Beginner's Luck

film no. 135

technical details:

Production G-28.

Release no. C-26.

Filmed Feb. 20 to 28, 1935. See the 'miscellaneous' section below for details.

Title sheet prepared by William Terhune on March 13, 1935.

Cutting continuity submitted March 26, 1935.

According to Maltin & Bann, this film was released on February 23, 1935, making it the 135th film in the series to be released. However, judging by the title sheet and cutting continuity dates, it must have been released closer to the copyright date. Apparently, delays on the four previous productions carried over to this one.

Copyrighted April 8, 1935, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corporation. Registration no. LP5477. Renewed August 1, 1962, with registration no. R299650. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2030.

All-talking two-reeler.

Opening title: 'Hal Roach presents Our Gang in "Beginner's Luck".'

A segment of "Honolulu Baby" from this film was later used in "Framing Youth" (no. 159).

King World Productions episode no. 17, available in both colorized and original black-and-white versions.

the crew:

Produced by Hal Roach
Credited in the film as a presenter. The Monogram print credits the film as "A Hal Roach Production."
Directed by Gus Meins
This credit appears in the film.
Photography: Art Lloyd, A. S. C.
This credit appears in the film.
Film Editor: Louis McManus
This credit appears in the film.
Recording Engineer: William Randall
This credit appears in the film.
Animal trainer: Tony Campanaro
He trained the current Pete.
Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Indicated in the opening title card.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
Western Electric System
As indicated in the film.
Approved by the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America
Certificate no. 677.
The National Recovery Administration emblem is shown in both the opening and end titles.
studio personnel
general manager - Henry Ginsberg
assistant general manager - L. A. French
secretary-treasurer - C. H. Roach
assistant secretary - Mat O'Brien
publicity and advertising - Fred Purner
film editor and sound department - Elmer Raguse
construction supervisor - C. E. Christensen
laboratory superintendent - Charles Levin
process department - Roy Seawright
musical director - Marvin Hatley
still photographer - Bud "Stax" Graves
transportation director - Bob Davis
school teacher - Fern Carter
possible uncredited involvement
assistant direction - Probably Gordon Douglas.
writing - Hal Yates, Carl Harbaugh, James Parrott, Charlie Hall, Frank Butler, Robert McKenzie, Hal Law, Frank Tashlin, Nick Grinde and Gordon Douglas 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.
titles - Louis McManus probably designed the main titles.
animation - Probably the work of Roy Seawright.

the kids:

George "Spanky" McFarland as "Spanky" aka "Spank"
Lead role. His mother puts him into a talent contest against his will.
Marianne Edwards as "Miss Daisy Dimple"
Supporting role. Her stage fright gets the better of her, but Spanky wins the prize for her.
Scotty Beckett
Supporting role. Among the kids in the gang, he and Jerry have most of the dialogue.
Jerry Tucker
Supporting role. Along with Scotty, he has most of the dialogue among the gang members.
Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas
Supporting role. The nickname wasn't used in this film. He's given a few closeups, but is mostly part of the group.
Sidney Kibrick
Supporting role. He has very little dialogue, and is mostly an ensemble player.
Matthew "Stymie" Beard
Supporting role. The nickname wasn't used in this film. He's given very little dialogue, but is present throughout most of the film.
Alvin Buckelew
Supporting role. He's mostly an ensemble player in this film.
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer
Small part. He and his brother make up the act of "Tom and Jerry, the Arizona Nightingales," although it's Alfalfa that gets the attention from the camera and in the script. The cutting continuity refers to him as "Carl." This was his first appearance in the series.
Harold Switzer
Small part. He's the other half of "Tom and Jerry, the Arizona Nightingales." Maltin & Bann provide two nicknames for him, "Deadpan" and "Slim," which were used for studio publicity, but never in the films themselves. The cutting continuity refers to him as "Harold." This was his first appearance in the series.
The Cabin Kids as "The Five Little Cabin Kids"
Small parts. They sing "Dinah." Maltin & Bann list them as The Five Cabin Kids. The oldest girl is Ruth Hall, nicknamed "Sweetie," the second oldest girl is Helen Hall, nicknamed "Precious," the oldest boy is James Hall, nicknamed "Darling," the youngest girl is Winifred Hall, nicknamed "Sugar," and the youngest boy is Frederick Hall, nicknamed "Honey."
Bonnie Lynn
Small part. She's identified by her full name in the cutting continuity. She sings solo on "Honolulu Baby."
Marilyn Spinner, Peggy Speth, Georgia Bark, Betty June Sissom and Snooky Valentine
Small parts. These are the five hula dancers that follow Bonnie Lynn. Together, they're introduced as The Floradora Dollies. Maltin & Bann list The Meglin Kiddies, while Maltin's earlier book, The Great Movie Shorts, lists them as The Five Meglin Kiddies. They are, from left to right, Spinner, Speth, Bark, Sissom and Valentine. Laura June Williams (later Kenny), credited herself with being among these girls, but the payroll ledger doesn't support this idea.
Merrill Strong
Small part. He sits next to Buckwheat in the audience. Maltin & Bann list him as Merrell Strong.
Donald Proffitt
Small part. He's in the front row to the left of Scotty, and is almost entirely an ensemble player.
Freddie Walburn
Small part. The cutting continuity identifies him as "Freddie." He does a harmonica act, but is only seen backstage.
Eileen Bernstein
Small part. She's part of the gang in this film, sitting in the second row next to an old man.
Cecilia Murray
Small part. She's part of the gang as well, and sits in the second row to the left of Sidney Kibrick.
Tommy Tobin
Small part. He's also part of the gang, and sits between Stymie and Cecilia.
Tommy McFarland
Extra. In one shot, a boy that looks like him can be seen way back in the fifth row. The ledger reveals that he worked for one day, on Feb. 25th.
other kids
Small parts and extras. A girl who presumably does an unseen tapdancing routine is seen backstage, and she seems to be the one listed by Maltin & Bann as Jackie White. However, she's not mentioned in the ledger. Five additional kids can be seen in the audience, including the boy two rows behind the gang that looks like Leonard Kibrick, which might be the reason Maltin & Bann listed him. He's not, however, listed in the ledger.

