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Our Gang  




MGM Hal Roach, 1929.  Directed by Anthony Mack.  Camera:  Art Lloyd.  With Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon, Harry Spear, Jay R. Smith, Mary Ann Jackson, Louise Beavers, Clarence Muse, Ed Brandenberg, Gene Morgan, Ham Kinsey, Retta Palmer, Baldwin Cooke, Jack Hill, Dick Gilbert.

Farina and his little sister Pleurisy are caught on the horns of a dilemma:  it's election day, and until the votes are counted neither Joe nor Jay will allow them to leave their farmyard.  At the same time, the kids' mother expects them to deliver her laundry.  Farina and Pleurisy try all sorts of disguises, but none of them really does the trick until a scarecrow masquerade frightens the daylights out of everyone in sight, including their mother and father!

When they finally manage to get downtown, they find themselves caught in another battle, between the police and a crooked group of gangster-politicians (the Pool Room Party) hoping to cause a riot and loot the ballot boxes.  A massive shoot-out ensues, with Farina and Pleurisy unwittingly foiling the crooks by finding the "missing" ballots in their laundry wagon and turning them in.  This doesn't impress their mother, however, whose only concern is that the laundry hasn't yet been delivered, and spankings are the youngsters' reward.

Election Day has about as much to do with elections as Giants vs. Yanks had to do with baseball.  Story exposition is muddled, and it's almost as if Roach or McGowan or McCarey viewed the rushes, realized the kiddie election wasn't going anywhere, junked it, and simply switched to the unrelated adult election never even hinted at in the early footage.

The adult elections doings are equally fragmented, and the massive shoot-out serves no purpose other than to provide some gratuitous slapstick for the film's final moments.  Farina isn't even thanked when he turns in the stolen ballots.

Little Pleurisy, who remains on of the few unidentified Our Gang players, has the film's funniest moments by virtue of her exuberant, expressive face.

One visual gag in Election Day was good enough to be reused by Roach staffers in Laurel & Hardy's film titled Way Out West, nearly a decade later.  It's the very effective traveling shot of a huge cloud of dust, supposedly kicked up by Farina's frightened parents as they scurry to leave town.  The shot is made by moving a powerful wind machine toward the camera.  There are blowers and trays of loose dirt mounted on a dolly, all of which are hidden by the cyclone of dust created in the machine's own path while advancing toward the camera.  Then the action is reversed to create a startling illusion on film.

These minor episodes aside, however, Election Day has little to recommend it.  Even the kids had trouble rising above mediocre material and Anthony Mack's lackluster direction.  Bob McGowan was credited as Supervising Director, but the results on film show that the credit was simply a matter of form.  This credit was in vogue during the late 1920's.  It was a do-nothing position, and screen credit was often simply a courtesy.  Eventually, as Buster Keaton has remarked, title credit for this inflated capacity was "laughed off the screen."

The Little Rascals
The Life and Times of Our Gang
by Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann
Crown Trade Paperbacks, New York, 1992