Our Gang

film no. 1


technical details:

Production A-1.

Conceived probably in late 1921, not in mid-winter 1922, as Maltin & Bann state.

Filmed January 3 to 19, and February 2 to 17, 1922. See the 'miscellaneous' section below for more details.

The 1977 version of the book also states that the film was announced to the trade press in August, but then, during the section on "One Terrible Day" (no. 4), extends this to an announcement referring to the entire series. This would have still been prior to the first general release of the series.

Copyrighted October 11, 1922, by Pathé Exchange, Inc. Registration no. LU18302. Since the copyright was not renewed, this film is now in the public domain.

Released November 5, 1922. It was the 3rd film in the series to be released.

Silent two-reeler.

Probable opening title: 'Hal Roach presents His Rascals in "Our Gang".' The '"Our Gang" Comedies' heading would not have been used for the first version of the film, since the film title is what lead to the series name. However, the remake probably carried it, especially since the lobby poster does. Also used variously during the first year were '"Our Gang" Comedy' and '"Our Gang" Series.'


the crew:

Produced by Hal Roach
Probably credited in the film as a presenter.
Supervised by Charles Parrott
Better known as Charley Chase; the film probably includes this credit. Parrott was director-general of all of the studio's output during this period.
Directed by Fred Newmeyer and Robert F. McGowan
Maltin & Bann reveal Newmeyer as the original director in the text section, but don't include his name in the credits. Presumably, he received on-screen credit in the original but not in the remake. McGowan directed the remake, and was probably credited (but without the middle initial).
Titles by H. M. Walker
This credit probably appears in the film.
Story by Hal E. Roach
This credit probably doesn't appear in the film.
Released by Pathé Exchange, Inc.
Passed by the National Board of Review
Probably indicated in the film.
studio personnel
general manager - Warren Doane
assistant general manager - L. A. French
secretary-treasurer - C. H. Roach
construction supervisor - C. E. Christensen
purchasing superintendent - John L. Murphy
still photographer - Gene Kornman
possible uncredited involvement
editing - Credit usually went to Thomas J. Crizer during this period.
titles - Tom McNamara probably illustrated the title cards.
writing - Tom McNamara and Robert F. McGowan were originally recruited as gag writers for the series. Thomas J. Crizer was also one of the earliest gag writers for the series. Leo McCarey may have also contributed gags.
property department - Charles Oelze and Dick Gilbert were probably involved in this capacity by this time.

the kids:

Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison as "Booker T. Bacon"
Featured role. He's essentially the leader of the gang in this film, having most of the ideas, and is featured strongly throughout the surviving footage. Maltin & Bann indicate that the "Sunshine Sammy" moniker was used, but this isn't the case in the existing footage. In the fragment screened by the Sons of the Desert, his name is given as "Sunny Jim," but even this may not be from an original inter-title. This is the same name used in one of the UK 9.5mm extracts. At one point in the original titles, the boys called him "Snowy," but this appears to be a bit of name-calling. The name "Booker T. Bacon" is from the original titles.
John Hatton as "Mortimer Melrose"
Featured role. He's the boy in the Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit who switches clothes with Ernie and becomes one of the gang. He's strongly featured throughout the surviving footage, and also has a lot of the ideas behind sabotaging the rival merchant's store. The non-original inter-titles refer to him as "Patrick Melrose," with the nickname "Pat." The name "Mortimer Melrose" is from the original titles.
Anna Mae Bilson as "Mary Jane"
Featured role. She's featured strongly throughout the surviving footage, and is pivotal to the plot, since she's part of the romantic triangle, and also is in danger of being put out on the street with her mother if they don't come up with the rent. Some of the UK footage changes her character name to "Flora," while in other parts it's "Mary." The name "Mary Jane" is from the original titles.
Billy Condon as "Jimmy"
Small part. He's seen in the first part of the film trying to start a romantic relationship with Mary Jane. Instead, she falls for the more refined Mortimer.
Mickey Daniels
Small part. He's the only member of the 'gang' besides Ernie that is given anything specific to do, since he fetches a doll from a nearby girl to coax Mortimer behind a fence so that the gang can steal his clothes for Ernie. In the surviving footage, his is little more than a bit part.
Jackie Condon as "Roosevelt Pershing Smith"
Small part. He appears as (presumably) Billy's little brother, who advises him to refine himself if he wants to compete with Mortimer. This is a fairly small part for Jackie, at least in the surviving footage. It isn't absolutely clear whether or not he appeared in the pilot version of the film.
other kids
Supporting role and bit parts.
(1.) The girl who hands her doll to Mickey. This may be the girl that Maltin & Bann listed as Mary Kornman in the second edition of their book, but I don't think it's her, even if she's wearing a brunette wig.
(2.) Five more boys in the gang.
questionable listings
Peggy Cartwright is listed by Maltin & Bann, but I've yet to see any evidence of her inclusion in this film. They also state that 'perhaps' Monty O'Grady and Winston and Weston Doty appear, but there are no identical twins in the surviving footage, and their identification of O'Grady in other films has turned out to be George "Freckles" Warde.

