|Born||in Tacoma, Washington, USA|
|Died||in Merced, California, USA (plane crash)|
|Birth Name||Robert E. Hutchins|
Mini Bio (1)
Robert E. Hutchins was born March 29th, 1925, in Tacoma, Washington. He was born to James Hutchins and Olga Hutchins (nee Roe). Robert was a very outgoing boy with a charming personality, because friends persuaded James and Olga to go to a Hollywood photographer and get his picture taken. The photographer was impressed by Robert's intelligence, and asked to take a few feet of film of him. The results were so good that the film ended up in the projection room at Hal Roach Studios. Hal Roach decided the boy would be a good addition to his "Our Gang" short films, and signed him to a five year contract.
On his first day at the studio, Robert didn't have an identity for his part in the movies, and he was running around so much that he began to wheeze. Such led to the coining of the "Wheezer" name, one he carried for the rest of his time in Our Gang. Robert played the perky, tag-along little brother that was always anxious to be part of the mischief that the gang was getting into. He played such a part in both the silent films and the talkies.
Jackie Cooper recalls, "You'd go to play with Wheezer, and his father would pull him away, very competitive. I didn't get a satisfactory answer from my mother or grandmother as to why, but he was to be left alone. I guess his father was trying to make him a star or something. Obviously it never happened as it did for Spanky or some of the other kids."
In trying to make Robert a star, his father malnourished him, and isolated him from the other kids when not filming. James had a plan to keep him small and employable by underfeeding him, and wanted to ensure that Bobby and his siblings never learned that normal kids got a lot more to eat than they did. Nobody ever intervened upon the children's behalf. It's made worse by the fact that his plan backfired. While Robert was incredibly photogenic, and had some fine moments on screen, he looked and acted more like the slow-witted, malnourished child he was, as he aged. Sharper boys were given the leading parts, while Robert spent the last portion of his contract as a background player.
After he left Our Gang with 1933's "Mush and Milk", his film career was essentially over -- with an appearance in Pie for Two, Yoo-Hoo, and Strange Roads outside of his Our Gang shorts -- and he did no more acting after that. His mother and father divorced, and he, his brother James, and his mother moved back to Washington. They lived in a household with their grandmother, and Olga's new husband.
Robert got a job as a gas station attendant in 1942, and enrolled as an air cadet sometime in 1943, with speculation being that he enrolled sometime in August. He was very close to completing his advanced flight training, until a very unfortunate event occurred May 17th, 1945, and he perished. He was killed in a mid-air collision while trying to land a North American AT-6D Texan, at Merced Army Air Field Base in California. The other pilot involved received only minor damage, and landed safely.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: K. Jensen