Today is the birthday of George “Spanky” McFarland (1928-1993).
Our Gang (later rebranded as Little Rascals) was nearly ten years old when the unspeakably cute Spanky joined the cast. Over time he became the star of the series and the leader of the gang; he was 13 (and considerably less cute by the time it wrapped in the mid ’40s.
In addition to over 100 Our Gang shorts, he also starred in the feature General Spanky (1936) and was in numerous other features, including Kentucky Colonels (1934) with Wheeler and Woolsey, Day of Reckoning (1933), Miss Fane’s Baby is Stolen (1933), Here Comes the Band (1935), O’Shaughnessy’s Boy (1935), The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), Peck’s Bad Boy With the Circus (1938), Johnny Doughboy (1942), I Escaped from the Gestapo (1943), Cowboy and the Senorita (1944), and The Woman in the Window (1944).
By his teenage years, Spanky was unable to secure work as an actor, so began a long series of quotidian jobs for the next five decades, although towards the end of his life he did enjoy several guest shots on national television, on things like The Gorge Gobel Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and Cheers.
Mercifully, Spanky seems to have entirely avoided the “child star curse” that afflicted so many of his Our Gang chums. Go here to read about the dozens of other child actors who performed in the Our Gang/ Little Rascals series over the years!
For more on silent and slapstick comedy, including Hal Roach comedies like “Our Gang” don’t miss my book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,