Kids. Gotta love 'em. Producer Hal Roach's vision for a show about regular kids acting like, well, regular kids, hit it big. Between 1922 and 1928, Roach oversaw 88 features, and Darla, Buckwheat, Wheezer and Alfalfa became household ragamuffins. The films continued, and the characters would survive for decades on the small screen, never aging. In real life, however, they aged, they got murdered, they lived boring afterlives, they died, they got ordinary. Were they cursed? Boredom is as boredom does and murder is always murder. From rags to riches to rags again isn't exactly the stuff dreams are made of, either. Read on for the True Hollywood Story of the Little Rascals 'Our Gang' expose!
In this classic E! True Hollywood Story: Curse of the Little Rascals, you'll see how so many of the tykes, who began as Rascals, learned quickly that childhood--and the fame and innocence that came with it--didn't last.
Behind the cameras, things weren't so rosy. The lives of the kids were anything but normal and would only get harder. Eight-year-old Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, for one, reigned terror on anyone within spitting distance, and Matthew "Stymie" Beard worked hard just to keep his 13 brothers and sisters fed.
As the rascals aged, few found peace--or anything but disappointment--in adulthood. This Story follows them to their tragic ends, starting with the first--Norman "Chubby" Chaney's strange weight-related death at the age of 18. And just this year, 87-year-old Jay R. Smith (aka Freckles) was found in the desert outside Las Vegas, stabbed to death, robbed and missing several fingers. In between? Everything from a freak mid-air collision to a truck running down a kid on his paper route would take the lives of Gang members.
Meanwhile, fellow Rascals alum Robert Blake sat in jail, accused of killing his wife. He's free now, but jail is not exactly the stuff of fame and fortune. This E! True Hollywood Story uncovers the cursed adulthood that awaited America's original former child stars. But first, get a sneak peek with a gallery of photos from the gang's early heydays!
Before we launch into specifics, let's briefly run down the lives of the 29 child actors who were regulars (i.e., appeared in fifteen or more installments) of the 221 Our Gang comedies (also known as The Little Rascals) produced between 1922 and 1944. This information was compiled from Leonard Maltin's book (The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang), the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and various news accounts:
They should have known something was wrong when, in 1930, Pete the pup was found mysteriously poisoned. The death of the popular sidekick on the Our Gang films--known later on television as The Little Rascals--should have signaled more trouble ahead. In the coming decades, many of the adorable kids cast in the movies would grow up to know only tragedy, freakish ends, weird illness and wrecked lives. Read on to find out about the rest of the cast and their lives after stardom. Then, watch our true Hollywood Story on video, commercial free, and get the low down on the downward spiral of Hollywood lives and deaths.
Ernest Frederic Morrison ("Sunshine Sammy"): Appeared in 28 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in show business and aerospace industry. Died of cancer at age 76. Cancer is no nice way to go, that's for sure. The THS has all the gory details.
John Condon ("Jackie"): Appeared in 28 installments. Successful post-Rascals career as an accountant. Died of cancer at age 59. Yet another cancer 'victim'?
Allen Clayton Hoskins, Jr. ("Farina"): Appeared in 105 installments. Successful post-Rascals career as a psychological technician. Died of cancer at age 59. And, another one. What WAS in their drinking water?
Richard Daniels, Jr. ("Mickey"): Appeared in 49 installments. Continued to work in show business in his post-Rascals career, then entered the engineering field and largely dropped out of sight after moving to Africa. Spent the last three years of his life as a taxi driver before dying alone in a San Diego hotel room of cirrhosis of the liver at age 55. Drank himself to death. What a post career move that one was. And, dying alone? Not what we would consider the luck of the Irish, eh?
John H. Davis: ("Jackie"): Appeared in 19 installments. Successful post-Rascals career as a doctor. Died at age 78. Not much to say about him and maybe that's enough of a curse after being the center of attention for 19 episodes; but, watch the video and see for yourself.
Mary A. Kornman ("Mary"): Appeared in 41 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in show business. Died of cancer at age 57. Cancer seems to run rampant amongst the stars, doesn't it?
Joe Cobb ("Joe"): Appeared in 86 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in aerospace. Died at age 85. No one should have to live 85 years. Couldn't even make it to 86 years old, to match the number of episodes he appeared in.
Andy Samuel ("Andy"): Appeared in 86 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in show business and art store management. Died at age 82. This is successful? Art store manager?
John Morey Downs ("Johnny"): Appeared in 24 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in show business and real estate. Died of cancer at age 80. Cancer keeps rearing its ugly head, doesn't it?
Jay R. Smith ("Jay"): Appeared in 36 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in the retail business. Stabbed to death in Las Vegas at age 87 by a homeless man whom he had befriended. Stabbed. Now, that had to hurt.
Jean Darling ("Jean"): Appeared in 35 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in show business and mystery writing. Still alive at age 82. Is she still coherent?
Robert E. Hutchins ("Wheezer"): Appeared in 58 installments. Joined the Army Air Corps and died just short of age 20 when his plane crashed on landing during a training exercise. What an utterly boring way to die.
Harry Spear ("Harry"): Appeared in 58 installments. Post-Rascals activities unknown. Maltin reports rumors that he was working in a bank or had become a surgeon; IMDb lists him as dying in 1969 at age 46; other sources claim he is still alive but denies being a former Little Rascal. Denial? Interesting that anyone would deny being part of the most memorable show ever.
