this point on, the only Hal Roach 'Our Gang' holdover left is "Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas who, along with Billy "Froggy" Laughlin and Mickey Gubitosi, were now the main principle players left onboard a now sinking series franchise!  The first 'Our Gang' entry since 1932 to not feature either Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, or George "Spanky" McFarland.  Froggy's real life brother, Mickey appears as a replacement for Spanky.

213. FAMILY TROUBLES (April 03, 1943) [10:58]

Janet runs away from home with her little kitten, Fluffy because of her Mother (Played by Barbara Bedford.) behaving toward her like an insensitive cow!  The gang then hatches an unbelievable plot to have Janet be adopted, only for the "Prospective" elderly couple (Who were well aware of Janet's real parents!) to try and teach her a lesson for having such a silly idea by putting her to work.  When Janet leaves with the gang, she is even more unbelievably reported to have been kidnapped, but of course, all ends well, save for the inexplicably bad acting on the part of Barbara Bedford!  Maybe misbehaving children should be made to view this entry as a form of punishment?  In my opinion, Janet's annoying crying is especially painful!

215. CALLING ALL KIDS (April 24, 1943) [10:58]

Yet another 'Our Gang' entry that's geared towards performing a show for the troops!  Highlights include a recruitment sketch, in which Froggy ends up wearing a much too large uniform.  The rest of this short consists of various imitations of mostly MGM contract players; including Virginia O' Brien, Eleanor Powell, and Carmen Miranda (The last performed by Janet Burston.).  Notes:  For the comedy phone sketch, Buckwheat is dubbed by Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, who for many decades, played Jack Benny's sidekick!  For child starlet Marlene Klinghorn, who in my opinion, beautifully sang the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney popularized number "Our Love Affair," this was quite inexplicably her only known film appearance!  This entry ends with "The Marine Hymn," which plays over THE END title card, rather than the usual closing theme.

216. FARM HANDS (June 18, 1943) [10:32]

One might think that a Farm setting would be ideal for some great comedic hijinks.  Yes, one WOULD think that!  Unfortunately, some poorly executed gags hamper this one quite a bit!  The one plus for this entry is that Janet Burston isn't in it, but in my opinion, very little else!  Note:  Froggy's brother, Mickey (As Happy.) also appears as part of the gang of four in this lacklustre short.

214. ELECTION DAZE (July 31, 1943) [10:10]

By this point in the series, even the "Kids only" entries have become pretty much entirely devoid of anything worth laughing about!  In this dreary entry, Mickey and Froggy vie for President of the "All for One" Club.  That the show of hands vote repeatedly results in a tie is, in my opinion, the least of this short's problems!  Even the "Twist" ending falls incredibly flat!  "Election Doze" might have been a more apt title!  Also, does every black person that gives a speech have to quote Abraham Lincoln in these films?  Note:  That Janet Burston would appear in all of the 'Our Gang' shorts from this point on, spelled more bad news for an already sinking series!

217. LITTLE MISS PINKERTON (September 19, 1943) [10:45]

This is yet another 'Our Gang' short that's not only short on comedy, but apart from the gangster sidekick, is virtually devoid of even attempted humor!  Due solely to the script writing that more closely resembles an MGM "Crime Does Not Pay" short subject, it falls to "heroine" Janet Burston to come to the Gang's rescue, though it's the 'Our Gang' series that is sadly, beyond saving at this stage!  Notes:  It is often this entry that is cited as the epitome of what was wrong with the MGM 'Our Gang' series in its late stages.  After giving this a fresh viewing, I cannot say that I disagree!  The Gangsters are played by Dick Rich (Who does appear in the previously cited 1941 "Crime Does Not Pay" entry, titled FORBIDDEN PASSAGE.), and Norman Willis, as Pete (The sidekick) and Joe (The brains), respectively.

218. THREE SMART GUYS (October 23, 1943) [10:45]

This entry's been cited as a weak, loose remake of the 1932 Hal Roach 'Our Gang' two reel comedy, READIN' AND WRITIN.'  While the predecessor had a level of morality, in my opinion, it was nowhere nearly as pretentious (or humorless!) as the goings on in what proved to be the final 'Our Gang' short to be released while the series was still in production!  In this version, the Gang attempt to get kicked out of school so that they can go fishing, which of course, backfires.  On the upside, a still as usual annoying Janet Burston didn't accompany Buckwheat, Froggy and Mickey on their next morning "nearly hooky, yet still hooky" fishing trip, where some mostly falling flat style humor occurs, followed by an annoying bit of moralizing by an elderly (And presumably retired!) fisherman!  Notes:  The fisherman was played by Edward Fielding, who is probably best remembered as the Clinic Doctor who diagnoses Lou Gehrig with ALS, in MGM's PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (One of my all time favorite tearjerkers!), released just the year before this short was made.  During the school sequence, the gang's teacher Miss Pillsbury (Marta Linden) calls Froggy by his real name, Billy right before she informs them of their alternate punishment.

