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Uncle Tom's Uncle (1926)

 -  Comedy | Family | Short  -  30 May 1926 (USA)
6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 24 users  
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The Gang stages their own revisionist version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in Mickey's barn. But Joe's mother thinks the back yard needs cleaning, and there are several interruptions when they ... See full summary »

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Title: Uncle Tom's Uncle (1926)

Uncle Tom's Uncle (1926) on IMDb 6.4/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Joe Cobb ...
Joe / 'Uncle Tom' (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Jackie Condon ...
Jackie (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
...
Mickey / 'Simon Legree' (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Johnny Downs ...
Johnny / 'Marks the Lawyer' (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Allen 'Farina' Hoskins ...
Farina / 'Topsy' (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Mary Kornman ...
Mary / 'Eva' (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Jay R. Smith ...
Jay (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Clifton Young ...
Bonedust (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
David Durand ...
Piano Player (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Jannie Hoskins ...
Mango (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Nancy McKee ...
Nancy / 'Ophelia' (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Gabe Saienz ...
Lead Bully throwing things on stage
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Billy Butts ...
Boy in audience
Peggy Eames ...
Laughing Girl in audience
Ray Erlenborn ...
Boy in audience
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Storyline

The Gang stages their own revisionist version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in Mickey's barn. But Joe's mother thinks the back yard needs cleaning, and there are several interruptions when they lose a leading character. Mickey plays Simon Legree; Mary as Eva; Joe as Uncle Tom; and Farina essays the role of Topsy. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Genres:

Comedy | Family | Short

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Release Date:

30 May 1926 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Putting on a show in the old barn
14 November 2007 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Like a lot of people my age I grew up with the Our Gang kids. I was watching them on TV when I was around the same age as the group's smallest kids. I knew them as The Little Rascals, as they were renamed for television, but the rascals I knew were the ones from the '30s: Spanky, Buckwheat, Darla, Alfalfa, and sometimes Jackie Cooper. I didn't discover the silent era comedies until I was older, and it's been a pleasant surprise to find that a lot of the silent Our Gang shorts are highly enjoyable little movies made with real verve and energy. I also enjoy the look and feel of these films, which are generally rougher, funnier, less polished and sometimes less polite than the later ones. The silent era kids appear to live in a tough, hard-scrabble environment but it doesn't faze them a bit; they're always cooking up great projects and (with a little help from the Hal Roach Studio prop department) building really cool-looking playhouses, soap-box cars, and other stuff.

In UNCLE TOM'S UNCLE the kids get the jump on Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland by putting on a play in a barn. As the title indicates, they choose to stage that phenomenally popular 19th century warhorse "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Sight unseen you'd expect this film to be full of cringe-inducing racial gags but it's surprisingly benign. The kids are innocent of the heavier implications of Harriet Beecher Stowe's story and just play it straight (or at least that's what they think they're doing), the way grown-ups of the time would do. Farina, the African-American kid of the gang, alternately plays Topsy & Eliza and also entertains the crowd by dancing a spirited Charleston. At one point a rowdy boy in the crowd throws a lit firecracker at him, and I was especially pleased to see him throw it back. Roly-poly Joe Cobb "blacks up" with shoe polish to play Uncle Tom, but is repeatedly pulled away from his dramatic duties by his mother, who insists he finish his yard-work. Freckle-faced Mickey Daniels doesn't make a very fearsome Simon Legree, and he is also hassled by hecklers in an amusing running gag. It's noticeable that at this time the Roach Studio was still relying on rudimentary animation gags, the sort of material we tend to associate with the Mack Sennett crew: for instance, when a mule brays he emits a cartoon-style "HEE-HAWW!" The primitive special effects are charming, however, and add to the fun.

The studio carpenters did a terrific job with the scenic design for the kids' show. It's more elaborate than anything real kids could do without adult supervision, and yet they also managed to make the sets look kind of raggedy and half-finished, as if they'd actually been built by children. The highlight is the climax, when Eliza flees the bloodhounds across the ice-floes. The "bloodhounds" are scruffy neighborhood dogs with hot-water bottles hanging across their heads to simulate long ears, while the "ice-floes" are white boxes linked together with ropes and yanked back and forth by stage hands while Eliza and the dogs struggle to make it across. Meanwhile, cardboard waves roll back and forth as a paper snowstorm falls. It's a great scene! I wish I could have been on the set while they were shooting this sequence—it must have been fascinating to watch.

Because of its subject matter UNCLE TOM'S UNCLE isn't the best choice for general audiences today, but anyone who appreciates the Our Gang comedies of the silent era is likely to enjoy it, and of course it'll be of special interest to theater historians. This short reminded me of the 1933 Disney cartoon MICKEY'S MELLERDRAMMER in which Mickey Mouse and his pals stage their own rendition of the time-honored story, a similarly budget-strapped but resourceful version. Stage adaptations of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" were hugely popular for decades after the Civil War, and this Our Gang comedy (like the Disney cartoon) captures a time when the events of Stowe's tale were still within the living memory of many viewers.


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