Hal Roach, who no longer owned the rights to his "Our Gang" (aka The Little Rascals") creation, decided to "create" a similar gang of kids, to be known as "Curley and his Gang", and star them in feature-length films shot in Cinecolor. This film is the first effort, and is virtually a remake, with longer running time, of the 1930 "Our Gang" short, "Teacher's Pet." The kids are fretting because their favorite teacher has gotten married and departed town, and they fear her replacement will be not to their liking. When Curley mistakes the aunt of the new replacement as being the new teacher, he and the rest of the kids make plans to discourage her staying. Mortification sets in when the new teacher turns out to be sweet, young and pretty. Jackie Cooper and June Marlowe had the smitten kid/teacher roles in the original. Robert F. McGowan, who directed and wrote the original short, gets story credit here, and was also the Associate Producer. Written by
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Not quite a feature length film, the movie runs about an hour. It's a rather curious featurette, an apparent attempt to revive Our Gang-type humor following the horrors of WWII. The trouble is that the kids don't quite gel, while Larry Olsen in the lead just doesn't seem the really mischievous little rascal he's supposed to be. Unfortunately, this is a long way from Alfalfa and Spanky. There are some funny set-ups, including a madcap go-cart that kids really loved when I sat in the front row, lo, so many years ago.
I have to confess that my real purpose here is to send a belated valentine to the big girl who captivated me then (when I hated girls) and still does whenever I chance to see her-- the ever lovely and beguiling Frances Rafferty. Seeing her now in the teacher's role, I realize what an indelibly sparkling presence she was. It's really her sloe-eyed beauty and physical grace that injects life and energy into this minor production. There's an unforced naturalness here that's perfect for the role. I guess she never had the big Hollywood career she probably hoped for. Maybe she was too athletic as her decathlon skills prove in the surprisingly feminist picnic scene. (Watch her "float like a butterfly", even though she refuses to "sting like a bee".) But whatever the reasons behind her career, she certainly made a life-long impression on this front-row kid. Thank you, Frances, and may you rest in peace.
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