the animals:

Dinah the Mule
Supporting role. Dinah gets a fair amount of screentime in the surviving footage, kicking various objects (including people) towards various destinations for speedy delivery. In this film, she belongs to Ernie.
pony 001
Supporting role. The pony is owned in this film by Pat, and assists the boys in their act of sabotage. The UK footage uses the name "Dobbin" for the pony, but the titles aren't original.
Bill the Bulldog
Supporting role. This dog appears more often than any other during the first couple of years of the series. In this film, the kids make him look like a mad dog to scare customers away from the rival merchant. The non-original text-titles refer to him as "Bonzo."
other animals
Bit parts.
(1.) Mary Jane's dog, who drops her doll into the creek so Jimmy can rescue it.
(2.) A puppy that sucks on the fingers of a rubber glove, thinking it's a cow's udder.
(3.) A cat sitting in a box at the beginning of the film, with perhaps other cats sleeping in the box, but I'm not quite sure.
(4.) Five dogs chasing after the bad guy at the end of the film, one of which should be dog 001, and one of which may be dog 007.

the adults:

Wallace Howe as the rival merchant
Supporting role. He's the skinflint who uses dishonest methods to drive the widow out of business. Conveniently, he's also her landlord, and is ready to throw her out on the street if she can't come up with the rent. When the gang gets involved, he eventually leaves town. He has a fairly substantial part in this film, but only appears in the latter half of the surviving footage. The non-original text-titles refer to him as "Mr. Jacobson." Maltin & Bann list John Hatton in this role, but it turns out that he's one of the kids.
Molly Thompson as the rich boy's mother
Small part. She appears briefly and faints at the sight of her transformed son.
Mark Jones as "Emil"
Small part. This is the drunk who gets delivered to his home via mule-kick. The original text-titles reveal his character name.
Charley Lloyd as one of the customers
Small part. This is pretty much a guess, since it's hard to tell, but he's the man being waited on by Pat. His purchase is the first to be delivered by mule power.
Helen Gilmore as Emil's wife
Bit part. She requests assistance with her drunken husband.
other adults
Supporting roles, small parts, bit parts and extras.
(1.) Mary Jane's widowed mother who runs the village store. She's given a fair amount of screen time in the latter half of the surviving footage. The non-original text-titles refer to her as "Mrs. Nickol." Maltin & Bann list Anna Mae Bilson in this role, but this is clearly an error.
(2.) The woman who needs a hat, so the pony steals one for her from the rival merchant.
(3.) The woman who plays Ernie's mom early in the film. Could possibly be a white man in blackface.
(4.) The woman accompanying Molly Thompson.
(5.) The man who comes to assist Thompson when she faints. We don't get a chance to see his face.
(6.) There are several other adults serving as customers for both the widow and the rival merchant. Two women faint at the sight of the 'mad dog,' one of whom might be Patsy O'Byrne, who Richard Bann has added to his cast listing. Another woman is seen as Charley Lloyd's wife as he walks up to his door. In total, there are perhaps fifteen adults in the surviving footage.

