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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Our Gang Gets More Ancient


Ad Find Inspires Boxing Gloves (1929) Revisit

Some years back, I put forth the question, Has Our Gang Left The Building?, with reference to TV's once evergreen then/now in deep-freeze (does anyone currently show them?). We sure didn't see that coming in an era where each afternoon and all-day weekends were filled with Roach's Rascals. It dates me badly to even mention the series today. Go to any elementary or high-schooler and clock blank stares for introducing Spanky or Alfalfa to the conversation. Maybe it's a merciful thing so many Our Gangers died before they could be so utterly forgotten. Greenbriar spoke before to creep-out aspect of the Rascals. I'd now call them Dickensian comedies, being much about hardship and plain survival in a cruel Depression world. Did we enjoy them in the 60's for life having changed less since the 30's? There was but thirty year gulf to overcome then ... now it's eighty and then some. Heck, the things might as well have been made during the Civil War. That, in fact, was what I most enjoyed about many of them, especially ones best-labeled "BT" for "barely-talkies." Boxing Gloves was one of these, being hopscotch from crude-recorded dialogue to altogether mute action in the Gang's jerry-built prize ring. Chubby and Joe are fat-boy fighters, their struggle with lines barely audible over chickens clucking in bucolic background. So this is what life was in 1929, I'd think as primitive shorts unspooled on host and singing cowboy Fred Kirby's Saturday-Sunday Rascals show on Channel 3-Charlotte. I salute Boxing Gloves today for coming across the vintage ad at left where BG ran prominent and we get glimpse of rare pressbook art for the two-reeler.

7 Comments:

Blogger KING OF JAZZ said...

Yep, another reminder how what we took for granted in the '60s as accessible is now definitely quasi-Civil War vintage! I have no illusions about anyone under 30, 20, 10 having the same reference points that are as steadfast as ancient ruins in my mind!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I once was berated by an idjit for showing a politically incorrect LITTLE RASCALS/OR GANG comedy in front of a feature he had come to see. No end to his obnoxious tirade.

Of course, I refused to pull the film.

Maybe that is why they are in limbo.

2:39 PM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

I've often commented to friends my age (mid 50's) that we're probably the last generation who will understand references to Our Gang/The Little Rascals, Bugs Bunny, etc. Beloved catchphrases from these films were shorthand guarantees of big laughs when dropped into conversations. They were staples of kid's programming for many years; it's ironic that their ready and near-complete availability on DVD is matched by their withdrawal from regular TV viewing.

2:46 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

Since CBS bought King World, the Little Rascals haven't been syndicated much; whether it was pulled from their syndication package, I don't know. This led to a rumor that Bill Cosby had the films withdrawn, which wasn't true:
http://snopes.com/radiotv/tv/rascals.asp
The inferior 1938-44 MGM-produced Our Gangs had been shown infrequently on TCM (and on TNT before that), usually as filler.

The stretches of silence that permeate "Boxing Gloves" are distracting, especially to younger viewers. Oddly enough, King World distributed in their syndication package a work print of "Came the Brawn" (a later OG film with Alfalfa vs. Butch in a wrestling match), which lacked music and sound effects.

6:30 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson considers past and future prospects for Our Gang and other vintage series:


It's interesting that surviving fans of the Rascals are from series' second life as TV fodder, viewing their depression-era and WWII antics from a safe, not-quite-comprehending distance. If we had any historical knowledge at all, we knew that both the depression and the war ended in our favor. It was an effort to imagine people living through those events and NOT knowing where history was taking them. But we embraced them, imagining a sort of fantasy world where it made sufficient sense.


The same applies to the old Warner cartoons and all the theatrical series (or quasi-series) that were weekly TV shows to the boomer kids: Three Stooges, Shirley Temple, Abbott and Costello, Shock Theater, detective programmers, Paramount comedies (mainly W.C. Fields, Marx Brothers and Bob Hope), the occasional Laurel and Hardy sighting, and Republic serials played straight or ironically (a San Francisco station included them in a hip interview show called "Pow", following jazz musicians and authors).


All of them were saved from oblivion largely by early television's insatiable appetite for cheap but reasonably entertaining content. That era passed for a variety of reasons -- changing viewing habits, increased supplies of slick new product, cable, and home recording, to name a few. Where's the thrill of Saturday morning when you've got whole channels of cartoons, 24/7?


They may yet get a third life on little handheld screens, if for no other reason than they can be offered up in bulk, cheaper than ever. The Rascals may be a long shot -- too alarming for modern kiddies, too strange for adults -- but I can see Shock Theater titles finding a new preteen following as an app package, or the Paramounts with hipsters.

7:33 AM  
Blogger antoniod said...

I met a woman who really liked the 90s "Little Rascals" film, but HAD NEVER HEARD OF THE ORIGINAL SERIES!

8:31 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Only the Three Stooges are still shown. No Rascals, No Laurel and Hardy. No Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Bowery Boys or Blondie either! I was born in 1963 so I'm probably the last generation to grow up with these black and white treats.

2:47 AM  

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