219. RADIO BUGS (April 01, 1944) [10:54]

In this first of the final three 'Our Gang' shorts to be released after MGM ceased production for this series, the gang decide to audition for various potential Radio Show sponsors, changing their style (By repeatedly exchanging Joke books at a local Bookstore.) according to each sponsor's type of business.  This unfortunately, isn't nearly as clever as it sounds, with the worst results being the telling of some really bad Dentist jokes in Dr. "Painkiller" Kilroy's waiting room!  When Miss Burston follows this with her "singing," "Painkiller Janet" she ain't!  Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact!  I highly doubt that theater patrons of the day (Or any other day, for that matter!) derived much enjoyment from this, either!  Notes:  A Red Skelton Radio Show broadcast, in which Red does his Junior, the mean widdle kid character (In my opinion, the funniest part of this short!), is what Froggy and his parents are listening to right after the opening credits finish rolling, which serves as his inspiration.  At the end of the broadcast, Froggy mispronounces his last name as "Skeleton," as he does repeatedly throughout this weak (Though, in my opinion, marginally better than the previous few shorts.) entry.  While there is at least some attempt at comedy, the Shakespearean actor's (Brandon Hurst) "anti-comedians" recitation at the Bookstore perhaps sums up the lack of comedy in these final MGM 'Our Gang' entries!  In my opinion, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas was getting a bit old by this time (He had turned 12 the month before series production ceased.), and I'm not certain that he would have been retained had the series continued!

221. TALE OF A DOG (April 15, 1944) [10:52]

Though neither the final release nor the last to be filmed, this entry was the last to go into production.  I suppose that labelling it an MGM Miniature meant that this didn't have to be a comedy, and perhaps might have also represented a last ditch attempt to save the series in the name of public service.  That the subsequent cancelled production bore the title HOME FRONT COMMANDOS does in my opinion, lend credence to this possibility!  While the moral (Yes, this is yet another one of those!) within this short is to not incite widespread panic by spreading false rumors, this writer believes that naming a dog after a rampant disease (Buckwheat's dumbest idea in the entire 'Our Gang' series canon!), such as smallpox, was the greater crime in this instance!  Note:  I think it's also worth noting that among the final five 'Our Gang' entries, this "public service" short was the only one to show an initial profit, though of course, there was no way to know this at the time!

220. DANCING ROMEO (April 29, 1944) [10:55]

In this entry, Froggy is upset because his girlfriend Marilyn (Valerie Lee) is spending more time with Gerald (Bobby Browning) because of their shared interest in dancing.  Froggy attempts to overcome this by putting on a dance recital (With the aid of stage wire, pulled by Buckwheat and Mickey!) of his own.  While not outstanding, this cute little entry is in my opinion, far less dreary than most of its post Spanky predecessors (Even Janet Burston is almost bearable!), and at least makes for a pleasant end to 'Our Gang's 21 and a half year long run!  Notes:  When viewing Billy "Froggy" Laughlin's aided performance, it is quite clear that he did possess at least some actual dance ability!  Interestingly, this final 'Our Gang' release proved to be by far, the biggest money loser in the entire series!

Some Final Observations & Opinions Regarding "The Final 'Our Gang' Of Four:"

While much could be said and discussed about the many MGM 'Our Gang' alumni members that came and went over the 5 years plus that the series was in production, for the sake of simplicity, I shall limit this to the 4 main 'Our Gang' members who remained at series end, who are listed in the chronological order of their first MGM 'Our Gang' appearance:

Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas:  The only 'Our Gang' holdover from the Hal Roach era to remain in the series to the end, and also the only one to appear in all 52 MGM 'Our Gang' shorts, Buckwheat was in my opinion, truly the unsung member of the gang, who was, and is fondly remembered by many.  While he was offered many film and stage roles after having served in the army, Billie had no desire to return to Hollywood as an actor.  Not long before his October 10, 1980 passing, he was moved to tears by a spontaneous standing ovation at the second international Sons Of The Desert convention in Los Angeles.  I for one, am really glad he got to experience that well deserved outpouring of love.

Mickey Gubitosi (Later Bobby Blake, then Robert Blake):  Mickey Gubitosi made 40 appearances (the first being JOY SCOUTS), the most 'Our Gang' shorts among those who joined the gang after the series shifted to MGM.  While he's had easily the most successful post 'Our Gang' acting career, that Robert Blake has led a most interestingly tumultuous life would be a gross understatement!  In fact, I don't think it's actually possible to overstate that fact!  Nevertheless, at 81, he is the only one of the "final four" that's still with us as of October, 2014!

Janet Burston:  Though not a series regular until 1942, Janet Burston made her 'Our Gang' debut appearance in 1940, (In ALL ABOUT HASH) one short before Billy "Froggy" Laughlin made his.  I'm decidedly within the realm of opinion (albeit widely shared!), when I state that, while as a bit player, Janet was undistinguished (A compliment for her!), as an 'Our Gang' regular, her character was downright annoying, and in my opinion, Miss Burston just wasn't a very good actress!  However, from what little I've read about her, Janet was a very sweet person who in my view, had a challenging life, having worked at several different Denny's Restaurants, raising children (Inherently challenging, but rewarding!  I know this firsthand!), and having been married four times.  She passed away March 3, 1998 at the age of 63.  Thank you very much, to Brad and his "The Catsafterme" musings, for this and other most valued information he picked up from interviewing Janet at her home just a couple of years before her passing!

Billy "Froggy" Laughlin:  Billy Laughlin made his debut in 1940 (THE NEW PUPIL), and while initially a supporting player, he was being promoted as a main player by the end of that year, which coincided with Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's departure.  The distinct, croaky voice, while not his actual speaking voice, was nevertheless his own!  Not noted as often (Though quite evident on film!), is that Billy was also cross eyed!  Sadly, at the age of only 16, Froggy was by far the youngest 'Our Gang' regular to die, this by injuries sustained after being hit by a truck while delivering newspapers in his motor scooter, on August 31, 1948.  That fellow MGM 'Our Gang' alumni Robert Blake has described him as "A dearly loved, sweet gentle soul" only serves to make his tragic end seem all the sadder to me!