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Monday, February 7, 2011

Silent Movies

I recorded about 50 episodes of "Our Gang" aka "The Little Rascals" off of Turner Classic Movies. Slowly but surely I have gotten around to watching most of them.

When I was a kid I watched most of these on TV and could even recite the lines to many of the plots. What I do not remember were the SILENT versions of Our Gang. Hal Roach started the series in 1922 and "talkies" did not come along until 1929. Well my TCM collection had plenty of the silent episodes.

I was introduced to some different characters. Some I remembered and some I did not. The ring leader in most of these had to be the ugliest kid ever born, Mickey Daniels. He had more freckles that Carter had pills. His sidekick was Joe Cobb who is billed as being the original Our Gang fat kid, well before Norman "Chubby" Chaney that I remember from the sound versions. Mickey and Joe were always getting into some kind of trouble. One of the silent characters I did remember was Allen "Farina" Hoskins. Farina later appeared as a much older version of himself in some of the talkies. These kids were new to me but equally as funny and mischievous as the more familiar Spanky, Alfalfa, and Buckwheat.

I had never watched many silent movies before but I intently watched these. They are a different breed. Of course all of the Our Gang series are black and white which keeps them in a league all their own. Black and White shows just seem to have a unique character. But with silent flicks, you REALLY have to watch all the time or you'll miss something. With talkies you can turn away and still keep up with the plot by dialog alone.

One cool thing about the captions is "dat de die-a-log wuz spelt de way u'd spect da kids ta be talkin' to each udder" and this made them all the more funny.

I am not sure of the exact dates of these silent episodes but in one of them they were talking about president Hoover so that one is pinned down to 1929, right before "talkies" began. It is cool to look at the 1920's vintage cars, houses, streets, shops, and clothes. In one episode the kids were shining shoes to make money. Wifey remarked that one pair of women's shoes looked the same as shoes you'd see today. Old designs come back in style.

The really cool thing about Our Gang is that the writers really got into the heads of the way kids think, with some exaggeration of course. I remember when I was young that my next door neighbor and I recreated some of the Our Gang episodes in our own back yards. We even had our own chapter of the He Man Woman Haters Club.

Even back in the 1920's and 30's the black kids and white kids played together and always seemed to be on equal footing. Farina, Buckwheat, and Styme were always part of the gang no matter what the situation. I guess that kinda tells me that maybe kids are smarter than adults sometimes.

So if you get the chance to watch some silent movies, give them a try. It will be a new experience for you.

If you like OUR GANG go HERE. This site has lotsa good stuff about the actors and episodes.

1 comment:

  1. ..."Between 1922 and 1944, there were over two hundred and twenty shorts, more than any other film series for a comedy team, using a revolving staple of over two hundred child actors. "...

    Right Truth