Waldo's high-society mother is having a
bridge luncheon for the Maids of Olympia, of which she hopes to be
president. She expects Waldo to "enthrall" the gathering of
ladies with a violin recital, and sends him off to practice.
But Waldo's eye is caught by the gang playing football outside, and
he joins them instead. When a soaring kickoff comes his way,
he catches the ball and runs for a touchdown, landing in a mud
puddle just past the goal posts. He's covered with mud from
head to toe, but delighted to be part of the game and the gang, and
anxious to make up for a lifetime of behaving. Just then, his
mother calls, and Waldo and the rest of the gridiron behemoths sneak
into his basement to do a quick and dirty cleaning job. After
elaborate procedures, the clothes emerge from the dryer—shrunk
beyond recognition. Faced with no alternative, Waldo dons a
lamp shade as a kind of skirt and makes his entrance at the party.
His mother promptly faints, and simultaneously, the gang barges in.
Mother's pet monkey starts teasing Pete, and a melee quickly ensues.
When Waldo's mother phones for the police, the gang makes a hasty
Washee Ironee, with its unusual
pig-Latin title, was the only
Our Gang two-reeler directed by James Parrott, the brother of
Charley Chase and one of the most talented comedy creators on
the Hal Roach staff, working often with Chase and
Laurel & Hardy. He brought a keen flair for slapstick and
sight gags to Washee Ironee, with delightful results.
The film is loaded with gags, one after
another; during the football game, Pete accidentally swallows
referee Spanky's whistle, prompting a variety of solutions; soap
bubbles from the washing machine float up the dumb waiter into
Mother's salon, bursting in unlikely places; one bubble causes the
butler to sneeze (the whopping explosion dubbed by expert
Billy Gilbert); and of course there is the final melee, with
vases, cream puffs, and the monkey himself flying around the room.
Best of all is a terrific running gag
that provides the film's closing laugh. Early on, when the
kids try to figure out how to wash Waldo's clothes, Spanky boards
his goat-drawn "ambulance" and, cupping a drinking glass over his
mouth, imitates the sound of a siren. Hearing this, traffic
cop Tiny Sandford efficiently stops all traffic at a busy
intersection to let the vehicle through—only to find a midget-sized
homemade buggy weaving between the cars. Flustered, he tries
to get traffic moving again. Spanky pulls up in front of a
Chinese laundry (just as director Parrott passes by in a cameo) and
gets his young friend there to return with him. Again the
"siren" is heard, and again the cop halts cars in their screeching
tracks only to find Spanky meandering through the traffic; this time
he takes out his anger on the drivers and brusquely tells them to
At the end of the film, with the society
party a shambles, Waldo's distraught mother picks up the phone and
wails, "Murder! Police!" A squad of officers hops onto a
paddy wagon Keystone Cops-style and speeds off down the road, siren
blaring. Traffic cop Sandford hears it coming but pauses and
smiles, pleased he's wise to the "gag" by now. The camera cuts
to the patrol wagon's view of impending disaster as it races toward
the busy intersection; a car zips by and a pedestrian jumps out of
the way. Then we see the reaction of people on the sidewalk
covering their eyes while a fantastic series of unchecked crashing
sounds is heard. After a moment, the crowd rushes over to see
what's happened, with the camera cutting to a long shot of a
monumental pile-up of disabled cars and bewildered drivers, reaching
high into the sky, with Sandford teetering atop the pyramid-like
heap. Just then, Spanky and the gang pass by in their
ambulance; the grim-visaged Sandford shakes his fist at the young
troublemaker, and Spanky graciously answers the gesture with Mae
West's tag line, "II'll come up and see ya some time."
*Fade-out. This is one of the most elaborate sight gags ever
devised for an
Our Gang comedy—and Parrott (who'd directed
Laurel & Hardy's classic
with its freakish auto parade) knew how to pull it off.
At the same time, the kids almost take a
back seat to the gags, with the exception of Spanky, who is featured
throughout the film. Wally Albright is pretty much in the
position of straight man, except for his climactic entrance wearing
the lamp shade. His character here is a standard one in
Our Gang films harking back to Saturday Morning in the
early 1920s. In fact, the establishing scene that opens
Washee Ironee is borrowed from Saturday Morning.
Waldo tries to kiss his mother, but she backs away, saying, "No, no,
you'll disarrange me. I'll kiss you later."
Mater, as Waldo calls her, is played by
Ellinor Van Der Veer, an unsung lady of comedy who probably never
had a bigger part than this one. For ten years the stately
Miss Van Der Veer was on the receiving end of pies and other
indignities in Hal Roach comedies; her reward was a role with
considerable dialogue in this film, executed quite nicely.
Parrott took the believable role of the mother and brought it one
step nearer to caricature with a funny scene in the early goings.
As Waldo practices his violin in the solarium, she remarks from the
next room, "Waldo, your B-flat in the obligator pianissimo needs
more staccato." Even the butler winces at this.
Another statuesque actress, Gertrude
Astor, is seen briefly at the party, where her bare back is pelted
with a cream puff, prompting her to spin around and be splattered
with another wad of cream directly in the face. Symona
Boniface, placed on this earth to intercept flying pies in
Three Stooges films, participates in the gooey indignities, too.
All of these supporting characters contribute to the success of
Washee Ironee, including the perennial cop Tiny Sandford, given
a featured spot with the running gag that closes out this very funny
Billie Thomas makes his third
Our Gang appearance in Washee Ironee, but not yet as
Buckwheat, who's played here by a girl, Willie Mae Taylor.
Who'd have guessed that the modest-looking Billie Thomas would wind
up working in most every succeeding
Our Gang comedy until the series' dissolution a decade later!
He's given one good gag in Washee Ironee. Seated in the
bleachers, the youngster is shown watching the game through
binoculars made with a pair of soda pop bottles fastened together.