the animals:

Pete the Pup IV
Bit part. He can be seen at the fence when the gang first appears on screen.
Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.
other animals
Small part. The only remaining animal is the parrot that heckles Spanky while he rehearses. I think they may have gotten a new parrot since the silent era.

the adults:

Kitty Kelly as Spanky's mom
Featured role. She pushes Spanky onto the stage, only to make a spectacle of herself in the end.
Tom Herbert as the master of ceremonies
Supporting role. The cutting continuity refers to him as the 'manager.' In between introducing the acts, he has to fend off Spanky's mother.
May Wallace as "Grandma"
Supporting role. Listed as "Mae Wallace" in the cutting continuity. She's Spanky's grandma and is sympathetic to his disdain for the stage.
James C. Morton as the piano player
Supporting role. He spends his time directly in front of the maelstrom caused by the gang's noisemakers.
Beth Hazelton as Marianne's mom
Supporting role. She can't afford to buy the dress her daughter's wearing. Maltin & Bann identify her as Ruth Hiatt.
Charlie Hall as the stage hand
Small part. He gets in the way of the master of ceremonies.
Bess Flowers as one of the friends of Spanky's mom
Small part. She's the friend that does the talking and sits right next to Spanky's mom.
Robert McKenzie as a member of the audience
Small part. He's talking to the piano player until the gang arrives and pushes him out of the way.
Doc Kelly as a member of the audience
Small part. He's the overweight man sitting behind Robert McKenzie. Listed by Maltin & Bann as Jack "Tiny" Lipson.
Ernie Alexander as a member of the audience
Extra. He's sitting in the third row, three seats to the left of boy 134.
Fred Holmes as a member of the audience
Extra. He's sitting two seats to the left of McKenzie.
other adults
Small parts, bit parts and extras.
(1.) The voice of the parrot.
(2.) Seven more friends of Spanky's mom.
(3.) At least four additional women backstage with the child performers.
(4.) Another man backstage seen with Hall in the shot looking from stage right to stage left.
(5.) The remaining members of the audience, which might not be any more than twenty.

the music:

"Good Old Days" by Leroy Shield
Copyrighted Jan. 10, 1931.
(A14.) This is played during the opening credits and as Spanky recites for his mother's friends. A fragment is played over the end title.
"She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain"
Originally a negro spiritual entitled "When The Chariot Comes." The retitled version was a popular Appalachian song in the 19th century, and also sung by railroad workers in the latter part of that century. In this film, it's sung by Alfalfa and Harold Switzer. Hatley received arrangement credit for this version, which was copyrighted on Mar. 8, 1935.
"Honolulu Baby" by T. Marvin Hatley
Copyrighted Oct. 18, 1933. This is sung by The Floradora Dollies. This song was introduced in the Laurel & Hardy feature "Sons Of The Desert."
"Dinah" by Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young and Harry Akst
Ethel Waters had a number two hit with this song in 1926. In 1932, both Bing Crosby & The Mills Brothers had a number one hit with it. In this film it's sung by The Cabin Kids.
"Swinging The Blues Away" by T. Marvin Hatley
Copyrighted Sep. 15, 1933. Written with lyrics by Billy Gilbert and Frank Terry. An instrumental version is played on the piano as Daisy Dimple suffers her case of stage fright.
"Please Press Your Lips To Mine" by T. Marvin Hatley
Copyrighted Sep. 15, 1933. This is the harmonica piece played by Freddie Walburn, though it's barely recognizable. It was also, incidentally, the first composition Hatley wrote for Roach back in 1930.
"Wobbly Feet" by T. Marvin Hatley
Copyrighted Jan. 3, 1935. This is the piano piece played during the tapdancing number, while Spanky's mom talks to the gang.
"If It Were Only True" by Leroy Shield
Copyrighted Jan. 10, 1931. This is played on the piano as Spanky takes the stage.


Eight shooting dates went into the making of this film. Almost three weeks had passed since shooting finished for "Anniversary Trouble" (no. 134). Shooting for "Beginner's Luck" started on Feb. 20th and continued until Feb. 28th. There was no shooting on Feb. 24th, which was a Sunday. After this, almost two weeks would pass before the Our Gang unit began filming "Teacher's Beau" (no. 136).

Spanky recites "The Village Smithy" for his mom's friends.

This film was made due to the demand for more musical efforts following "Mike Fright," and went on to be one of the most successful shorts in series history.

From a press item: "'Beginner's Luck' stopped the show at the Capitol Theatre in New York. At its conclusion, the applause resounded, and Rudy Vallee, who was making a personal appearance, was forced to wait on the stage until the demonstration had stopped."

The script submitted to MGM was given the catalog number B340.

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© Robert Demoss.

My thanks to the following people for assisting with this page:
Rob Stone (for providing the production number)
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)
Drina Mohacsi (for help with IDing the five hula girls)
Piet Schreuders (for identifying "Swinging The Blues Away," "Please Press Your Lips To Mine" and "Wobbly Feet")
Elliot Unkefer (for noticing that "Wobbly Feet" is in this film, and for pointing out the 'A14' arrangement of "Good Old Days")
Jesse Brisson (for debunking Jack Lipson's involvement in this film)
Paul Mular (for providing info on the Cabin Fever laserdiscs)

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