Joe Cobb

Boys Will Be Joys (1925, Robert F. McGowan)

Boys Will Be Joys is a strange Our Gang outing, simply because the story doesn’t belong to the Gang. Instead, sixty year-old industrialist Paul Weigel has grown bored being a successful grown-up and just wants to goof off.

Luckily, he happens to be developing a plot of land the Gang has built an incredible amateur amusement park on and they come by his office demanding he stop developing.

There’s a shocking lack of tension to Joys. It’s fairly certain from a few minutes in–after Weigel bats a couple balls with some teenagers in a ballgame–the Gang isn’t going to meet with much resistance from the “adult.” Weigel even orders his subordinates to run the machinery so the boys can enjoy the rides.

McGowan’s got some decent shots and the amusement park set-up is rather impressive.

I think there’s only one gag in the entire picture.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by F. Richard Jones; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jannie Hoskins (Jannie), Jay R. Smith (Jay), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and Paul Weigel (Henry Mills).


War Feathers (1926, Robert F. McGowan and Robert A. McGowan)

I expected an Our Gang short titled War Feathers to be racist, but I was unprepared for how racist it gets.

It opens with the kids torturing a train conductor–and Joe Cobb in blackface. Sorry, “chocolate” face. The poor conductor doesn’t just have to try to contain them, he’s also got them pretending to be good for their parents. Of course the parents don’t believe a black train conductor.

It makes you wonder if the point’s to want to see the kids drown.

Then the kids leave the train and go to an Old West town. There they see a lot of Native Americans. One eventually kidnaps Farina.

In an interesting turn of events, after outlaws kidnap Farina again, he gets sick. They try to help him, making them the nicer than anyone else in Feathers.

It finishes with the Gang stranded in the wilderness. Unfortunately not to stay.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan and Robert A. McGowan; written and produced by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; edited by Richard C. Currier; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Joe Cobb (Joe), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Jannie Hoskins (Mango), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Scooter Lowry (Skooter), Clifton Young (Bonedust), Jay R. Smith (Jay), Peggy Ahearn (Peggy), Mildred Kornman (Mildred), Chet Brandenburg (Rancher at the Whistling Clam), Allan Cavan (Train passenger), George B. French (Rancher at the Whistling Clam), Ham Kinsey (Conductor) and Sam Lufkin (Sheriff).


No Noise (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

In some ways, No Noise has it all. Kids getting high off laughing gas, then enjoying a little electrocution, there’s some cross-dressing… it seems like there’s even more. The threat of Farina being operated on by the Our Gang kids. Actually, Farina’s practically in drag too. I guess boys and girls closes weren’t particularly distinct in the twenties. When Mickey Daniels shows up wearing Mary Kornman’s dress, the other boys don’t even bat an eye.

The short is weak at the start and finish, but relatively strong in the middle. McGowan composes some good shots during the gang’s initial trip to the hospital (to visit Mickey and eat ice cream). It all falls apart at the end with these endless “haunted hospital” gags. The sets look terrible in that sequence.

And the weak open is all Daniels’s fault. An annoying twerp isn’t a good protagonist.

Noise is benignly dreadful.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; screenplay by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Ernest Morrison (Sunshine Sammy), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jack Davis (Jack), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and Beth Darlington (Mickey’s nurse).


Dogs of War (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

Dogs of War features some of Robert F. McGowan’s finest directorial work. Sure, he’s aping World War I movies–specifically trench warfare and no man’s land, which seem highly inappropriate subjects for comedy–but it’s incredibly well-directed. A lot of his setups are shockingly good.

The “war” aspect of Dogs only lasts about nine minutes before the short moves into its better setting–a movie studio. The Our Gang kids crash the studio when the girl (the real girl, Mary Kornman, not Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins, who’s gender-bending this time) gets a bit part.

The movie studio antics are amusing without ever getting particularly funny. The gang–no one stands out, not even Farina–is endearing though and Dogs passes the time nicely.

The Harold Lloyd cameo doesn’t hurt.

After the incredibly uncomfortable and off-putting opening, Dogs turns out to be a rather pleasant outing for the gang.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Harry W. Gerstad; edited by Thomas J. Crizer; produced by Roach; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Joe Cobb (Joe), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Jack Davis (Jack), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Ernest Morrison (Sunshine Sammy), Mary Kornman (Mary), Dick Gilbert (Studio guard) and William Gillespie (Director).


