General Spanky

film no. 150


availability:

General Spanky (VHS) from MGM/UA Home Video
Released Sep. 21, 1991. This is a complete original print with excellent picture quality. The total footage lasts 71:21.

General Spanky (LD) from MGM/UA Home Video
Released Apr. 1993.

The Little Rascals Two Pack (2 VHS set) from Brentwood Home Video
Released in 1994. The second VHS is Little Rascals Scrapbook Volume Two, and contains the theatrical trailer, which totals 2:27.

The Best Of Spanky (DVD) from Legend Films
Released Mar. 27, 2007. Also included as part of The Little Rascals In Color! (3 DVD set). This is theatrical trailer, which totals 2:22.

The Our Gang Story (VHS/DVD) from GoodTimes Home Video
VHS released 1994. DVD released May 21, 2002. Also included as part of Our Gang Collector Series 4 Pack (4 DVD set), released Mar. 21, 2001, Our Gang Collector Series 5 Pack (5 VHS/DVD set), released Feb. 2002 (VHS) and Mar. 2004 (DVD), and The Best Of Our Gang Volume 1 (DVD) released June 1, 2004. A clip lasting 0:09 is included, taken from the theatrical trailer. Another clip lasting 0:38 is included, also from the trailer. Both clips have narration added.

100 Years Of Comedy (DVD) from Passport Video
Released June 24, 2003. Included in this documentary are two clips from the trailer for this film, lasting a total of 0:09. We first see Alfalfa singing, and then Spanky and Buckwheat walking along.

other releases
This film has appeared on at least one bootleg DVD-R, which is no longer on the market.


technical details:

Production F-12.

Copyrighted December 4, 1936, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corporation. Registration no. LP6811. Renewed December 6, 1963, with registration no. R327468. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2031.

Released December 11, 1936. It was the 150th film in the series to be released.

All-talking eight-reeler. 71 minutes, 6,426 feet. See the 'miscellaneous' section below for details.

Opening title: 'Hal Roach presents 'Spanky' McFarland in "General Spanky".'


the crew:

Produced by Hal Roach
Credited in the film as a presenter.

Production managed by Sidney S. Van Keuren
This credit doesn't appear in the film.

Directed by Fred Newmeyer and Gordon Douglas
Roach recalled that Douglas probably directed the scenes with the kids.

Photography: Art Lloyd, A. S. C. and Walter Lundin, A. S. C.
This credit appears in the film.

Film Editor: Ray Snyder
This credit appears in the film.

Original Story and Screen Play by Richard Flournoy, Hal Yates and John Guedel, with Carl Harbaugh
Flournoy, Yates and Guedel receive onscreen credit, but not Harbaugh.

Musical Score: Marvin Hatley
This credit appears in the film.

Sound: William Randall, with Elmer A. Raguse
Randall is given onscreen credit, but not Raguse.

Photographic Effects: Roy Seawright
This credit appears in the film. Maltin & Bann credit him with 'special effects.' There is one animation effect in this film, showing an explosion.

Settings: Arthur I. Royce and W. L. Stevens
Both names are listed in the film. The 'W' stands for William. Maltin & Bann list him as William I. Stevens.

Casting by Joe Rivkin
This credit doesn't appear in the film.

Location scouting by Jack Roach
According to Maltin & Bann. This credit doesn't appear in the film.

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. 2480.

studio personnel
possible uncredited involvement


the kids:

George "Spanky" McFarland as "Spanky" aka "Spanfield George Leonard"
Lead role. Credited as 'Spanky' McFarland. Marshall calls him "Mr. Spanky," and at one point, "Sonny," which is what he was called offscreen. He's an orphan in this film, who is taken in by a captain in the Confederate army. He forms his own kiddie army, in which he is addressed as "General Spanky."

Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas as "Buckwheat"
Supporting role. Credited as Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas in the opening titles, and as Billie Thomas in the end title. He's a lost slave, and teams up with Spanky, and eventually his army.

Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as "Alfalfa"
Supporting role. Credited as Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer in the opening titles, and as Carl Switzer in the end title. He leads his own army, but loses his troupes to Spanky. He then becomes second-in-command.

Flaette Roberts as "Flaette"
Small part. Listed in the cutting continuity and at least one casting directory as Flayette Roberts. She's the nurse in the kiddie army, and accompanies Spanky and Alfalfa to the house and plays piano.

Jerry Tucker
Small part. He's part of the kiddie army and has a few lines of dialogue.

Harold Switzer
Small part. He's part of the kiddie army and has a few lines of dialogue.

John Collum
Small part. He's part of the kiddie army, but has no dialogue.

Dickie De Nuet
Small part. He's part of the kiddie army, but has no dialogue.

Rex Downing
Bit part. He's the lookout at the gang's cave and announces that the Yanks are coming.

Eugene "Porky" Lee
Extra. He's bringing up the rear behind Dickie De Nuet in the first shot we see of Alfalfa's army, but is absent in the remainder of the scene. He's also in the longshot as Spanky and Alfalfa leave the fort carrying the white flag. Presumably, Porky was ill during some of the shooting dates and would have otherwise been given more to do.

other kids
Extras.
(1.) The initial boy who serves as the lookout at the gang's cave hideout. Close scrutiny indicates that this is somebody other than Rex Downing.
(2.) The kids in the yard having a birthday party, including three boys and three girls.
(3.) At least two kids among the slaves on the boat.
(4.) Two people, presumably kids, doubling for Spanky and Buckwheat as they swim to shore after going overboard.


the animals:

Von the Dog as "Von"
Small part. He eats the chicken in place of Buckwheat, and later discovers the wounded Mr. Marsh.

Leo
Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.

other animals
Bit parts and extras.
(1.) The mule that Spanky and Alfalfa ride to the northern camp.
(2.) The kitten followed by Buckwheat on the boat.
(3.) Numerous horses ridden by the various soldiers.


the adults:

Phillips Holmes as "Marshall Valient" aka "Marsh"
Featured role. He receives onscreen credit. Spanky calls him "Mr. Marsh." The cutting continuity introduces him as "Captain Marshall Valient." He takes Spanky into his home, but leaves to fight in the war. He returns after being wounded and is arrested for being a spy.

Irving Pichel as "Capt. Simmons"
Featured role. He receives onscreen credit. He's a crooked gambler that's befuddled by Spanky, and later becomes a corrupt captain in the union army and almost has Mr. Marsh executed. An insulted Alfalfa calls him "Mr. Simmons."

Ralph Morgan as the Yankee general
Supporting role. He receives onscreen credit. He befriends Spanky and intervenes in Mr. Marsh's trial.

Rosina Lawrence as "Louella Blanchard" aka "Miss Louella"
Supporting role. She receives onscreen credit. She's in love with Mr. Marsh, and has to deal with the fast-moving Simmons.

Louise Beavers as "Cornelia"
Small part. She receives onscreen credit. Maltin & Bann indicate that her character name is "'Mammy' Cornelia," but I haven't noticed the "Mammy" part. She's the black woman normally seen doing chores and talking with Louella.

James Burtis as the boat captain
Small part. He receives onscreen credit, but only during the end titles. He's repeatedly bufuddled by Buckwheat.

Robert Middlemass as the overseer
Small part. He receives onscreen credit, but only during the end titles. I'm assuming that Maltin & Bann are referring to the man in charge of the slaves on the boat, who repeatedly apologizes to the captain for Buckwheat's mischief.

Hobart Bosworth as "Colonel Blanchard"
Small part. He receives onscreen credit. He throws Marshall out of his house for being against the war.

Buddy Roosevelt as "Lieutenant Johnson"
Small part. He's the guy with the moustache who answers to Simmons, and is the one who informs Marshall of his impending execution. Maltin & Bann list him as the 1st Lieutenant.

Carl Voss as the 2nd Lieutenant
Small part. According to Maltin & Bann. He's presumably the other lieutenant under Simmons that's present in most of the scenes with Roosevelt.

Ernie Alexander
Small part. He's the friend of Marshall's that brings him to win back their friends' money, and earlier turns down a shoeshine from Spanky.

Richard R. Neill as "Colonel Parrish"
Small part. Listed by Maltin & Bann as an extra, but it looks to me like he's the colonel that the Yankee general speaks to the most.

Walter Gregory as "Captain Haden"
Small part. According to Maltin & Bann. I'm not familiar with this actor. The character name matches the officer standing behind Morgan's desk.

Willie "Sleep 'n' Eat" Best as "Henry"
Bit part. He receives onscreen credit as William Best, but only during the end credits. He's seen painting the floor next to the front door of the mansion.

Frank H. LaRue as a slavemaster
Bit part. Listed as an extra by Maltin & Bann. It looks to me that he's one of the two slavemasters (the one on the left) discussing runaway slaves as Buckwheat listens.

Henry Hall as a slavemaster
Bit part. He's the other slavemaster (the one on the right) discussing runaway slaves.

