Small Talk

film no. 89

technical details:

Production G-23.

Sound equipment was installed at the Roach studio March 15 to 23, 1929.

Filmed March 25 to April 6, 1929. See the 'miscellaneous' section below for details.

Title sheet prepared by H. M. Walker on May 6, 1929.

Cutting continuity submitted May 17, 1929.

Released May 18, 1929. It was the 86th film in the series to be released. However, according to Maltin's earlier book, The Great Movie Shorts, as well as Richard Lewis Ward's A History Of The Hal Roach Studios, the release date was April 18, 1929. This was probably either a preview date or a mistake.

Copyrighted July 30, 1929, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corporation. Registration no. LP893. Renewed September 13, 1956, with registration no. R176921. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2024.

All-talking three-reeler. (In actuality, there is a little bit of silent footage in this film.)

Opening title: '"Our Gang" Comedies - Hal Roach presents His Rascals' Voices in "Small Talk".'

the crew:

Produced by Robert F. McGowan for Hal Roach
This is the way Maltin & Bann put it. The film credits Roach as a presenter, with a separate credit reading "A Robert McGowan Production."
Directed by Robert F. McGowan
This credit appears in the film, but without his middle initial.
Photographed by Art Lloyd and F. E. Hershey
This credit appears in the film.
Edited by Richard Currier
This credit appears in the film.
Dialogue by H. M. Walker
This credit appears in the film. The press release credits both Walker and McGowan.
Recording Engineer: Elmer Raguse
This credit appears in the film.
Story by Robert F. McGowan
This credit doesn't appear in the film.
Animal Trainer: Harry Lucenay
He was Pete's owner and trainer.
Teacher: Fern Carter
Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Probably indicated in the opening title card, but not shown in these prints.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
A Victor Recording, Western Electric System
As indicated in the film.
studio personnel
general manager - Warren Doane
assistant general manager - L. A. French
secretary-treasurer - C. H. Roach
assistant secretary - Mat O'Brien
construction supervisor - C. E. Christensen
laboratory superintendent - Charles Levin
optical effects supervisor - Roy Seawright
still photographer - Bud "Stax" Graves
transportation director - Bob Davis
possible uncredited involvement
assistant direction - Possibly Charles Oelze.
cutting - Possibly Lloyd Campbell.
writing - Robert A. McGowan, Jean Yarbrough, Charlie Hall, Harry Keaton and Carl Harbaugh may have been among the gag writers.
property department - Charles Oelze, Don Sandstrom, Thomas Benton Roberts and Bob Saunders were probably involved in this capacity.
animal training - Tony Campanaro may have been among the animal trainers.

the kids:

Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins as "Wheezer"
Lead role. He's adopted and taken away from the orphanage.
Mary Ann Jackson as "Mary"
Lead role. She runs away to visit Wheezer at his new home.
Allen "Farina" Hoskins
Supporting role. The nickname isn't used in this film. He goes along with the gang to Wheezer's new home, where he encounters various mysterious sounds. He later has a crying scene when nobody wants to adopt him.
Joe Cobb as "Joe" aka "Joseph"
Supporting role. He's the leader among the kids, and has quite a lot of the dialogue.
Jean Darling as "Jean"
Supporting role. She's the one that sets off the alarm, but otherwise does mostly ensemble acting. The press release reveals that her hair was combed into tight little pigtails to make her look forlorn and orphanish.
Harry Spear as "Harry"
Supporting role. He mostly does ensemble acting in this film.
in still images
On the walls of Wheezer's bedroom are two pictures, one showing a little girl and the other showing a little boy.

the animals:

Pete (no. 1) as "Pete" aka "Petie"
Supporting role. He accompanies the kids throughout the film, and is given some gag material. He might also be the barking dog heard as Wheezer and his new mother drive off. This particular spelling of "Petie" (as opposed to "Petey") derives from the cutting continuity.
dog 087a
Small part. He's Wheezer's new dog.
Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film (but is cut from the Cabin Fever print).
parrot 008 as "Polly"
Bit part. Presumably the same parrot seen previously. The parrot is seen very briefly, but the actor doing the voice is featured fairly strongly. The name "Polly" derives purely from the inevitable 'Polly want a cracker' line.

the adults:

