|Index||5 reviews in total|
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.
A delightful film that I first saw as a teenager in the 1950s and was able to identify with very closely. Frances Rafferty's portrayal of the new teacher did much to bring the film to life - I had always wished for a teacher like her. It was great to see the reaction of her charges when she turned out to be not quite what they had expected. One of my all-time favourite films for pure entertainment. Not deep but well acted, interesting, and a good treatment of a juvenile subject.
"Curley" was banned from many Southern theaters in the U.S. for depicting black and Caucasian children "playing happily together." Other than that it is a rather desperate attempt to recreate the Our Gang shenanigans, with lovely Frances Rafferty doing most of what real acting seems to be required. Another sideline: I saw this film on a 16mm camera in 1964 in second grade. My teacher supposedly screened it for the entire class in order to prove that instead of disliking me as I had thought, she was "very fond of" me, to quote Rafferty to little Larry Olsen in the final sequence, which was all that I remembered when I stayed up till 4 in the morning to watch it again (!!!) in 1983 on a UHF station. Not much of a movie, but fascinating to me on the two levels I mentioned above!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Hal Roach's "Our Gang" series dominated the list of family
favorite movie shorts, one of the most popular was "Teacher's Pet", the
story of how vengeful children can be sometimes when it comes to facing
change, and in the case of that short, it dealt with the arrival of a
new schoolteacher (Miss Crabtree) whom they assumed to be an old
grouch. Producer Roach took the same story and expanded it into a
feature length (one hour) family comedy in the cynical world of the
post World War II years and showed that children didn't need video
games or technology to have fun; They created it the best way they knew
how: with the help of nature and the props around them.
Larry Olsen is the title character, taking over Jackie Cooper's role as the head of his gang of pals, and convincing them to do all they can to make the first day of their new schoolteacher as unpleasant as possible. They believe her to be the seemingly hard-nosed Kathleen Howard, but as it turns out, the teacher is really Howard's pretty niece, Frances Rafferty. Ants, exploding ink pens and a frog help interrupt her class, but Rafferty is one step above their cruel prank and teaches them a lesson that proves to be fun and not preachy. Howard, it is revealed, is a good egg, shown blowing bubbles through chewing gum and even trying to kick a football. The kids are basically kind and they come out of it learning how never to assume or judge a book by its cover.
Somewhat cheaply made, this suffers in its DVD transfer with faded color, but the humor which keeps the film moving makes that tolerable. There's the typical slapstick (particularly the shot of two black kids riding around in Curley's go-cart) and lots of good natured fun. Dale Belding is also fun as Curley's freckle-faced friend Speck, very close in demeanor to "Froggy" from the last years of the series and to George "Foghorn" Winslow who accused Marilyn Monroe of being a burglar in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the first of two attempts to restart the Our Gang comedies after the Second World War. The film concerns Curly and his friends as they deal with a new teacher and other childhood nonsense. The least screened of the two "Curley" films, the single feature version (It was later edited together with its sequel as one film) ran into problems in some parts of the US because blacks and whites were seen living and playing together in harmony. In more modern times the film isn't really screened for another very good reason it's a tough film to sit through. Poorly written with kids who are more annoying than cute its easy to see why the film never did more than inspire a single sequel (Who Killed Doc Robbin). Actually the real problem is that the films 51 minute length presents a real problem in that its two to three times the length of the old Our Gang comedies but the writing seems unable to handle it (Hal Roach loved the idea of Streamlined features, those running between 30 minutes and an hour, but he rarely managed to ever get them to work with in the time frame with many feeling too rushed). The result is a story that spins out in fits and starts and leaves the inexperienced and not very good kids to cover the holes. It's a mess, actually its really dull. I'd avoid it.
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