Thundering Fleas

film no. 51


technical details:

Production K-9.

Filmed March 8 to 25, 1926. See the 'miscellaneous' section below for details.

Copyrighted May 26, 1926, by Pathé Exchange, Inc. Registration no. LU22775. Since the copyright was not renewed, this film is now in the public domain.

Released July 4, 1926. This is according to both Rob Stone's Laurel Or Hardy and Richard Lewis Ward's A History Of The Hal Roach Studios. Maltin & Bann list July 18th. It was the 51st film in the series to be released.

Silent two-reeler.

Probable opening title: '"Our Gang" Comedies - Hal Roach presents His Rascals in "Thundering Fleas".'

Released into TV syndication as Mischief Makers episode no. 1046, "The Flea Circus," copyrighted Sep. 1, 1960, with registration number LP17351.

A five second clip was used in the Glenn Tryon comedy "45 Minutes From Hollywood" that derived from the rushes for this film, and is very similar to the version of the scene that made the final cut.


the crew:

Produced by Hal Roach
Probably credited in the film as a presenter.
Supervised by F. Richard Jones
Probably credited in the film as supervising director.
Directed by Robert F. McGowan
This credit probably appears in the film, but without his middle initial.
Assistant Directors: Robert A. McGowan and Charles Oelze
According to Rob Stone's book. McGowan was later credited as Anthony Mack. He was being credited in the payroll summaries as the Our Gang assistant director during this period, but Oelze was still being listed as a prop man.
Photographed by Art Lloyd
According to Rob Stone's notes. This credit might not appear in the film.
Edited by Richard Currier
This credit probably appears in the film.
Cutter: Lloyd Campbell
This credit derives from credit given in Rob Stone's book, which is corroborated by the payroll summaries.
Titles by H. M. Walker
This credit probably appears in the film.
Props by Leo Samwell, Ted Driscoll and Don Sandstrom
According to Rob Stone's book. The payroll summaries still listed Oelze as a prop man during this period.
Animation: E. H. Young
According to Rob Stone's book and corroborated by the payroll summaries. Young animated "Garfield" the flea.
Story by Hal E. Roach, Hal Yates and Carl Harbaugh
This credit probably doesn't appear in the film. Maltin & Bann list Roach, while Rob Stone lists Yates and Harbaugh.
Animal trainer: Tony Campanaro
He was Pal's trainer.
Teacher: Fern Carter
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
laboratory superintendent - Charles Levin
still photographer - Bud "Stax" Graves
transportation director - Bob Davis
possible uncredited involvement
writing - Robert F. McGowan, Robert A. McGowan and James Parrott may have been among the gag writers.

the kids:

Allen "Farina" Hoskins
Featured role. The nickname doesn't appear in these prints. It's his dog that has the fleas, and he's basically the link between the disparate elements in the film.
Mary Kornman as "Mary"
Supporting role. She sets up the kiddie wedding and gets married to Joe, all in anticipation of her sister's wedding.
Joe Cobb
Supporting role. He appears in the first scene getting married to Mary. Later, he pairs up with Jay to search for fleas.
Elmer "Scooter" Lowry as "Skooter"
Supporting role. He's the new kid on the block and pairs up with Farina.
Johnny Downs
Supporting role. He's Mary's brother. He pairs up with Mickey to search for fleas.
Jackie Condon
Supporting role. He's the minister in the kiddie wedding. He later searches for fleas at the dog pound.
Mickey Daniels
Supporting role. He appears in most of the scenes, and pairs up with Johnny on their search for fleas, but isn't given too much of his own to do. This was his last appearance in the series, barring reunion appearances.
Jay R. Smith
Supporting role. He pairs up with Joe to search for fleas.
Bobby "Bonedust" Young as "Bonedust"
Small part. He's shown in the kiddie wedding scene providing the music.
Mildred Kornman
Small part. She appears as Scooter's little sister.
Jannie Hoskins
Small part. She appears in the opening kiddie wedding scene.
Lassie Lou Ahern
Small part. She's the flower girl at the adult wedding.
other kids
Small part and extras. There are at least two more girls at the adult wedding.

the animals:

Buster as "Magnolia"
Featured role. This is Farina's dog, and the one with the fleas.
Pal
Bit part. Appears briefly as Clements extracts a flea from his fur. Not listed by Maltin & Bann.
parrot 008
Bit part. The parrot owned by Scooter's family, and presumably the same one seen in previous films.
dog 003
Bit part. The dog that Joe and Jay extract fleas from looks like the dog from "One Terrible Day" (no. 4).
mule 026
Bit part. Presumably the same white mule seen in "Commencement Day" (no. 26). He pulls Scooter's family's wagon.
other animals
Bit parts.
(1.) The dog that meets up with Magnolia.
(2.) The goat from which Mickey and Johnny extract fleas. Possibly the same goat as seen in "Uncle Tom's Uncle". (no. 50).
(3.) The rooster riding on the cart with Mildred.
(4.) The goldfish in the bowl that Farina drops. It isn't clear whether any of them are actually real.
bugwatch
At least a couple of the bugs in Clements' flea circus are real, but most of them are animated, including the animated star of the film, "Garfield."

