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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Catching Crooks With The Little Rascals

Author: Ron Oliver ( from Forest Ranch, CA
10 April 2000

An OUR GANG Comedy Short

A wealthy matron is giving FREE EATS to the poor kiddies of the town at her mansion. A `family' of crooks thinks this would be an excellent opportunity for the `babies' - actually two midgets - to steal pocketbooks & jewelry. Fortunately Stymie and the Rascals are on hand...

A funny film, with good performances from all the little people. Film mavens will recognize Billy Gilbert & Paul Fix as `Papa' & "Mama" crook; that's Major Mite & Tiny Lawrence as the two `fidgets'. Incidentally, this was Spanky McFarland's film debut with the Gang. It was evident immediately that he had natural charm & enormous talent. Eventually he would be the most famous Rascal of them all.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

While not a new idea, it is well worth seeing.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
2 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As another reviewer pointed out, this short is a take-off of the film "The Unholy Three"--which were made just a few years earlier. "The Unholy Three" was made twice (once as a silent and the next time as the one and only talking picture starring Lon Chaney) and "Free Eats" is clearly a re-working of the story. In "The Unholy Three", a mob consists of an 'old lady' (really a man in disguise) and strong man and a midget who dresses like a baby--and looks just like one. The three are criminals and spend their time pulling various robberies. Here in "Free Eats", Billy Gilbert plays a father, a guy in drag the mother and they have TWO babies that are actually adults. And, like "The Unholy Three" they are professional crooks.

When there is a local party for underprivileged kids, the Gang go for free food. And, the criminals also attend--during which time, the two babies steal everything in sight. Fortunately, Stymie notices and helps 'stymie' their plans. All in all, while this is a recycled plot idea, it is clever and fun. It also stands out because it's the first Our Gang film with Spanky McFarland--a kid who would get top billing in the next short!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: PeachHamBeach from Morro Bay, Hammett Valley, Twin Rocks
26 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This charming short subject marks the debut of who would end up being the most popular "Rascal" in Hal Roach's Empire. Young Spanky McFarland can't be more than 2 1/2 or 3 years tops when he comes rolling up in his wagon, ready to partake in Mrs. Clark's free eats. The rich lady in town is giving away cake, ice cream and baskets of food to the less fortunate youngsters. Everyone is on hand, Stymie, Spud, Dorothy, Wheezer and Breezy, whose conversation with little Spanky about airplanes and monkeys is one of my favorite moments. But it's not all fun and games. The Gang must stop a family of thieves (Billy Gilbert and a very young Paul Fix as the parents!) from ripping off nice Mrs. Clark. A very cute, engaging film!

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Free Eats marked the debut of one George Robert Phillips McFarland-Spanky-in the Our Gang series

Author: tavm from Baton Rouge, LA
25 October 2014

This Hal Roach comedy short, Free Eats, is the one hundred twelfth in the "Our Gang/Little Rascals" series and the twenty-fourth talkie. A wealthy society woman is throwing a party for all the poor order to help her husband's political campaign. So Breezy, Wheezer, Dorothy, Stymie, and Spanky arrive for the treats. Also arriving are some "fidgits" (Stymie's word)-disguised as infants-and their "parents"-one of whom is Billy Gilbert who previously appeared in Shiver My Timbers and Dogs Is Dogs-who intend to steal some jewelry...As always in these early talkies, Stymie steals the show with most of his quips and how refreshing is seeing his character be the one who sees through the fake babies' facade compared to the way his race was often portrayed at the time. And how cute little Spanky-in his series debut-is with his rambling on various subjects and also when he's with a monkey! So on that note, Free Eats was another funny Our Gang short. P.S. Wheezer is noticeably reduced in screen time here. I'm guessing this is his status in the remaining eps in the series.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Little Rascals vs. thieves in disguise in this comic short

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
23 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

FREE EATS is an odd little Our Gang comedy with more of a plot than usual, although I found the comedy to be a bit unsatisfying in places, and sometimes crude (a lot of humour arising from characters eating and getting covered in food in the process). Still, it's short and to the point, and the sight of the Little Rascals doing battle with a criminal gang is novel to say the least.

