MAMA’S LITTLE PIRATE (1934)
Article 5299 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Gus Meins
Featuring George ‘Spanky’ McFarland, Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard, Scotty Beckett
What it is: Our Gang short
After hearing a newspaper article about the discovery of pirate treasure in a cave, Spanky gathers together the other members of his gang and they set out on a spelunking expedition.
During the first half of the short, I was thinking that the fantastic content would consist of the fact that Spanky has a conversation with his evil doppelganger in which the latter tries to tempt him into disobeying his mother. However, when the kids discover a huge treasure chest, the short takes a turn into full-blown fantasy, and this is further enhanced when they end up in the home of a full-blown medieval giant. Sure, the giant is played by a “really tall guy”, but it works in this case because the kids are so small that he really does tower over them. The sequence with the treasure chest and the giant is indeed a lot of fun, but I do feel a little disturbed by other aspects of this short. In particular, a scene where Spanky decides to anchor a spool of string by tying one end around a little black girl’s neck manages to go beyond political incorrectness and into the realm of real irresponsibility; I’d feel queasy about it no matter what color the child was. It’s the biggest sour note in what is otherwise a fairly entertaining short, and it really isn’t alleviated by the fact that the little girl is being played by a little boy.