Unexpected Riches

film no. 211

technical details:

Production 2794. The script is numbered 4906.

Release no. C-491.

Script approved November 6, 1941.

Filmed July 26 to 29, 1942.

Released November 28, 1942. It was the 211th film in the series to be released, and the first of the 1942/43 season.

Copyrighted December 8, 1942, by Loew's Incorporated. Registration no. LP11730. Renewed December 8, 1969, with registration no. R474519. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2037.

All-talking one-reeler, lasting 10 minutes and 51 seconds.

Opening title: 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Our Gang in "Unexpected Riches".' With this film, the end title design is similar to the opening title, in which a freeze-frame from the film is shown.

the crew:

Produced by M-G-M
The film credit reads: Produced by Loew's Incorporated. The script was okayed by Jack Chertok and Richard Goldstone, who can be considered the producers of this short.
Directed by Herbert Glazer
This credit appears in the film.
Director of Photography: Charles Schoenbaum, A. S. C.
This credit appears in the film.
Film Editor: Leon Bourgeau
This credit appears in the film.
Screen Play by Hal Law and Robert A. McGowan
This credit appears in the film, but without McGowan's middle initial.
Art Director: Richard Duce
This credit appears in the film.
Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Indicated in the opening title card.
Western Electric Sound System
As indicated in the film.
Approved by the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
Teacher: Fern Carter

the kids:

Billy "Froggy" Laughlin as "Froggy"
Featured role. He plans to buy Uncle Sam a battleship.
Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas as "Buckwheat" aka "Mr. Buckwheat" aka "Bucky"
Featured role. He plans to treat the neighborhood kids with fried chicken and watermelon, and step out with his lady.
Bobby Blake as "Mickey"
Featured role. He plans to buy a mansion for his parents.
George "Spanky" McFarland as "Spanky"
Featured role. He doesn't have a dream sequence, but is the leader of the gang and has plenty of dialogue. This was his final appearance in the series.
Barry Downing as "Ken" aka "Kenneth"
Supporting role. The gardener addresses him as "Master Kenneth." He fools the gang into digging a hole for him.
Edward Lewis as "Big Shot"
Bit part. Buckwheat gives him a coin.
other kids
Bit parts and extras. The remaining kids are all black children in Buckwheat's dream sequence, most notably "Miss Lulu," his girlfriend. He also kisses a baby, whose name is "Fragrant Jones." There appear to be eighteen more kids in this scene.
in still images
There is a photograph of a little boy and a little girl in the window of the camera shop at the start of the film.

the animals:

Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.
other animals
The only remaining animals in this film are a couple of moths that fly by in Ken's yard.

the adults:

Emmett Vogan as "Mr. Reed," Ken's dad
Small part. He makes Ken give back the gang's money.
Margaret Bert as Mickey's mom
Small part. Mickey buys her a washing machine.
Ernie Alexander as Mickey's dad
Small part. Mickey gives him a closet full of new clothes.
Willa Pearl Curtis as Big Shot's mom
Bit part. She's with Big Shot in Buckwheat's dream sequence.
Symona Boniface
Extra. She's a crowd extra in Froggy's dream sequence, and stands in the center.
other adults
Bit parts and extras.
(1.) "John," the gardener.
(2.) Buckwheat's servants, most notably the cook, "Livermore," who one of the kids addresses as "General." There's also three chauffeurs, a doorman, and five members of "Mr. Buckwheat's Dixie Tooters."
(3.) A handful of additional adults in Buckwheat's dream sequence, most notably Lulu's mother. One of these is Ernestine Wade, but I still need to familiarize myself with her.
(4.) Twelve adults in the close shots of Froggy's dream sequence, one of whom is Stanley Logan, but I still need to familiarize myself with him. In the long shots, taken from stock footage, there are perhaps two hundred adults.
(5.) There are also people shown in photographs in the window of the camera shop.

the music:

