Buddy McDonald: Rascal in Recovery

Thomas “Buddy” McDonald (1922-2008) was born on this day. McDonald is an example of how the “Our Gang Curse”, if you believe in such things, could take effect on someone with only glancing interaction with the franchise.

McDonald’s career in show business lasted only three years. After he won a spelling bee, his parents reached out to Hal Roach, who gave him a screen test and hired him. McDonald appeared in four Our Gang shorts: Pups is Pups (1930), Teacher’s Pet (1930), School’s Out (1930), and Hook and Ladder (1932), as well as the Thelma ToddZasu Pitts shorts On the Loose (1931) and Sealskins (1932) and the Laurel and Hardy feature Pardon Us (1931), although his scene was cut from the latter film. Outside of Roach, he had a small role in the Jackie Cooper movie Skippy (1931). He also sang on a radio show called the Weekend Review.

This is the sum total of his film career. You can literally count his films on your fingers. In 1933 his parents divorced, and McDonald and his mother went to live with an aunt in Oregon, where they picked fruit to earn a living (this was the depths of the Great Depression). An attempt to resume his career afterwards was unsuccessful. McDonald became a teenage alcoholic, was expelled from high school, sent to a reform school, served in World War Two, was a police officer for awhile, but eventually wound up serving time in San Quentin prison. It was there that he was exposed to Alcoholics Anonymous and turned his life around. The remainder of his life was spent in launching and running sobriety and treatment programs.

For more on Our Gang, please check out my 100th anniversary podcast episode here.

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