the adults:

George B. French as "Prof. Clements"
Supporting role. He runs the flea circus and sends the gang off to find Garfield.
James Finlayson as the justice of the peace
Supporting role. He finds it difficult to conduct the wedding once the fleas are unleashed.
Jerry Mandy as "Sheldon," the groom
Supporting role. Every time he tries to say "I do," he goes into an itching frenzy.
Martha Sleeper as the bride
Supporting role. The fleas eventually take her over as well, but in the end, she decides to use Mary's kiddie setup for the real thing.
Oliver Hardy as the police officer
Supporting role. He gets infested with fleas and loses his pants in the process.
Charley Chase as one of the wedding guests
Small part. He's the one with the flea in his moustache.
Vera White as one of the wedding guests
Small part. She's standing just to the left of Finlayson during the wedding, and later asks somebody to scratch her back. Shortly after that, she finds a flea on her nose.
Grace Wood as Skooter's mom
Bit part. Previously seen in "Circus Fever" (no. 35) and later in "Spanky" (no. 113).
Charlie Hall as one of the musicians
Bit part. He's playing the sax.
Alex Finlayson as one of the musicians
Bit part. I don't know what he looks like, but he's probably the violin player.
Harry Bowen as one of the flea circus spectators
Bit part. He's standing to the left of Clements, and is still there when most of the others have left.
Charley Lloyd as one of the flea circus spectators
Bit part. He's standing to the right of Clements, and is still there when most of the others have left. Listed by Maltin & Bann as Charley Young.
Chris Lynton as the father of the bride
Bit part. He's shown walking the bride to the altar. Listed by Maltin & Bann as Allen Cavan.
Lyle Tayo as the pedestrian
Bit part. Identified by Maltin & Bann. It looks like her, but we never really get a good look in this print.
Helen Gilmore as a pedestrian
Bit part. She's the woman who briefly speaks to Hardy from the other side of the fence.
Clara Guiol as the maid of honor
Bit part. She's best seen to the right of the screen as Sleeper notices the kids' wedding setup.
Dick Gilbert as Skooter's dad
Bit part. He's not seen for more than a few seconds.
Sammy Brooks as one of the flea circus spectators
Bit part. This is presumably the really short guy.
Sam Lufkin as one of the wedding guests
Extra. As Lynton walks Sleeper to the altar, Lufkin can seen right behind Jerry Mandy.
Ham Kinsey as one of the wedding guests
Extra. He's seen to the far right in the shots of Martha Sleeper scratching herself.
other adults
Bit parts and extras.
(1.) The sleeping man whose beard is caught afire by Farina and Scooter's magnifying glass.
(2.) The man playing the statue that goes into spasms.
(3.) The man playing the ukulele.
(4.) The woman playing the piano.
(5.) The man that seems to be Scooter's grandfather.
(6.) The painter who shoos Magnolia away from the statue.
(7.) Perhaps twenty more guests at the wedding.
(8.) Three additional pedestrians watching Clements' flea circus.
(9.) Two women walking down the sidewalk while Hardy is pantsless.

the music (sort of):

"Here Comes The Bride" by Richard Wagner
Music written in 1841 as the "Bridal Chorus" from "Lohengrin." Sung by Bonedust during the kiddie wedding.
"Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" by George F. Root
Written in the early 1860s. H. M. Walker makes reference to this Civil War song: " - Scratch - scratch - scratch - The fleas are marching - ". This song later appeared on the soundtrack of "The First Round-Up" (no. 128)

the locations:

