Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Gang

As I child, I watched many Our Gang comedy shorts on television. I've been watching them again on DVD over the past few months. There are horrible things about them, particularly the racism. But there are also wonderful moments that are funny and true about family, siblings, class and the way little kids think and play with one another.
There's one that's been stuck in my mind for years- Alfalfa sings "I'm the Barber of Seville," over and over again. It turns out that this is from the "Our Gang Follies of 1938." Alfalfa abandons his "low-art" origins, determined to become an opera singer. The bulk of the short is an elaborate dream sequence, years later, set at Club Spanky. Spanky has become an impresario, complete with top hat, cape and cane. Darla is the featured ingenue in the floor show. There is a big production number with Buckwheat. All the white children are paired off in couples and look swanky. All the African-American children are paired off in couples and are shoeshine boys and maids. I cringed. It's amazing to me what I did not remember of this short.

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