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School Begins (1928)


(as Anthony Mack)


(story), (titles)


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Credited cast:
... Joe (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
... Jean (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
... Farina (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
... Wheezer (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
... Mary Ann (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Harry Spear ... Harry (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
... Petie (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Jimmy Farren ... Kid Sitting Behind Harry (as Hal Roach's Rascals)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Billy Schuler ... Kid
... Harry's mother


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Comedy | Family | Short





Release Date:

17 November 1928 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The date of release: Saturday, November 17th, 1928, has two facts. First, add November's month number, 11 & day number 17 they equal year last two digits of year number: 11 + 17 = 28 (of 1928). Second, is one day before animation short history release date of Disney's Steamboat Willie (1928)'s date of release, on Sunday, November 18th, 1928. See more »

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User Reviews

And those kids do NOT want go!
1 February 2017 | by See all my reviews

It's always to pleasure to discover a "new" Our Gang short; that is, one I've never seen before. School Begins, a rare silent short released through MGM, was shown recently at NYC's Museum of Modern Art as part of a silent comedy festival. It scored a solid hit, even though most of us were at a disadvantage, since the title cards were not in English. (They were in Czech, or Dutch, or something most of us didn't understand.) But as usual with this series, the story is conveyed primarily through visual cues and the highly expressive faces of the players, so we had little trouble following what was happening, while the sight gags landed solidly, and earned their laughs. And why not? Silent cinema was—and still is—a universal language.

School Begins has an especially memorable, surreal intro, reminiscent of a Fleischer cartoon: the very first shot depicts a schoolhouse that resembles a scowling face. Harry Spear, our central figure in this short, enters the building trembling with fear, and finds his classmates all dressed as pirates, and fighting wildly. Next thing you know, he's hauled to the front of the room and inserted bodily into a spanking machine . . . at which point, he wakes up! It's morning, and time for the first day of school. This, despite the fact that there's a circus in town, and the fish are biting down at the swimming hole.

The dreamlike atmosphere continues into the next scene, as we see Harry's classmates sadly trudging off to school in slow motion. Harry reluctantly joins the crowd, while his kid brother Wheezer tries to tag along with his dog. (This sequence features a lovely tracking shot along a dirt road bordered by a barbed-wire fence, at a location that appears to be the same one used in Laurel & Hardy's The Hoosegow, made the following year.) Along the way we discover Farina, sitting among a pile of half-eaten watermelons, happily munching on one of them. Racial stereotyping of this kind was not typical of the Our Gang series, but indicates that the Hal Roach Studio was not immune from the attitudes of the day. Wheezer is sent away, as he's too young to go to school. He heads for the pond, gathers up some fish, and then heads for the circus grounds. Soon after, he accidentally lures a pair of trained seals away from the circus and directly to the schoolhouse, where they create an uproar.

School Begins is pleasant and amusing over all, although I have to add I found the finale a little odd. When the seals arrive at the schoolhouse the kids and their teacher react with great panic, as if they were grizzly bears. All that fuss, over a pair of cute trained seals? But that's a minor matter. Along the way there are several funny sequences, including one where Joe Cobb tries to get out of class with a fake note from home, claiming his mother has broken her legs. (You can guess what happens.) This idea would be re-used a couple of years later, in one of the early talkies with June Marlowe as Miss Crabtree. But the gag works nicely in the silent version, even if you don't understand the language of the title cards.

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