According to Rob Stone's list, footage was shot in Palms on March 8th and 20th. It appears that all of the exterior footage was shot there, so perhaps it should read 'March 8th TO 20th.'
Motor Avenue, Palms district, Los Angeles
When Joe chases Farina, they run diagonally across the vacant lot on the northwest corner of Motor and Woodbine. Seen in the background is the house at 3359 Motor which was later featured in "The Old Wallop" (no. 68), and part of the Palms Hardware Co. at 3351 Motor. Right after this Farina is running north on the east side of the 3300 block of Motor. Seen to the left is the yard of the Mitholithic Mfg. Co. It appears that the flea circus takes place at the narrow space between the Sanitary Market and the next building to the north on the west side of this block. After Farina takes a look at this, he crosses the street and sits on the curb in front of the north end of the Mitholithic building. This is where he's sitting as Scooter walks by, and is also where we later see Joe and Jay looking at the fleas they've caught. When we first see Scooter's family riding along the street, they're traveling south along the 3500 block of Motor. As Farina and Scooter walk along, they're initially back on the 3300 block, with the grocery store shown to the right of the shot. In the next shot, they're on the 3400 block, with the Shoe Repairing shop at 3406 Motor shown to the right. When the fish get loose, they're in front of the Palms Chamber of Commerce at 3438 Motor. There are also views of the houses on the opposite side of the street during this scene. When the kids first see French searching for his fleas, they're standing in front of the south edge of the Chamber of Commerce, and then proceed to cross the street. However, when they reach French, they're in front of the north edge of the same building. When Hardy loses his pants, he's right next to the Shoe Repairing shop. The fence has been added to the location for this scene and isn't normally there. Later, as he's searching for his pants, he walks in front of the Chamber of Commerce, and then chases Farina past the Park & Dedrick Real Estate office at 3454 Motor and the Home Made Bakery at 3466 Motor, before catching up to him between the bakery and the corner of Motor and Stilson (now Palms Boulevard). In the scene where Farina asks the woman if she has any fleas, he and Scooter are sitting on the curb at the southeast corner of Motor and Woodbine in front of the Masonic Hall at 3402 Motor. When the boys find the bearded man sleeping on the park bench, they're in front of the Woodbine side of the People's Water Co. at 3392 Motor. The 'United Builders' park bench isn't normally seen at this location. Later, the two of them emerge from the space between the Palms Hardware Co. and the Arthur Boetsch Barber Shop at 3347 Motor.
Mentone Avenue, Palms district, Los Angeles
The opening kiddie wedding takes place in the back yard of a house on Mentone Avenue near the intersection with Woodbine Street. The back door of the house itself is where the wedding party emerges after the flea-fest.
National Boulevard, Palms district, Los Angeles
The 'City Dog Pound' sign was placed over the back fence of the Palms Garage at 3304 Motor. The fence itself was on National Boulevard to the left of the building. This same sign was later used at the opposite side of the yard, facing Motor, in "Love My Dog" (no. 59). The back of the building later occupied by the Master Mfg. Co. at 3316 Motor can be seen in one shot. In a reversal shot, we see a building of the Palms Lumber Co. behind Jackie.
Scooter's house
Scooter's new home also served as Farina's house in "Your Own Back Yard" (no. 44) and "Monkey Business" (no. 48). Location information connected with "Bring Home The Turkey" (no. 57) reveals that this house was on or around Motor Avenue.
bridge
The bearded man jumps off the same bridge seen in "The Ol' Gray Hoss" (no. 78).

miscellaneous:

16 shooting dates went into the making of this film. Four and a half weeks after shooting had finished for "Uncle Tom's Uncle" (no. 50), the 'start' date arrived for "Thundering Fleas" on Mar. 8th. Shooting continued until Mar. 25th, when it was considered 'finished.' No shooting took place on Mar. 7th, 14th, and 21st, which were all Sundays. There was, however, information written in for the 14th which was crossed out. This probably indicates that the person entering the information absent-mindedly forgot to skip the page for Sunday. After shooting finished, two weeks passed before the Our Gang unit began to shoot "Shivering Spooks" (no. 52).

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


availability:

Our Gang (VHS) from Video Yesteryear
Released 1987, and reissued Feb. 1992, with an EP version released Sep. 1999. This copy is a home movie print made by Exclusive Movie Studios, Inc., in Chicago. The picture quality is good. The print totals 27:02, with 26:54 of it original footage. Even though the length is largely due to a slower projection speed, almost all of the original film is included.
Laurel & Hardy: The Original Brats & More Hal Roach Classics from Universal
Released 2004. This is a PAL DVD from the UK. The print totals 18:01, with 17:40 of it original footage, but this includes freeze-frames of the inter-titles. The picture quality is good, but the very last bit with the statue is cut short.
Our Gang Silent Comedies Volume 7 (VHS) from Video Classics and
Our Gang Comedies VII (VHS) from The Picture Palace
This copy is virtually the same as Video Yesteryear's, but of lesser quality. The print totals 22:36, with 22:29 of it original footage.
Stan & Ollie Solo - Volume Seven (VHS) from Videobrary, Inc.
Released 1995. This print totals only 9:39, with 9:34 of it original footage, covering only the second half of the film, and the picture quality is fairly poor.
Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy: Early Silent Classics Volume 2 (DVD) from Alpha Video
Released Feb. 22, 2005. This is the same version released by Videobrary, Inc.
The Laurel Or Hardy Collection (5 DVD set) from Passport Video
Released Feb. 21, 2006. This is the same version released by Videobrary, Inc.
Jackie Remembers Our Gang - The Silent Era (VHS/DVD) from Jackie Taylor
A clip lasting 0:05 is included, showing the kids before the wedding, with narration added.
SlapHappy: Vol. 9 (DVD) from Fishigan Films
Released 2003. Originally produced in 2001. Includes a clip from this film. This volume is also included as part of The SlapHappy Collection (11 DVD set).

special note
Amazon.com indicates that this film is included on The Lost Films Of Laurel And Hardy - The Complete Collection Vol. 9 (VHS/DVD) from Hal Roach Studios, but it is, in fact, not.

© Robert Demoss.


My thanks to the following people for assisting with this page:
Rob Stone (for providing the production number, shooting dates, location info, and some of the crew credits)
Paul Mular (for pointing out the absence of this film on 'The Lost Films of Laurel & Hardy,' and its presence on the Alpha DVD)
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)
Lord Heath (for putting a face to the name with Clara Guiol)
Randy Jones (for providing more info in the Alpha DVD)


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