This film wins points for featuring Billy Gilbert in a likable turn as a character who turns out to be a criminal gang leader. The material in which midgets pretend to be babies is quite odd and the one-liners never quite zing as they do elsewhere, although Stymie and his buddies do their best. It's average, overall.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Rascals catch a gang of jewelry thieves

Author: Thomas ( from Berlin, Germany
16 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Free Eats" is an American 19-minute short film from 1932, so this one is from the early days of sound film, but of course it is still a black-and-white movie. This was done by McCarey and Walker and everybody with an interest in film from the first half of the 20th century will know this duo for their collaborations not just with Our Gang, but also with icons like Stan and Ollie or the Stooges. But back to this one here. There is a bit of a party and a gang of crooks dress up as babies in order to manage stealing expensive jewelry from the guests. It all works out well, but luckily the Rascals are invited too and they manage to help the cops catch the thieves. There is a bit more crime in this one and a bit less pure comedy than usual, but it's nothing too different from the Rascals' regular routine. This is one of the films where Stymie is pretty much in the spotlight more than usual. One of the antagonists is played by the famous Billy Gilbert, but his character is also one of the reasons why this film is not working that well. It always felt as if he'd be the last guy to catch, but at the end he just disappeared. Honestly the comedy is also almost never working in here and this can be said about many other Rascals' short films. Tottering ears may have been really funny back then, but honestly this approach to humor has not aged well at all. By today's standards, these slightly under 20 minutes are not worth checking out anymore and it says nothing positive about Our gang if this is one of their more known works. Watch something else instead.

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6 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Stymie stymies the Unholy Four.

Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
30 January 2008

I'm not a major fan of Hal Roach's "Our Gang" comedies -- the so-called Little Rascals -- and I usually avoid the Rascals in any movie that shows them eating. I have no desire to watch their table manners, and most of the "gags" are very predictable: close-up of white kid with dark food smeared on his face, followed by close-up of black kid with white food smeared on his face. So, the title "Free Eats" did not whet my appetite.

Fortunately, the Rascals are in good hands here: "Free Eats" is directed by Leo McCarey's unjustly-obscure brother Raymond, and the dialogue is by Roach stalwart H.M. "Beany" Walker.

An opening shot of a newspaper informs us that Mrs Stanford L Clark is throwing a free feed for the local kids, to help her husband's political campaign for the mayoralty.

Now, there are these four crooks who decide to crash the kids-only party. All four crooks are adult men, but two of them are midgets disguised as babies. The other two men pretend to be the "parents" of the babies, with Paul Fix in female disguise as the mama. Oh, mama! Over the decades of his long career, veteran character actor Paul Fix had a wide range of roles: he was Liz Taylor's father in 'Giant', and he was cast as chief medical officer aboard the Starship Enterprise until he got replaced by DeForest Kelley. I was very impressed with Fix's performance in the 1929 drama 'Lucky Star'. Here, disguised as a woman, he gives a much more plausible performance than I would have expected. Fix actually attempts a few gestures that are convincingly feminine rather than effeminate.

The two midgets (one of them twice the size of the other) aren't very plausible as babies. They keep showing off their adult teeth. (Harry Earles, another adult midget who was sometimes cast as a genuine baby, purposely avoided showing his teeth while in infant roles.) Both midgets are spectacularly ugly. At least one speaks in a dubbed voice, probably because most midget performers aren't very good actors. (They tend to get cast for reasons unrelated to acting ability.) The two midgets steal the jewellery of Mrs Clark and her society friends ... knowing that, if they're caught in the act, they'll be mistaken for innocent babies snatching pretty objects.

The alleged 'father' of the midgets is veteran actor Billy Gilbert, giving a surprisingly subdued performance. Gilbert typically overacted and often played blustering idiots, but he was actually a highly intelligent man: I suspect that, finding himself here cast alongside two midgets and a female impersonator, he was smart enough to realise he should play it straight this time.

What really strained credulity for me is that we see Fix and the midgets ALREADY disguised as a woman and her two babies when Billy Gilbert finds out about the party. Do they live in these disguises full-time? Hmmm...

I was intrigued to see good performances here from a couple of kid actors whom I don't recognise from other 'Our Gang' movies. Dorothy DeBorba (looking a little bit like Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzler) is bright and pop-eyed as the head girl. Sherwood Bailey, nicknamed Spud and dressed as a jockey, is the leader of the kid gang. The climax of the movie is genuinely suspenseful, with Bailey getting into a knock-down fight with the nastier of the two midgets. Here we see an adult criminal (admittedly a midget in nappies) trying to beat up a child, and we recognise that Spud is in genuine peril. Bailey gives an excellent performance: why didn't he catch on as one of Our Gang?

I'm never amused when Matthew 'Stymie' Beard or some other black child is used as the butt of racial humour in these crude comedies. In 'Free Eats', intriguingly, young Stymie proves himself a brave and resourceful detective. He's the first to realise that the 'babies' are not what they seem, and he comes up with a clever method of unmasking them ... or maybe undiapering them. 'Free Eats' is one of the more original Our Gang comedies, and this non-fan happily rates it 8 out of 10.

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