"Our Gang" by David Snell
This is played over the opening titles. This is the earlier recording, used prior to "The Big Premiere" (no. 189). This is a medley of three songs:
(1.) "London Bridge" - The earliest reference to this nursery rhyme is in a play from 1659, and it was associated with children by 1720. It may derive from a part of the "Heimskringla" by Snorri Sturluson, which was composed around 1225.
(2.) "Mulberry Bush" - Also known as "So Early In The Morning" and "This Is The Way." It was probably originally called "Here We Go Round The Bramble Tree" in the mid 18th century, with the type of tree changed by inmates of Wakefield Prison, who exercised around a mulberry bush.
(3.) "The Farmer In The Dell" - This nursery rhyme is of uncertain origins.
"Runnin' Wild" by A. Harrington Gibbs
Published in 1922 with lyrics by Joe Grey and Leo Woods. Ted Lewis and His Band had a number 9 hit with an instrumental version in 1923. An instrumental version is played during Buckwheat's dream sequence.
"Mickey's Dream" by Sol Kaplan
This is played during Mickey's dream sequence.
"Anchors Aweigh" by Lieut. Charles A. Zimmerman
The theme song of the U. S. Navy, it was written for the Army-Navy football game of November 1906. The first two stanzas of lyrics were written by Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles, with the final stanza being added about twenty years later by Midshipman Royal Lovell. This was a number thirteen hit for the U. S. Naval Academy Band in 1921, and a number eighteen hit for Paul Tremaine & His Orchestra in 1930. In this film, an instrumental version accompanies Froggy's dream sequence.
"The Gang Goes Home" by David Snell
This is a shorter version of "Our Gang," including only "London Bridge."
other music
Dreamy effect music opens and closes each dream sequence.


