Three Smart Guys

film no. 218

technical details:

Production 2844. The script is numbered B4975.

Release no. C-498.

Filmed May 13 to 18, 1943.

Cutting continuity submitted October 4, 1943.

Copyrighted October 20, 1943, by Loew's Incorporated. Registration no. LP12337. Renewed October 26, 1970, with registration no. R493052. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2038.

Released October 23, 1943. It was the 218th film in the series to be released.

All-talking one-reeler, lasting 10 minutes and 39 seconds.

Opening title: 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Our Gang in "Three Smart Guys".'

the crew:

Produced by M-G-M
The film credit reads: Produced by Loew's Incorporated. The script was okayed by Endre Bohem and Sam Baerwitz, so they were essentially the producers at this point.
Directed by Edward Cahn
This credit appears in the film.
Director of Photography: Jackson Rose, A. S. C.
This credit appears in the film.
Film Editor: John D. Faure
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: Paul Youngblood
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
Certificate no. 9298.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
Teacher: Fern Carter

the kids:

Billy "Froggy" Laughlin as "Froggy" aka "Billy"
Featured role. He has the idea to act up in class, as well as the time-saving trick with the chalk and the eraser.
Bobby Blake as "Mickey"
Featured role. He has a fair share of the dialogue among the three hooky players.
Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas as "Buckwheat"
Featured role. He's virtually on equal footing with Froggy and Mickey as the three play hooky.
Janet Burston as "Janet"
Small part. She answers a question in class, and meets the boys after school.
other kids
Extras. There are perhaps twenty-five more kids in the classroom. Maltin & Bann list Eleanor Taylor, who might be the girl whose face is shown directly over Froggy's as Janet answers the math question, and Marlene Kisker, who might be the girl sitting behind Mickey, but I'm not positive.

the animals:

Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.
other animals
Bit parts and extras. The only remaining animals are the two fish seen underwater, and the one that Buckwheat catches, as well as several more that had been caught by the old man.

the adults:

Marta Linden as "Miss Pillsbury," the teacher
Supporting role. She punishes the boys for acting up in class.
Edward Fielding as the fisherman
Small part. He lectures the boys on the importance of an education.

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.
"The Gang Goes Home" by David Snell
This is a shorter version of "Our Gang," including only "London Bridge."

the locations:

MGM Studios, Culver City
The California Eagle of June 10, 1943, reported the following: "The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer school house, alma mater of Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and many other stars, will appear on the screen for the first time in Our Gang's 'Three Smart Guys.' "


Six shooting dates went into the making of this film, from May 13 to 18, 1943. Here's a breakdown of the script activity:
Mar. 5 - I found a reference to a treatment deriving from this date, but no details.
Mar. 10 - Changes were made to the script by Law & McGowan on this date. The title at this point was "Three Smart Guys?" The title continued to be presented this way until Mar. 22nd. An idea in which Mickey brings along a wheelbarrow to haul fish was crossed out on this script.
Mar. 18 - Changes were made to the script on this date.
Mar. 19 - A temp. comp. continuity by McGowan & Law derives from this date.
Mar. 22 - Changes were made to the script on this date.
Mar. 25 - A McGowan & Law script entitled "Three Smart Guys" derives from this date. There were also 'new sequence treatment #1' and 'new sequence treatment #2,' both starting with scene 19 of the temp. comp. script of Mar. 25th by McGowan. The treatments themselves are not dated, however. They both deal with the same part of the film, with the second version being a revision of the first.
In the first treatment, a trailer pulls up next to the river. The side of the trailer reads 'Stacy's Small Animal Circus.' This enterprise features "Slappy" and "Happy," the talking seal and penguin. "Mr. Stacy" is the boss and "Cully" is the hustler. Both are disrespectful of "Angelo," the dwarf, who is studying to improve himself so he can get out of the circus life. Angelo is in charge of the talking animals, and even the boss doesn't know if they really talk or if it's done with ventriloquism. There's a thousand dollars offered to anybody that can prove they don't talk. The animals are allowed to refresh themselves in the water. This includes "Natacha," the trained bear. The gang come along to fish in the river, and the penguin eats Buckwheat's worms. He then apologizes to Buckwheat, who is quite shocked by this. He tells Mickey and Froggy about this, and they go to investigate, and the penguin talks to them, too. They admit to the penguin that they're playing hooky. In the meantime, Buckwheat gets pulled into the water, and Mickey and Froggy go to investigate. When they get to where Buckwheat was, they find only a talking seal, and think that it's a tranformed Buckwheat. The penguin follows along and suggests the idea of changing the other two boys into something, since they don't want to go to school. He also tells them that the bear is "Butch."
In the second treatment, Cully is now named "Bill," and he's the one who takes the animals to the water. Angelo is no longer present. The boss is the ventriloquist this time. He happens upon the boys, who admit to him that they're playing hooky, but he keeps going. Then the penguin starts talking to them. This is followed by fishing and the tug of war gag. Buckwheat's hat falls into the water and the seal ends up with it. The bear shows up, too, but the penguin makes him go away if the boys will stop playing hooky.
Apr. 5 - Supplementary material by McGowan derives from this date, and reads:
1. hermit character with animals rejected
2. ventriloquist talking through the fish that Buckwheat takes out of his pocket; the fish have also been playing hookey; rejected because ventriloquism has recently been used in Our Gang and the gag is too familiar
3. other fish come to aid of hooked fish, form a chain, pull the kid into the water
4. the ventriloquist idea in treatment #2 - up to this point, approved
5. seal and penguin added to idea #4
Apr. 13 - The script of Mar. 25th was 'rerun' on this date, and approved by Endre Bohem & Sam Baerwitz.
Apr. 28 - A McGowan & Law synopsis derives from this date, and is like the finished film.
May 1 - Changes were made to the script on this date, dealing with the fisherman's lecture.

At the start of the film, Froggy is reading Dynamo Dick Electrifies The Saboteurs, no. 74 in the series.

The gang goes to Greenpoint Public School.

In the category of unseen characters is Janet's "Uncle John."

On June 25th, the Los Angeles Times reported the following: "Joining the Times carrier boys in their 'All Out for Navy' Bond and Stamp sales drive Saturday at Victory House, Pershing Square, will be the stars of that screen perennial, M-G-M's 'Our Gang' kids, all of whom will entertain in person. The rally is especially significant since several of the Gang alumni are now in the Navy. The carriers' campaign to sell enough Stamps and Bonds to complete five motor torpedo boats is regarded as a 'swell cause' by the juvenile film group." The Saturday in question was the following day, June 26th.

See page 236 of Maltin & Bann's book for this film's expenses and profits. This film suffered a loss at the box office.

© Robert Demoss.

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