Mary Ann Jackson ("Mary Ann"): Appeared in 32 installments. Married, raised two children, and died of a heart attack at age 80. Another heart attack? Or was she scared to death?
Norman Myers Chaney ("Chubby"): Appeared in 32 installments. Died of a glandular ailment in early adulthood. (Maltin reports he was 18 years old at the time of his death; IMDb lists him as being 22.) Whatever his age, that's way too young. And, what exactly IS a glandular ailment? Sounds messy to us. But, see it in our full length video.
Jackie Cooper: Appeared in 32 installments. Very long and successful post-Rascals career in films and television. Still alive at age 82. For Jackie Cooper, retirement IS a curse. And, living in California. That makes it a double dose of boredom.
Dorothy DeBorba ("Echo"): Appeared in 32 installments. Married, raised two children, worked as a clerk at UC Berkeley. Still alive at age 80. A clerk. A wife. Still alive. By the time we reach 80 years of age, is that not a curse unto itself?
Matthew Beard, Jr.("Stymie"): Appeared in 36 installments. Had post-Rascal problems with drug addiction and served time in prison, eventually underwent successful rehabilitation and returned to show business. Died of pneumonia at age 56. Nobody dies of pneumonia anymore. And, prison? Such a shame for Matthew. Or was it something entirely different and a whole lot more intriguing?
Jerry Tucker: Appeared in 36 installments. Successful post-Rascals career with RCA. Still alive at age 79. Still alive? But, what's the quality of Jerry's life? Is he rich? Indigent? From fame to the gutter? It's all there in our downloadable video.
George Robert McFarland ("Spanky"): Appeared in 95 installments. Successful post-Rascals career as a sales manager with Philco-Ford and a lecturer. Died of a heart attack at age 64. From star to sales. Worse than death is the death of a salesman.
Tommy Bond ("Butch"): Appeared in 27 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in television directing and production work. Died of heart disease at age 79. Heart disease takes years. Did old Tommy bring it on himself or did he have help?
Scott Beckett ("Scotty"): Appeared in 15 installments. Suffered post-Rascals problems with divorce, violence, alcohol, drugs, and crime. Committed suicide by barbiturate overdose at age 38. Just goes to show you that kids being kids aren't necessarily kind nor adorable. What DID those boys and girls do to Scotty to make him want to die? Maybe it wasn't suicide. What do you think?
William Thomas, Jr. ("Buckwheat"): Appeared in 93 installments. Successful post-Rascals career as a film laboratory technician. Died of a heart attack at age 49. Poor Buckwheat. Played the fool as a Rascal. Died commonly as a lowly film lab rat.
Carl Dean Switzer ("Alfalfa"): Appeared in 61 installments. Worked at playing bit parts in film and television, tending bar, and serving as a hunting guide. Shot to death at age 31 in a dispute over a $50 debt. Alfalfa. What a character. How fitting a death to be shot at such a tender age. Worse, the public learned he was merely a bartender and hunting guide, rather than leading a life filled with fame and autographs.
Eugene Gordon Lee ("Porky"): Appeared in 42 installments. Operates a merchandise licensing company. Still alive at age 71. Ah, but what life is he leading. Sounds pretty boring after being in a hit Hollywood long running series. Some curses are going from excitement to ennui.
Darla Hood ("Darla"): Appeared in 42 installments. Successful post-Rascals career in show business as a singer/songwriter and voice-over artist. Died of hepatitis at age 47. Seems a little young for the darling of the Rascals.
Darwood Kaye ("Waldo"): Appeared in 21 installments. Had a successful post-Rascals career in show business before joining the ministry. Killed by a hit-and-run driver at age 72. Dying at 72 may not seem like a curse; but, imagine the car coming at you when you're that age. If that's not cursed, we don't want to know your definition.
Robert Blake: ("Mickey," but inexplicably listed as "Spanky"): Appeared in 40 installments. Very long and successful post-Rascals career in show business. Arrested in April 2002 for the murder of his wife; acquitted at trial in March 2005. Still alive at age 71. Still, cancer and accusations of murder do not exactly make one believe Robert Blake is leading a 'charmed' life, now does it?
According to crime writers, there are some additions to the Our Gang death list:
Robert H. Young "Bonedust" (9/15/17 - 9/10/51)
Died in a hotel fire, which started when he fell asleep smoking in bed.
Dorothy Dandridge "Dorothy" (11/09/23 9/08/65)
Committed suicide after an investment scheme caused her to go bankrupt.
Harold Switzer "Deadpan" or "Slim" - (1/16/25 - 4/14/67)
As was the case with his brother, Harold was also killed following a dispute with another man.
Darwood Kaye "Waldo" - (9/08/29 - 5/15/2002)
Killed by a hit and run driver while walking on the sidewalk.
Jay R. Smith "Jay R" - (8/29/15 - 10/05/2002)
Stabbed to death and left in the desert by a homeless man he had befriended.
Thomas Bond who played "Butch"
Bond is not mentioned in the eRumor, but just for the record, he died on 9/24/05 in Los Angeles of complications from heart disease, according to an Associated Press article on 9/25/05. He was 79.
Believe it or not, these wascally wascals did not lead charmed lives; rather, they played them on television. The truth behind the scenes is best portrayed to you by your faithful hound dogs of gossip, always sniffing out the real stories, the lies and deceits, and possibly the curses which plagued these child stars, whose deaths may well have been the gossamer threads of a screenwriters' story board!