Buried Treasure (1926, Robert F. McGowan)

Buried Treasure would be a lot better if director McGowan knew how to embrace the absurdity of the short. The gang has made a seaworthy boat. They take it out to look for buried treasure. Unfortunately, everyone–dog and cat included–get seasick and they’re out all night.

Obviously, the Our Gang kids have difficult home lives… but no one noticed they were missing?

Then they land, conveniently at their intended destination, and crash a location movie shoot. Instead of worrying about the kids or helping them, the movie extras decide to scare them.

Oh, and Farina pals around with a chimp. Regardless of the likely racial undertones, at least Farina got to have some fun this short. He and Joe are the only ones with any personality in Treasure.

The short also shows McGowan’s genre limitations. And the titles are dumb.

I guess Treasure‘s set is nice….

Otherwise, blah.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written and produced by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jay R. Smith (Specks), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary), Charlie Hall (Man in gorilla suit), Jack Roach (Man in lion suit), Lyle Tayo (Johnny’s mother) and Dorothy Vernon (Mickey’s mother).


Good Cheer (1926, Robert F. McGowan)

Good Cheer is unexpected. It’s the only Our Gang Christmas short and it’s a mix of high concept morality and special effects extravaganza.

The short opens with a lot of ice storm effects, down to cats and mice being affected, and it’s excellent work. There’s also some great composite photography bringing toys to life in a shop window. But the kids discover the storefront Santa is just a guy in a beard and become disillusioned. So a couple of the other kids start selling hot bricks to make money to make the littler kids toys.

So here we have the first altruistic element.

Then, for Christmas, there’s a gang of crooks dressed as Santa. They get stuck in the gang’s building (in the twenties, orphans lived unsupervised) and end up having to give out their loot as gifts.

The second half’s off, but the charming beginning makes up for it.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written and produced by Hal Roach, titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jannie Hoskins (Arnica), Jay R. Smith (Jay), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and ‘Tonnage’ Martin Wolfkeil (Store window Santa).


Back Stage (1923, Robert F. McGowan)

Back Stage opens with a vaudeville owner, played by William Gillespie, coming to town. Once the show’s presence is established, the narrative moves to the gang. They’ve turned a car into a donkey-powered double decker bus. It’s an extremely complex contraption. It doesn’t seem likely a bunch of kids could have constructed it, but the mechanics are interesting to watch in action.

Following that lengthy sequence, the gang ends up at the show. Some of the gang are put to work, the others just disrupt from the audience. Here, the steady jokes flow, even on the title cards. There are a couple excellent ones.

The show belongs to Farina, who doesn’t just disrupt… he demolishes. Gillespie watches in confusion–and the audience in delight–as Farina improves the acts by undermining the adults.

I can’t forget… there’s also an adorable monkey.

It’s a charming, if overlong, Our Gang short.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written and produced by Hal Roach, titles by H.M. Walker; released by Pathé Exchange.

Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Ernest Morrison (Ernie), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jack Davis (Jack), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey) and William Gillespie (Vaudeville Leader).


Boxing Gloves (1929, Robert A. McGowan)

It’s hard not to like Boxing Gloves’s central sequence—a boxing match between Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney and Joe Cobb—it’s two little fat kids in enormous boxing gloves duking it out. It’s also the sequence where McGowan shows the most directorial zeal. Unfortunately, it’s the place where the short’s particular sound situation (it’s a silent converted to sound and most of the bout is eerily silent) is most damaging.

Overall, the short’s reasonably amusing. It’s my first Our Gang as an adult and there’s a definite appeal to it. More, actually, before the big boxing match, as H.M. Walker’s dialogue sounds more like adult dialogue—and situations—given to deadpan kids.

The treatment of Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins is interesting. He’s black and race is a nonissue; to say it’s uncommon for films of the era is beyond understatement. He easily gives the Gloves’s best performance, balancing charm and self-awareness.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert A. McGowan; screenplay by H.M. Walker, based on a story by McGowan and Hal Roach; director of photography, F.E. Hershey and Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; music by Marvin Hatley; produced by Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney (Chubby), Joe Cobb (Joe), Jean Darling (Jean), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins (Wheezer), Mary Ann Jackson (Mary Ann), Harry Spear (Harry) and Jackie Cooper (Jackie).


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