Jeffrey Sayre
Bit part. His presence in this film is revealed by a casting directory. It appears that he's one of the two friends of Marshall's who are losing their money, specifically the one on the left. The two are named "Chris" and "Gregory," but it isn't specified in the film which is which.

Harry Bernard as a man on the boat
Bit part. He's the first man that Buckwheat asks to be his master.

Hooper Atchley as one of the southern gentlemen
Bit part. Maltin & Bann list him as a slavemaster, which is a logical assumption, but is not specifically stated in the film. As the men in Colonel Blanchard's home become indignant at Marshall's reluctance to rush to war, Atchley exclaims 'He's not with us!'

Karl Hackett
Bit part. Maltin & Bann list him among the extras, and I'm pretty sure he's the man steering the steamboat.

Ham Kinsey
Bit part. Listed by Maltin & Bann as a bit player. It appears that he's second in line to have his shoes shined among the men with paint on their shoes.

other adults
Small parts, bit parts and extras. Maltin & Bann list several extras that I've yet to identify in this film, including Jack Hill, Jack Cooper, Slim Whittaker, Alex Finlayson, Harry Strang, and Portia Lanning. They also state that Jack Daugherty plays the general's aide, but it's not clear who they're talking about.
(1.) Marshall's other gambling friend, either "Chris" or "Gregory."
(2.) Marshall's head slave, "Jessie."
(3.) The Yankee soldier who discovers the cave.
(4.) "Captain Gehrig," in charge of the fourth battalion. The cutting continuity identifies this character as "Captain Gerry."
(5.) The second man Buckwheat asks to be his master.
(6.) "Colonel Baker."
(7.) The soldier who Spanky gets rid of as Marshall hides nearby.
(8.) About ten remaining friends of Colonel Blanchard.
(9.) The passengers on the riverbank, including the one that tells the captain about Jefferson Davis.
(10.) The men reading the war notice.
(11.) The various passengers on the boat, including several shoeshine customers.
(12.) The adult slaves on the boat, including the one that finds Buckwheat in the barrel.
(13.) The orderly that takes the message to the general.
(14.) The three women and the black man in the yard with the birthday party.
(15.) Various military personnel for both the Union and the Confederacy, including those seen in the stock footage, and various townspeople shown in the stock footage.


the music:

"Ezekiel's Wheel"
Also known as "Ezekiel Saw The Wheel" and "Zekiel Saw The Wheel." This is sung by the slaves as Marshall saves Spanky from Simmons.

"Oh! Dem Golden Slippers!" by James A. Bland
Published in 1879. This is played as the slaves leave the boat. It's repeated as the kids trap Simmons and Marshall makes it back to the cave. It's played again as the second trial ends.

"Old Folks At Home" aka "Swanee River" by Stephen Collins Foster
Published in 1851. This is played as Buckwheat overhears the two slavemasters talking. It's played again as Spanky gets a second helping of chicken.

"Deep River"
This is an African-American spiritual is unknown origin. It's played as Buckwheat realizes he's alone, and as he meets Spanky.

"My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night" by Stephen Collins Foster
Published in 1853. This is played as Louella and Cornelia talk, and as Marshall arrives. It's played again as Marshall invites Spanky to stay at his home and dinner starts. It's played a third time as the kids barge in on Simmons and Louella.

"Long, Long Ago" by Thomas Haynes Bayly
Published around 1830. This is played as Marshall argues with the other southern gentlemen. It's played again as Spanky gives Marshall advise about fighting in the war. It's played a third time as Buckwheat goes in through the window during dinner time. It's played a fourth time as Spanky gets rid of the Union soldier while Marshall is hiding.

"Nellie Gray" by Benjamin R. Hanby
Written in 1856. This is played as Col. Blanchard kicks Marshall out of his house. It's played again as the boys from Alfalfa's army join Spanky. A short bit is repeated as Marshall and Louella meet at their rendezvous point. It's played again as Marshall is informed of his impending execution.

"Listen To The Mockingbird" by Septimus Winner
Winner published this song in April 1855 under the pseudonym Alice Hawthorne. This is played as Spanky and Buckwheat cry over being hungry, and as Spanky reunites with Marshall. It's played again as the kids are in the cave and decide not to use blood.

"Sweet Evalina"
Part of this piece is played as Spanky and Marshall finish their conversation as they walk. It's played again as Marshall gives Spanky final instructions before going off to war. Part of it is played again at the end of the second trial scene.