Helen Jerome Eddy as "Helen" aka "Miss Eddy"
Featured role. She's Wheezer's new mother and is featured frequently throughout the film. The implication is that she's married, but her husband is never seen, and the maid calls her "Miss Eddy." The cutting continuity calls her "Mrs. Eddy." It sounds like the cop calls her "Miss Lily."
Lyle Tayo as "Mrs. Brown"
Supporting role. She's featured fairly strongly in the opening sequence of the film, being the woman who cares for the children at the orphanage.
Emmett King as the doctor
Supporting role. He examines Wheezer and finds nothing wrong with him.
Emma Reed as the maid
Supporting role. She finds Farina crying and decides to adopt him. The cutting continuity identifies her as the 'Nigger mammy,' which, I should point out, is the only time I've seen this word used in any studio-generated materials.
Pat Harmon as one of the cops
Small part. He's the first cop to arrive and puts a scare into the kids. Maltin & Bann list him as the 'officer in charge,' but he answers to the other uniformed cop. Publicity photos identify him as Pat Harriman.
Symona Boniface, Mary Emery, Viola Porter and Frona Hale as Miss Eddy's friends
Small parts. Three of these women are at the card table with Miss Eddy, and all four are in the final "adoption" scene. Boniface is the woman who adopts Joe, while Hale is the woman who turns down Farina's offer to be adopted, but I'm not sure about the other two. Emery was 32 years old at the time, so she should be the woman who adopts Jean. This would leave Porter, who presumably is the one who adopts Harry.
Charles McMurphy as the police chief
Bit part. He's the other uniformed cop with dialogue.
Edith Fortier as the domestic
Bit part. She's the woman who accompanies Miss Eddy to the orphanage, and seems to also be shown in the background of the crowd shot at Miss Eddy's backyard party.
Marion Talley as the opera singer
Bit part. We hear her singing "Comin' Thro' The Rye" over the radio. This is the Victor record we're hearing, which had been released in 1926, so Talley didn't actually work in the film.
other adults
Small parts, bit parts and extras.
(1.) Various voice actors, including the man providing the voice of the parrot, the man providing Pete's singing voice, the operator on the telephone, and the two newscasters on the radio. Some of these duties may have been handled by the same person. The payroll ledger provides us with names that aren't associated with the vestibule scene or the backyard scene, having worked on other dates. These are Harry Gripp, Del Ray (making a healthy 25 dollars on Apr. 4th), and Ed Thomas. There's also somebody named Joe Marks who made a whopping 50 dollars on Apr. 6th, the day of the backyard shots. Considering the amount, it stands to reason that he was given something more important to do than being a crowd extra.
(2.) Miss Eddy's chauffeur, who's barely noticeable, and the man who opens the car door for her, whose face isn't seen. I suspect these two are Art Eishtadt and William Herd, both of whom worked only on March 30th, a day when the only other day players were Tayo and Harmon.
(3.) Eight additional emergency workers besides McMurphy. These are seen in the exterior shot as they leave their vehicles, and in the vestibule where the final part of the film takes place. They worked on the same day, April 5th, as Miss Eddy's card-playing friends. Identifying them individually is a challenge, since we don't get a good look at most of their faces. However, the payroll ledger tells us their names. One of them is Fletcher "Rusty" Tolbert, who is identifiable in a publicity photo, while the others are Leo Sulky, William O'Brien, Jack Tanner, Ole Ness, Larry Fisher, Rex La Bain and Barton Lee. Two of these are plainclothes cops, and two are ambulance workers, while the others seem to mainly be from the fire department.
(4.) The other people at the bridge party, shown only in longshots, including four musicians shown in the foreground, plus a maid and a butler in the background. These were taken on April 6th. The maid is probably Edith Fortier, listed above. The others are Edna May, Amo Sugraham, Nadine Riga, Ann Lewis, Winifred Landis, Fannie Beors, Creal Durance, Kay English, Rene Whitney, Paula Drendel, Myrtle Richel, Joan Jaccard, Myrna Belzner, Jean Becks, Eleanor Vanderveer, Ethel Stone, Julia Griffith, Clo King, Eva Downs, Marcella Arnold, Gladys Balfe, Betty Burns, Marion Mills, Ruth Milo, Suzanne Rhodes, Kitty Rupp, Kath Summers, Jean Vachon and Iris Nicholson. It appears that these are all women, though a few of the first names are pretty obscure. And yet, there are at least four male musicians in the shot, as well as the butler. The aforementioned Joe Marks made his 50 dollars on this day, so perhaps he provided the musicians. Also, the aforementioned Ed Thomas was paid two days after this, but on a day without any other day players, so perhaps he was paid belatedly for playing the butler. Miss Eddy and her friends don't seem to be in these shots, which is consistent with her friends only working on the 5th.
(5.) Other emergency workers. A press release reveals that the actual police and fire departments in Culver City got involved in this film. It looks like the longshots of the emergency vehicles exiting the fire department are authentic enough that I suspect that the occupants are the real thing.
(6.) Seven men, all from the property department, who were all given an extra check for being day players on Apr. 23rd for "Small Talk." This was in additional to their usual pay as "helpers" within the prop department, but that part of their pay was charged to "Railroadin'" on this date. What exactly they did in "Small Talk," on a date when nobody else seems to have worked in the film, is anybody's guess. They are Ed Meese, Andrew Metcalf, Earl Duffy, G. Kenney, Tom Smith, Walter Shaw and the aforementioned Art Eishstadt, who was also a day player on March 30th.
in still images
The woman in the painting on the wall next to Wheezer's bed.

