. . . Spanky?
(the blues behind the icons)
George "Spanky" McFarland was the fat kid in those now-ancient Little Rascals shorts. He was two years old in 1928 when his uncle sent a photograph of him to producer Hal Roach. Placed under contract, his family was moved to Hollywood and he stayed with the series until it expired under M-G-M auspices in 1944, when he was sixteen. During this tenure he had made over one hundred-fifty features and shorts. Aside from these Our Gangs two-reelers he also appeared in Kidnapped (1938), Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936 - with Henry Fonda), and Johnny Doughboy (1942).
After this period Spanky tried being a freelance actor, but with little luck. After a stint in the Army, he sold insurance, sold automobiles, wholesaled Coca-Cola, and briefly ran his own restaurant until legal complications developed (his landlord disappeared and his lease was cancelled). He then worked at an aircraft plant, which he hated.
In the late 50s Spanky began freelancing in television, doing mostly commercials. This helped him land a regular job in Tulsa, OK, where he hosted a children's daily television show. This gave him the opportunity to alter an approach he had always despised: kiddie entertainers who dress and try to act like children. "Kid shows are always playing down," he said. "It's silly to have a grown man sitting there trying to be a kid. Kids know better." Among the old movies he introduced in his daily shows were those he had made with Alfalfa and Buckwheat and Darla (she particularly remained a lifelong friend). Through the years McFarland continued to do personal appearances and cameo roles in films and television. His final television performance was in 1993 in an introductory vignette at the beginning of the popular Cheers episode "Woody Gets an Election."
He died suddenly of cardiac arrest in 1993 at the age of sixty-four.
In January 1994, “Spanky” joined fellow alumnus Jackie Cooper (both are in the foto above) to become one of only two Our Gang members to receive a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Alfalfa was shot to death in a quarrel in 1959.
Buckwheat Thomas was killed while flying food to Biafra in 1968.
Robert Blake (Mickey) went on to play a murderer in the 1968 adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and then again in real life (allegedly, of course ;)
I've been extremely busy with two particular projects so I haven't been blogging lately. I got interested in the fate of Our Gang a few days ago after a brief conversation about the evolution and eventual eradication of the graininess of the film medium. After doing a little reading, I thought I'd share . . .