"Old Black Joe" by Stephen Collins Foster
Published in 1860. This is played as Von gets under the table with Buckwheat. It's played again as Marshall discovers Buckwheat under the table.

"Double Quick Time"
This is the drum and bugle music played at the beginning of the war sequence.

"Dixie (I Wish I Was In Dixie Land)" by Daniel Decatur Emmett
Published in 1859. Also known as "Dixie's Land." This is played as Marshall swears in the two soldiers. It's played again at the beginning of the scene at the kiddie fortress. It's played again as the kids fire on the Union army. A part of it is played again as the kids pretend to bring in reinforcements. It's played again as Buckwheat spills the gun powder.

"Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" by George F. Root
Originally a civil war song, this was featured in the musical "Naughty Marietta" and was a number one hit for Byron Harlan & Frank Stanley in 1910. It was later given new lyrics and retitled "Jesus Loves The Little Children." It's first played as the two kiddie armies meet. It's played again as Alfalfa joins Spanky's army.

"Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean" by David T. Shaw
Published in 1843. This is played as Simmons is given his orders. It's played again as the orderly arrives to tell the Yankee general of the battle at Blanchard Hill. It's played again with the Union's victory over the gang. A vocal version is played, and followed by the instrumental version, as Spanky and Alfalfa arrive at the Union camp.

"Yankee Doodle"
This derives from a 15th century Dutch harvesting song. Richard Schuckburgh wrote the words as we know them today during the French and Indian War to ridicule the colonists. During the Revolutionary War, colonists used it as a rallying anthem. It's first played as Rex Downing announces that the Yanks are coming. A part of it is played again as the Union army arrives near the gang's fort. A short bit is played at the end of "Charge Of Victory."

"Captain Jinks" by T. MacLagan
Maclagan wrote the music, with lyrics by William Horace Lingard, in the 19th century. The song was featured in the Broadway show "Captain Jinks Of The Horse Marines" in 1901. This is played as Simmons sends the orderly for reinforcements. Part of it is repeated as the Union fires back on the kiddie fort. It's repeated again as Buckwheat tries to clobber Simmons. It's played again as the gang prepares for Marshall's initiation into their army, and soon continues as he joins the kiddie army and the cave is discovered by the Union.

"Commence Firing"
This is the bugle piece played as the Union starts their barrage of gun fire on the gang's fortress.

"Cease Firing"
This is the bugle piece played as the gang surrenders.

"The Battle Hymn Of The Republic"
Published in 1862. It's played as Simmons brags to the general about his triumphant victory.

"The Battle Cry Of Freedom" by George F. Root
Published in 1862. A short bit of this piece is played as Simmons is ordered to stay behind at Blanchard Hill.

"Tenting Tonight On The Old Camp Ground" by Walter C. Kittredge
Published in 1863. This is the spiritual song played as Marshall is wounded and Spanky finds him.

"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" by Louis Lambert
Published in 1863. It's played as Marshall and the kids are back in the cave after his rendezvous with Louella.

"Massa's In The Cold, Cold Ground" by Stephen Collins Foster
Published in 1852. This is played as Marshall is in the robe and crown and Simmons arrests him.


the locations:

Sacramento River
Filmed along an eight-mile stretch for the duration of a week. The boat was called The Cherokee.


miscellaneous:

The shot of the cannons firing derives from footage left over from D. W. Griffith's 1930 feature "Abraham Lincoln." In the original film, they fire one at a time, but in "General Spanky," they fire simultaneously. Otherwise, the setting is identical. Maltin & Bann state that stock footage was also derived from Buster Keaton's 1926 feature "The General," but I haven't spotted any identical footage. The shots of the Union army marching might have been left over from that film.

The gang's army is called The Loyal Protection of Women and Children Regiment Club of the World and Mississippi River.

In early 1935, Roach contracted with MGM to make an Our Gang feature called "Crook's Incorporated," which would have co-starred Thelma Todd, Patsy Kelly and Charley Chase. The script was written by Roach himself.

Nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Sound Recording of 1936 category. The awards ceremony took place on Mar. 4, 1937.


©July 27, 2005, by Robert Demoss.
2006 updates: 1/3, 1/16, 5/16, 6/14, 7/5, 10/25.
2007 updates: 4/1, 12/8.
2008 updates: 5/26, 8/9, 8/11, 8/27, 8/29, 9/7.
2009 updates: 5/19.
2010 updates: 3/26.


Thanks to James A. Gipson, Joe Moore, Piet Schreuders and Rob Stone for assistance on this page.


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