Four shooting dates went into the making of this film, from July 26 to 29, 1942. Here's a breakdown of the script activity:
Sep. 20, 1941 - A McGowan & Law outline entitled "Treasure Hunters" derives from this date. The boys read that a local farmer had just found buried treasure on his land just outside Greenpoint. The loot had been buried there around 1850 by "Three-Finger Ike." A nice old man named "Silas Brent" asks the boys to mow his lawn after school, but they decline the offer, planning instead to look for buried treasure. So many kids play hooky to look for treasure that the teacher, "Miss Blaine," calls off school for the day. The gang has help from their dog, "Super-dog," but he's not much help since he'd rather sleep. A braggart happens by with his girl. The gang has the dog sniff his 'gold' ring to give him the scent of what he's supposed to be looking for. When the dog digs up a brass spittoon, the girl realizes that the ring must be fake. As the teacher is locking up the school for the day, Mr. Brent comes up to her and hatches a plan. He has "Bill" the laborer bury an old chest and then slips a treasure map to the kids. When the boys dig up the chest, they find it filled with school stuff, including Digging For Hidden Treasure by Ben Franklin.
Sep. 29, 1941 - A McGowan & Law treatment entitled "Treasure Hunters" derives from this date. The kids form a company called "Odd Jobbers, Ink." Among them are Spanky, Darla, Mickey, Froggy, Buckwheat, and a serious looking Extra kid. Darla's presence shouldn't be too surprising when realizing that the date of this script was also the first day of shooting for her last Our Gang short "Wedding Worries" (no. 203). The boys go to Mr. Wilson's house to spade his garden. A rich kid named "Bertram," who's a couple of years older than the gang, teases them about doing the job for only ten cents each, and says he's on his way home right now to ask his father for a dollar and a half to buy a model airplane he just saw. His father, "Mr. Billingsley," is with "John," the gardener, who is about to plant a tree. This particular scene made it into the final film largely unchanged. Bertram plants a treasure map where the dogs are digging. On the map are Founders Oak and Flat Rock, and it's signed by Captain Kidd. The boys abandon their job to look for the treasure, but the extra kid is skeptical and stays where the money is a sure thing. When the boys come to Founders Oak, it has a sign attached to it with the very same words described below, which can be seen in a publicity photo. The rest of the script is very similar to the film, except that the dream sequences changed over time. In this version, Spanky has a dream sequence in which he's rich and pampered. His butler is named "Higginbotham," who announces that 'School is served.' Spanky's teacher and four Whizz Kids arrive at the bedroom. The kids answer Spanky's quiz questions for him, for which they're paid handsomely. Back in the real world, the boys aren't having any luck finding treasure, so they have Mickey pace off the map again. Since his steps are shorter than Spanky's, he ends up in a totally different spot.
Oct. 7, 1941 - A treatment of "Treasure Hunters" derives from this date, continuing the story from the work done on Sep. 29th. Mickey's fantasy sequence finds him running a large company called the "Gubatosi Candy Co." Mickey himself is given samples to test, and he ends up with a large belly. Buckwheat's fantasy is very much like it is in the film, including the solid gold teeth. His girlfriend is named "Melinda." Froggy has the idea of buying Mickey's candy factory, but Mickey won't sell, and this leads to an argument. Instead, Froggy decides to go with "Froggy's Triple-Combined Circus!!" which boasts a total of 365 elephants. Kids are admitted free of charge. At this point, Bertram comes up to the boys and smugly admits that he drew the map. They then proceed to beat Bertram up before his father comes along. The father pays the gang for the work they've done. The last bit of the script makes reference to a fortune card which reads 'unexpected riches,' which indicates that the earlier part of the story was being changed. Froggy quotes his "Uncle Philbert," saying 'Never count your chickens before they come home to roost!' Another document from this date deals with changes made to the earlier part of the story. Bertram is still in the story, but now his eye is on a camera costing $1.50. He sees the gang getting onto a weight machine. They say 'Hey kid' - they don't actually know him - and ask Bertram to put the coin in the machine for them. The card that comes out says 'unexpected riches.' Bertram goes home to look for his father. The colored housekeeper is named "Lily" - she tells him where to find his father. The father's name in this version is "Mr. Reed." Darla is no longer part of the story at this point.
Oct. 9, 1941 - The first trial continuity by McGowan & Law of "Treasure Hunters" derives from this date. The rich boy is now named "Kenneth," and the boys know him. The colored housekeeper is "Lequillion." The gardener is still named "John." Mickey's fantasy sequence is like it is in the film. Froggy's sequence is also like in the film, including the christening of the 'Our Gang.' Buckwheat's sequence has not changed much since the last version, nor would it prior to filming. The footman is named "Livermore" and the girlfriend is "Mirandy." Spanky has inherited Froggy's circus idea, which is now called "P. T. Spanky's Biggest Circus In The World." Spanky sneaks the kids in for free. Froggy quotes his "Uncle Welcome" at the end of the film: 'It's a sick wind that doesn't blow somethin' good in the window!'
Oct. 15, 1941 - On this date, changes were made to three of the four fantasy sequences. For "Mickey's Imaginative Sequence," an alternate version has been devised. His father is still a mailman, but a rich mailman with a limousine to use while delivering his route. Mickey gives his mother a wad of bills to pay the vegetable man. Then the washing machine is delivered. In "Spanky's Imaginative Sequence," the circus is now called "Spanky's Combined Circus And Wild West Show!" This, of course, features 365 elephants, and has a 'kids intrense.' In "Froggy's Imaginative Sequence," there is actually more than one ship. Not only is there 'The Our Gang,' but also 'The Darla,' 'The Spanky,' 'The Mickey,' and the latest addition to the Froggy Squadron, 'The Buckwheat.'
Oct. 20, 22, and 27, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on these dates.
Oct. 28, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on this date. Spanky's circus was now called 'P. T. Spanky's Circus.' Additional characters during Buckwheat's sequence included "Lulu," "Livermore" the footman, "Throckmorton" the footman, and "Fragrant Jones."
Oct. 29 and 31, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on these dates. There are actually two titles that appear on the pages for Oct. 31st. Some pages retain the name "Treasure Hunters," while others are labeled with the new title "Unexpected Riches." This latter script also includes the full name of "Froggy Laughlin" in the newspaper headline about the ship launching.
Nov. 1 and 3, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on these dates. In the latter script, Froggy quotes his Gram'pa, saying 'It's a sick wind that don't blow somethin' good in the window, for somebody!'
Nov. 4 and 5, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on these dates. The latter script has the latest lineup of characters from the Buckwheat sequence: "Bigshot," "Livermore" the steward, "Throckmorton" the footman, "Fragrant Jones," and Buckwheat's girl, "Lulu."
Nov. 6, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on this date. This version of the script was okayed by Jack Chertok and Richard Goldstone. At this point, Mickey's sequence is before Buckwheat's, but they were switched around in the final film. Spanky no longer has a sequence of his own. Froggy no longer quotes anybody at the end of the story.
Nov. 7, 1941 - More changes were made to the script on this date.
Nov. 22, 1941 - A synopsis deriving from the McGowan & Law script derives from this date, and is credited to N. Farber. It includes the words 'mimeo dial cont 11/6/41 from script dept 11/14/41.'

The gang lives in Greenpoint in this film. The local paper is the Greenpoint Herald.

The gang go digging for 'Captain Kidds Buried Treasure.'

A publicity photo from this film reveals that 'Founder's Oak,' the starting point of the gang's treasure hunt, has a plaque attached to it which reads: 'Founder's Oak - Here on April 17, 1884, Zebediah Peters and his party met, and decided on the site for the town of Greenpoint.'

See page 236 of Maltin & Bann's book for this film's expenses and profits.

© Robert Demoss.

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