Posts Tagged ‘Hal Roach’

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) starts a 24 hour marathon tonight  featuring the Our Gang shorts from producer/director Hal Roach

 If you’re not familiar with the Our Gang films (or The Little Rascals, as they were also known), they were a series of shortcomedy  films produced from 1922 up until the late 30’s that featured children as the stars of the storylines.  The children acted in a very naturalistic manner and the stories often had the kids, who were poor, at odds with authority figures and the wealthy.  For the time, there was surprising evidence of racial and gender equality in these films, with girls and young black child actors performing in  starring roles.  There was a level of stereotyping that may not be politically correct today but , at the time, this equality was new and ground-breaking in films.

For those of you who do know them, simply reciting the names of some of the gang are enough to raise some memories.  There was Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Chubby, Stymie, Buckwheat ( parodied in a huge way later by Eddie Murphy on SNL), Farina, and Dickie among the many children who appeared in the cast over the years. Not to mention Petey, the white dog with the black ring around his eye. 

I mention this not because of any special love for these films, although I saw and enjoyed most of them over and over again as kid.  I mention it because Hal Roach was a fellow native of this area, born and raised in Elmira, going to the same high school as me.   While known for the Our Gang films, Roach is perhaps better known for his Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy films.  It is legendarily said that Roach’s path in life was greatly influenced by hearing Mark Twain speak at his school when he was a young boy.  Twain spent the better part of twenty summers here in Elmira, writing some of his best loved works from his study overlooking the city, and is buried in the same cemetery here as Roach, who died in 1992 at the age of 100.  I often wonder if those same Eastside Elmira streets above which Twain lived are represented in these Our Gang films.

So, if you get a chance, take a peek tonight or tomorrow at some true Americana.  The Our Gang films represent a unique time in our history and are entertaining,  to boot.

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Seems Like a New SunThis piece, Seems Like a New Sun, is part of the show currently hanging at the Haen Gallery in Asheville, NC.  It’s a cityscape, a genre I enjoy mainly because of the abstract quality of shape and color that is formed by building up the structures.

At the opening for the show, someone asked if this painting was of a necropolis, a city of the dead or cemetery.  They cited the lack of windows and doors and said that it reminded them of those in Paris and New Orleans, where many of the graves are housed above-ground in beautiful small mausoleums.  This kind of took me  back a little because the idea had never entered my mind at any point in the creation of this piece but when I looked again it made perfect sense, in more than the obvious way.

I have always been attracted to cemeteries of all sorts and when we travel (a rarity these days) Cheri and I generally find a cemetery and walk around it, admiring the stones and mausoleums.  I read the names and epitaphs, trying to discern what sort of life they indicate.  Some find this morbid but I find it fascinating and very peaceful and in some ways, invigorating and reinforcing of life.  There is a lot to be said in the way a culture treats its dead.

We have a beautiful cemetery in our home area, Woodlawn Cemetery, that was created in the heyday of “burial parks” in the mid-19th century.  It has a rolling landscape with beautiful old growth trees and meandering roads. Very nice.  It’s home now to Mark Twain, Hal Roach, Ernie Davis and others.  Adjoining it is a national cemetery where there are the remains of a number of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War who perished in the notorious prisoner of war camp at Elmira.  There is history everywhere if we only look.

This is Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Evita Peron is its most famous resident.  Quite a striking sight amid the sprawl of the living city.  Maybe there is some validity in the viewer’s question…Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

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