the locations:

Motor Avenue and Woodbine Street, Palms district, Los Angeles
After Billyy gets himself guzzied up, he appears at the northeast corner of this intersection, and Mary Jane walks away with him. The brick building is the People's Water Company, located at 3392 Motor Avenue. In the distance, we see the northwest corner, which doesn't yet have the familiar Palms Chamber of Commerce park bench (as seen in no. 37, "The Love Bug").
Motor Avenue and National Boulevard, Palms district, Los Angeles
Mickey leads Mortimer into a fenced off area to be attacked by the gang. This location was part of the Palms Garage property at 3304 Motor, and extended to National Boulevard in back. A reverse shot reveals the businesses across the street on the west side of Motor, including the Palms Press and the realty company. Just south of the Palms Garage property was the building at 3316 Motor, which was the Master Mfg. Co. by 1927. The back of this property, which extended to the back alley, served as Ernie's home. When the gang first appears, they peer over the fence of this backyard. Behind them is the south wall of the Palms Garage. In between is the location in which Mickey lures Pat to be beaten up by the gang. The peaked structure shown in the back of this property is also shown in "Fire Fighters" (no. 2), and the structures beyond that are presumably those of the Palms Lumber Company across the street at 10321 National Boulevard. We can definitely see the Palms Lumber Company over the back fence of the Master property. We also see the mule and the kids passing through the back gate of this property. As Ernie paces back and forth wearing the barrel, he's along the southern edge of this property. Later, Ernie and the gang are standing right in front of the lumber company. As the camera points north in this shot, we see in the distance the house at the southwest corner of Motor Avenue and Irene Street.
the street names on the sidewalk
Ernie writes the following street names on the sidewalk: Central Ave., Elm St., Main St., and Broad St. It's pretty clear that none of these streets have any relation to the actual locations used in the film. Even in the scene with the street names, it appears that the Roach studio provided the setting.

miscellaneous:

A total of 29 shooting dates went into the making of this film. According to the studio datebook for 1922, filming began Jan. 3rd, and was 'finished' on the 5th, suggesting that things weren't going well. Filming resumed the next day and continued until Jan. 17th. The datebook specifically states that exteriors were shot on the 3rd, and that shooting was 'on stage' on the 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th. No shooting took place on the 8th or the 15th, which were Sundays. Retakes were shot on the 18th and 19th. The datebook entry for the latter date specifically says 'on story L15 chg to A1; some retakes.' L15 was the Harold Lloyd feature "Grandma's Boy," which was in production during the latter part of 1921 and early 1922. In fact, the datebook states that the Lloyd Co. shot these earliest Our Gang scenes, which might explain why Fred Newmeyer was directing them.

After one or more initial previews, retakes resumed on Feb. 2nd and continued until Feb. 17th. To be specific, though, the datebook doesn't bother to include the word 'retakes' for the 15th, 16th or 17th. Exteriors were shot on the 2nd, and filming was considered 'finished' on the 17th. No filming took place on the 5th or on the 12th, which were Sundays. These February dates were credited to the 'Animal Co.' which explains why the earliest production numbers begin with the letter 'A.' It should be noted, though, that the film was listed as prod. A-1 from the very beginning. It's also interesting to note that story work on "Fire Fighters" (no. 2) began the day after this film was completed.

Hal Roach himself described how the initial positive print of the film was given to Sid Grauman, who screened it at his Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. When a newspaper advertisement appeared a week later, lauding the film as a comedy sensation, Roach thought Grauman was pranking him, but it turned out that Grauman was having great success with it. It was this initial press coverage that led to the series being named after this initial film.