the music:

piece 089a
This is the cacophonous noise the kids make on their musical instruments at the opening of the film.
piece 089b
This is the melody made by the whistling clock.
piece 089c
This is played very briefly by the music box.
"Comin' Thro' The Rye" by Robert Burns
Originally a traditional Scottish folk song called "Common Frae The Town." Burns wrote a new set of lyrics in 1782. Nellie Melba had a number ten hit with this song in 1914. However, that's not the version heard over the radio in this film. What we hear is the Victor recording of opera singer Marion Talley accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack. This recording was made on February 2, 1926, and released March 26, 1926 on the Red Seal label (no. 1146).
piece 089e
This is the music on the radio that follows the opera singer.
"There's A Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" by Al Jolson, Billy Rose and Dick Dreyer
This song is 'played' by Pete at the end of the film. Al Jolson had a number one hit with it in 1928.
musical references
After Joe slips on the rug, Jean laughs and says "You go boom when you fall down," a reference to the song "I Faw Down And Go Boom" by James Brockman and Leonard Stevens, which Mary Ann sings in the next film, "Railroadin'" (no. 90).

the locations:

4052 Lafayette Place, Culver City
This is where the emergency vehicles arrive. All three of the houses across the street are still standing today. We also get a view looking up this street towards Culver Blvd., where we can see a portion of the Washington Building.
Fire Department Number 1, 9760 Culver Boulevard, Culver City
The fire engines are seen leaving this location. The Culver Hotel can be seen in the background. In the foreground is the Culver City Hall, the side of which is seen slightly later as the vehicles are turning onto Duquesne Ave.


12 shooting dates went into the making of this film. Two weeks after shooting finished for "Saturday's Lesson" (no. 88), the 'start' date arrived for "Small Talk" on Mar. 25th. During those two weeks, sound equipment was installed at the studio. This is specifically written into the 1929 studio datebook for Mar. 15th and 16th, and Mar. 18th through 23rd. Shooting for "Small Talk" continued until the 'finish' date of Apr. 6th. No shooting took place on Mar. 24th or 31st, which were both Sundays. Robert F. McGowan directed on each of the shooting dates. After this, a week and a half passed before the Our Gang unit began shooting "Railroadin'" (no. 90).

As detailed in Julia Lee's book Our Gang, McGowan had trouble getting the kids to recite their dialogue naturally while making this film.

Publicity photos reveal deleted footage in which the kids are sitting on the curb outside the wealthy estate. In one shot, they're in front of the gate and get chased away by Harmon. This is why he later knows that they've been prowling around there all day.

Since the studio only had one set of sound equipment, the Laurel & Hardy short "Unaccustomed As We Are," which was being made at the same time as this Our Gang short, had to be filmed at night to accomodate the kids, who could only work until five in the afternoon.

The press release reveals that the Culver City fire and police departments were involved in this film. Perhaps some of the extras were actual firefighters and police officers.

The press release indicates that this was a two-reeler, but this is almost certainly incorrect since the cutting continuity and the Copyright Catalogue both indicate that the film was a three-reeler. In fact, the continuity states that the first reel ends as Eddy tickles Wheezer, and the second reel ends as Joe explains the parrot to Farina and they exit the room.

Later studio publicity states that it was during the making of this film that the kids were first encouraged to address each other by their character names while off-camera. This way, they wouldn't waste film by absent-mindedly using their real names.

According to the Senior Scene of July 2009, Wheezer was in his hometown of Parkland, WA, when this film debuted in nearby Tacoma.

Publicity material referred to the kids as The Six Roach Rascals.

The script submitted to MGM was given the catalog number B607.

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© Robert Demoss.

My thanks to the following people for assisting with this page:
Rob Stone (for providing the production number and shooting dates)
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)
Zadock Jarvis (for identifying Frona Hale)
Bryan Bishop (for identifying "Comin' Thro' The Rye")
Doug Curran (for verifying the actual recording used of "Comin' Thro' The Rye")
Paul Fitzpatrick (for identifying "There's A Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder")
Paul Mular (for providing info on the Cabin Fever laserdiscs)

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