Wally Albright, Short Term Leader of “Our Gang”

Child star Wally Albright (Walron Algernon Albright Jr, 1925-1999) had range — his face could look cheerful and confident or haunted and melancholy, and this kept him working steadily in both comedies and dramas for over a decade.

He was only three in his first film Hal Roach’s Going Ga-Ga (1929) starring Anita Garvin, Marion Byron, Max Davidson and Edgar Kennedy, directed by Leo McCarey. 65 screen credits followed. He is chiefly remembered today for being part of the cast of Roach’s Our Gang series, starting with a brief scene in the shorrt Choo-Choo in 1932. In 1934 he was hired to replace Dickie Moore in the series as the leader of the gang. As such you can see him in Hi’-Neighbor! (1934), For Pete’s Sake! (1934), and The First Round-Up (1934). In Honky Donkey (1934) and Washee Ironee (1934) he played a rich kid who enthusiastically joins the Rascals in their adventures. He was also in comedy short for Vitagraph, Hanging Paper with Johnny Arthur (1934), playing Arthur’s son.

But there was more money to be made in features. You can see Albright in the 1931 version of East Lynne, the 1932 version of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (not the Shirley Temple version), the all-star Pre-Code thriller Thirteen Women (1932), Ann Vickers (1933), The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), Kid Millions (1934), Captains Couragerous (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), A Yank at Eton (1942), and Laura (1944). Increasingly, as he grew older he was an extra and bit player, although he had a terrific, memorable scene in The Grapes of Wrath as a hungry kid who claims he’s just eaten a delicious chicken dinner.

Like many, Albright left movies for a time to serve in World War Two (he was of age by the war’s last years). He only returned to acting on a couple of occasions. One of them was as one of Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang in The Wild Ones (1953). According to IMDB, he won the “Men’s National Track and Ski Championship” in 1957, a vague but possibly real dsitinction. He is said to have made a pile of money with his own long-haul trucking firm, specializing in distributing produce — which has a nice poeticism to it, in light of his Grapes of Wrath character.

For more on show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy like the films of Hal Roach, read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.