The Progressive Silent Film List website run by Carl Bennett states that the film was completely reshot on the February dates. This is also what Maltin & Bann say, except that they state that it was initially filmed in the late spring, and after having been previewed during the summer, was remade during the time the second and third films in the series were released (in October and late November). But they contradict themselves by mentioning an early April preview (which was reviewed in the April 8th Moving Picture World). It appears that this preview must have been of the remake. All of that having been said, the 1922 payroll ledger points to some large portion of the film being reshot rather than the whole thing, similar to what was done with "Your Own Back Yard" a few years later. The Condon brothers only worked on the film in January, and yet they're present in the finished product.

The datebook also takes note of the weather on the various shooting dates. For the January dates, the weather was usually described as 'fair.' The exceptions to this would be on the 5th and 7th, when it was described as 'clear,' the 3rd and 4th, when it was described as 'clear & cold,' and the 19th, when it was described as 'clear and very cold.' When filming resumed in February, there were four 'fair' days, from the 2nd to the 5th, four 'rainy' days, from the 8th to the 11th, and four 'clear' days, from the 13th to the 16th. Otherwise, the weather was 'grey' on the 6th and 7th, 'spotty' on the 12th, and 'cloudy' on the 17th.

This film was the third of six in the first 'series' of Our Gang films.

There were 40 copies of this film printed for its initial release.


availability:

Hal Roach's Rascals in Our Gang (VHS/DVD) from C. W. Films
This is a hybrid version deriving from various home movie sources. The VHS was available briefly on eBay in the spring of 2003, and the DVD was first offered on eBay in October 2004. The opening and closing titles are new. The inter-titles are sometimes original, but sometimes derive from 9.5mm sources from the UK. The picture quality is generally good. The print totals 12:45, with 11:05 of original footage. Roughly half of the original film is included. This version has appeared on at least one bootleg, but it should be advised that an improved C. W. version was prepared for the aborted Laughsmith set.
Rascals Silents Vol. 4 (VHS/DVD) from A-1 Video
This is a copy of the C. W. Films release.
Kid Gangs And Juvenile Stars (DVD) from Looser Than Loose Publishing
Released 2007. This is a home movie fragment from Exclusive Movie Studios, Inc., entitled "Donkey Delivery Company," and contains 2:42 of original footage.
other releases
A homemade VHS appeared on eBay in Sep. 2004 containing "Donkey Delivery Company." The picture quality on the VHS was fair, suffering mainly from the left side of the screen being slightly out of focus. The original footage totaled 2:42. At the beginning of June 2005, a DVD appeared on eBay containing the same home movie. Both of these releases disappeared after a small handful of copies were sold.

special note
When Maltin & Bann wrote the first edition of their book in 1977, they considered this to be a lost film. And this is at least partially true, since to this day, no complete copy is known to exist. However, in the second edition (from 1992), they had been able to view a fragment, and had also learned that two versions of the film had been made. I suspect they may have been viewing the home movie entitled "Who's A Sissy," since they added Mickey Daniels to their cast listing at that point. It's almost certain that whatever footage they viewed is contained within the C. W. Films version.
So far, I haven't seen any good evidence of the original pilot version of the film surviving, but the A-Haunting We Will Go tent of the Sons of the Desert screened a digest version that they thought might have derived from that first version.
The American Film Institute restored a 9.5mm reel from Australia deriving from this film and exhibited it in January 1999.

© Robert Demoss.


My thanks to the following people for assisting with this page:
Robin Cook (for information regarding the AFI reel of this film, and character names for Ernie Morrison and the pony in the UK home movie extract)
Matthew Lydick (for the character names used by Ernie Morrison, Jackie Condon, John Hatton and Billy Condon.)
Greg Lawrence (for cast info acquired from Richard Bann revealing the involvement of Wallace Howe, Mark Jones, Helen Gilmore and Patsy O'Byrne, and the status of Anna Mae Bilson as a child actor)
Rob Stone (for providing the production number and shooting dates)
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)


The Lucky Corner Homepage