1930: Bonus ShortSchool's Out
(Robert F. McGowan, 1930)
At some point in my childhood, I was exposed to the some form of Little Rascals
on weekend afternoon television, but I have no idea which era of the franchise it was. I definitely think of 'Our Gang' as comprising of Alfalfa, Buckwheat, and Spanky, with a 'no girls allowed' clubhouse and with Alfalfa crushing on a girl named Darla, but I might have just absorbed that secondhand, from general pop culture exposure (including the trailer for the 1994 film, which I don't believe I ever saw).
Anyway, I'm probably not the only one to forget that this Hal Roach created this franchise back in 1922, many years before Alfalfa was even part of the gang. Even though School's Out
is from 1930, it's something like the 102nd short in the series. I also didn't know (or didn't remember) that Jackie Cooper was a Rascal (as was Robert Blake). Lots of interesting history here.
The film itself, though seemingly well regarded, was something of a disappointment. The kids are cute and well cast, and the dialogue is often cute and well delivered (Teacher: "Who was the Hunchback of Notre Dame?" Jackie: "Lon Chaney."), but the editing is absolutely primitive, robbing the comedy of any rhythm. Much of the film consists of closeups of the kids' cute faces. We cut to Kid 1, and there's a half beat before he delivers his line and a half beat after. Then we repeat with Kid 2. And with Kid 3. And then we cut to an adult and there's another half beat before they mug a reaction shot. Drove me crazy. I'd be really curious to compare the style of the silent films and whether this all works a whole lot better with intertitles.
That said, there's still an appealing sensibility here, especially with the casting. I just wish the lovely naturalness of the kid actors wasn't so at odds with the cartoonishness of the comedy direction. This
is a much better film, obviously.Grade: