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Our Gang  




MGM, 1939.  Directed by George Sidney.  Camera:  Alfred Gilks.  With George "Spanky" McFarland, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Eugene "Porky" Lee, Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas, Darla Hood, Edward Marazone, Jimmy Marazone, Emory Parnell, Lee Phelps, Fred Kelsey, Jerry Maren, Sue Moore, Barbara Bedford.

Alfalfa's baby brother never stops crying.  So Alf endeavors to trade the little nuisance for a quieter model.  The "infant" he receives in exchange turns out to be "Light-Fingered Lester," a midget who dresses in baby clothes to fool his pickpocket victims.  Fleeing from the police, Lester plays along with the gang, until later at Alfalfa's home when he cracks open a bottle of beer and begins taunting the kids.  Before the gang can reverse matters, the police break in and haul the whole bunch to the courthouse.  The judge can see the kids aren't part of Lester's mob, but he decides to place them on probation and teach them a lesson for having such foolish notions about baby brothers.  If this ever happens again, the judge warns, "I'll sentence you with every sentence in the book."

Woefully thin stuff, Tiny Troubles suffers from many troubles.  A shapeless reworking of the central idea in Bouncing Babies, it represents the first really bad MGM Our Gang short.  Somehow the production staff expected an audience to swallow the idea that eleven-year-old Alfalfa and ten-year-old Spanky couldn't tell the difference between an infant and a midget dressed as one.  If this was supposed to be funny, it isn't.  Embarrassment displaces laughter.

Midget Jerry Maren appeared that same year in At the Circus with The Marx Brothers, and as a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz.  He was still active in television through the 1970's.

Cinematographer Alfred Gilks later won an Academy Award for color camerawork on MGM's An American in Paris (1951), reemphasizing the fact that no matter how cold and wooden the performances and scripts might become, the studio's Our Gang shorts always boasted the finest production money could buy.  But no one at MGM really cared about the films, and no Metro budget ever allowed for that.

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