Thursday, October 24, 2013

BOOK REVIEW! THE LITTLE RASCALS (the life and times of Our Gang) by Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann (Crown, 1992)

Here's a long-honored book that comes in handy not only if you were one of the millyuns who sacked out in front of the boob tube watching LITTLE RASCALS and OUR GANG comedies long before Bill Cosby made good on his threat and bought up the rights, but if you're one (like me) who thinks that there was a "Golden Era" of films that began in the 1890's and lasted until the outbreak of the Second World War which will never be replicated, replaced or emulated for that matter. After that era the world became too distraught to ever become innocent again, and right now you can bet we're bearing the brunt of it all.

A nice enough read you betcha, even when Leonard Maltin's getting into his patented "above-it-all" chortling about somethingorother and slaps in his two-cents of knock me over the head with a sledgehammer observations (yeah, the MGM GANGs just don't measure don't have to keep reminding us!). I mean, what sorta suburban slob wouldn't go for a book listing the entire 22+-year series short by short with typical posed production stills that usually have nothing to do with the films, not to mention the behind the scenes hijinx as well as bios on your fave and not-so characters even if that bearded buffoon was behind the entire shebang!

So it's a good enough effort with bits 'n pieces not only on the actual comedies themselves but the actors, directors, controversies and all sorta observations spewed forth from the soon-to-be-86's members themselves. There's even a page or so on not only the copycat series that were flooding the market for years, but the reams of people who were claiming to be former RASCAL members and going to their deaths living their illusions even though all of the evidence was pretty much stacked up against 'em!

I must admit that breezing like Brisbane through this book really did jog a few memory cells loose from my didja know that onetime RASCAL imitator Malcolm Sebastian (better known as BIG BOY) was a member of the troupe once and only once for the difficult to sit through "Shivering Shakespeare"??? However the Nanette Fabray controversy still rages on considering how the book definitely claims that the pert-nosed one was not a member (something which contradicts what she actually said on MATCH GAME!)...well since this book's revised edition came out it has been discovered that Fabray actually did appear in an early silent as a kiddie extra which just "might" qualify her as a member, but that also might be like saying Don Evans was a member of Rocket From The Tombs or that Eve Plumb appeared in the DICK TRACY pilot episode. It all depends on how you look at it.

But phonus balonuses and peripheral membership aside I gotta say I love this book to the dickens. Not only does it fill me in on a whole load of film history I could stand crammed into my beanie (unlike all of those other textbook stodgy treatises which praise the likes of Chaplin to the rafters and say that Buster Keaton was fantastic until those dread talkies came into being), but it sure brings back them boffo memories of my favorite years of all time, namely the pre-school days, when watching LITTLE RASCALS in the morning was just as much as ritual as...waiting until the end of AFTERNOON THEATER to watch some King Features filler cartoons (BEETLE BAILEY, KRAZY KAT...) before tuning into BARNEY BEAN at five for whatever animated wowzers he'd would happen to be running (DEPUTY DAWG, DICK TRACY!!!). And if you don't think that those years were the bestest, most fruitful years of my being you certainly haven't been reading this blog long enough!

(Did I ever tell you about the time when I was about four or so and watching ROAMIN' HOLIDAY during the morning hours, and the film actually began "flickering" and snapped [probably due to too many syndication spins!] during the finale when the bees begin flying all over the place much to Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat's dismay? Mother was vexed because she wanted to go to her mother's place and had to take me along, but I wouldn't budge because as long as "the end" didn't appear on the screen the movie just wasn't over for me I actually watched about another five or so minutes of the television well into the next program just hoping that I would finally see "the end" flashed thus signalling the culmination of my morning viewing hours, but eventually gave up hope that it ever would be finalized at least in my mind. To this day I must admit that I do feel unfulfilled, as if I have been denied some sort of closure lo these many years and if you wonder why I come off as this sort of gruff and unlovable coot that I've revealed myself to be throughout my not-so-illustrious "career" well, know you know.) 

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