Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Fly My Kite" with Hal Roach and His Rascals (1931)

This is probably the first “Little Rascals”/”Our Gang” episode which I remember watching. It’s interesting to note that the name on the credits is “Hal Roach and His Rascals.” They went through two more changes in name as the years passed, finally becoming known mainly as “The Little Rascals.”

In this 1931 episode, “Grandma”, who is really just an old lady in the neighborhood, is having her usual day of fun with the neighborhood kids. She reads to them, feeds them and even boxes with them. The children are all from poor families and presumably the parents are all out working during the day, leaving the children at “loose ends.” She is the anchor which holds their little world in place.

Grandma’s son-in-law, a mean fellow named Dan, has promised to let Grandma stay in her home until she passes away. He had previously broken Grandma’s daughter’s heart with his philandering ways, which she blames for causing her daughter’s early death. With no money of her own to live on, she is forced to accept the promise that Dan will always take care of her.

But when Dan and his new girlfriend arrive at the home unexpectedly, they find Grandma roughhousing with the neighborhood kids. The girlfriend tells Dan that unless Mom moves out, she won’t move in. Grandma, hearing the arrival of the cab with Dan and his girlfriend in it, tells the kids to hide.

When Dan tells Grandma that he is kicking her out and sending her to the poorhouse, all seems lost. As Dan leaves the home he checks the mail, finding a letter informing Grandma that she is in possession of some gold bonds which will make her secure for the rest of her life. Dan takes the letter to an attorney who informs him that the bonds are transferrable and worth about $100,000; more than Grandma can ever hope to use in the few years remaining to her. He quickly returns to her home in an attempt to retrieve the bonds. Meantime, Grandma, while packing her belongings, has given the worthless bonds to “Chubby” for a tail on his kite.

Dan rushes home from the lawyer, and once there, he crushes Grandma’s glasses and reads the letter to her, informing her that the bonds she once held are worthless. But he’s in for quite a surprise when she informs him that the bonds have “gone up”. When he realizes that she has given the bonds to “Chubby”, he rushes outdoors to retrieve the kite, and the bonds. Meantime, Grandma, while packing her belongings, has seen the letter through the “lens” created by the fishbowl where the letter has been laying and dispatches the children to help “Chubby” retain the now valuable kite.

These films were the basis for many of life’s lessons in morality, honesty and hard work. In spite of the stereotyping of everyone in these films; the helpless old Grandma; the fat kid “Chubby”; the racist portrayal of Stymie and Buckwheat; and even the villainous son-in-law, complete with an evil looking moustache; were a staple each morning before I went to school. And, sometimes I think I learned more about life from these old films than I ever did in in class.

No comments:

Post a Comment