Hal Roach sold the OUR GANG series lock, stock and cow-lick to MGM (Roach's distributor) in May, 1938. The story goes he saw the death of the short subject upon the advent of the double feature--- but you have to wonder why he'd think this when major studios (one of RKO's very last releases was a short subject!) would continue to grind out 1-reelers into the mid-50's. His longtime distributor, MGM was owned by the largest theatrical chain in the world, Loew's Inc. Granted, part of the reason I think Roach became hooked on the idea after the success of Laurel & Hardy features, TOPPER (and it's two lesser sequels), 1-MILLION YEARS B.C. (the #1 film of 1940!), and his first class production of OF MICE AND MEN. His stab at an OUR GANG feature in 1936 with the ill-conceived GENERAL SPANKY was a notable failure... and after 15+ years in shorts production, he was looking for an excuse to move on. But there's more to the story folks! In the mid-1930's Roach had horrified MGM/Leow's Inc. by announcing plans to enter in a studio/production business with Benito Mussolini (Roach hosted Il Duce's son's 21st birthday bash in Hollywood) and quietly sought to end their relationship. Metro bought the profitable Our Gang series lock stock and barrel--- in retrospect a rather odd property. Unfortunately MGM could do almost anything well except comedy and OUR GANG would suffer mightily in the process. ALADDIN'S LANTERN is one of the few good all-around MGM entries, probably a direct result of the talented Gordon Douglas' direction--- he'd direct only two of the MGM versions before pulling up stakes and returning to Roach (who'd signed with United Artists as a producer in the interim). ALADDIN'S LANTERN is a throwback to the Roach 'the Gang puts on a show' stories and has a well done magic carpet sequence along with Porky & Buckwheat desperately trying to crash into the show. These later OUR GANG's typically have terrible scripts but have MGM production values. This is one of the better of the 51 MGM entries as scripts go. Unfortunately they became fewer and increasingly farther between.
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