UPDATED 12\/21\/2021 The Little Rascals, which debuted on television in 1955, introduced a band of ragtag children to the world. They were born from the 1922-1938 'Our Gang' shorts from MGM. Producer\/creator Hal Roach re-bundled 79 of the shorts to make The Little Rascals TV series, which is still broadcast today. The kids from The Little Rascals each had their own distinct personality and image that earned them their nicknames. Who doesn\u2019t remember the shock of freckles on Alfalfa\u2019s nose and the lock of hair that stood up on his head? Rounding out the popular Our Gang favorites were Spanky, Buckwheat, Stymie, and of course Petey, the dog. Get ready to dive into TV history and take a then-and-now look at the original Little Rascals. Little Rascals Cast - Neatorama Their legend continued on the big screen in the 1994 Universal release, The Little Rascals, which was a feature film loosely based on interpretations of those classic Our Gang shorts. Directed by Penelope Spheeris, the celebrity cameos \u2014 led by the Olsen twins,\u00a0Whoopi Goldberg,\u00a0Mel Brooks,\u00a0Reba McEntire,\u00a0Daryl Hannah,\u00a0Raven-Symon\u00e9, and Donald Trump \u2014 really stole the show. 'The Little Rascals' Cast - Neatorama As to where Hal Roach came up with the concept for Our Gang,\u00a0Do You Remember\u00a0turned to film historian Leonard Maltin, who also wrote the book\u00a0The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang. "He was very proud of that series," says Maltin in that exclusive interview. "He tended to tell the same handful of anecdotes whenever he was interviewed, and there was one he always told \u2014 and it could be true, it could be apocryphal, it could be a mild exaggeration of the truth, but it doesn\u2019t sound improbable. But he says he was looking out his office window one day and watched some kids fighting over a stick they were going to use for a game they were going to play. And he realized after a while that he\u2019d been looking at them for a long, long time and that they had captured his attention. He always said that was the spark that inspired the idea of having a series starring kids. And as I said, that doesn\u2019t sound too outlandish." three-rivers-press If you\u2019ve ever wondered what happened personally and professionally to the actors from\u00a0The Little Rascals,\u00a0the wait is over. Here are The (original) Little Rascals then and now. RELATED: Here's What Happened to Spanky from 'The Little Rascals' as Told by a Close Friend 1. Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas Buckwheat of The Little Rascals the culturegeist William Thomas Jr. was born on March 12, 1931, in Los Angeles. Thomas first appeared in the 1934 Our Gang shorts as a background player. The \u201cBuckwheat\u201d character was originally a female, portrayed by Matthew \u201cStymie\u201d Beard\u2019s younger sister, Carlena. From left: Spanky McFarland, Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas, ca. 1936 But the Buckwheat character slowly morphed into a boy. Thomas initially played Buckwheat \u2014 speech impediment and all \u2014 as a girl dressed as the stereotypical African-American \u201cpickaninny.\u201d He wore bowed pigtails, a large hand-me-down sweater, and oversized boots. That portrayal would be deemed quite controversial in the years to come. Hal Roach's Little Rascals: William 'Buckwheat' Thomas, (ca. 1930s) After he left the film shorts, Thomas enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was just 23 years old. He was honorably discharged from active duty, receiving a National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal. Although Thomas was somewhat in demand for film and stage roles, he opted for a behind-the-scenes job as a film lab technician with Technicolor. Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas, late 1930s In a 1980 interview, he explained, "After the Army, I wasn't really interested in the hassle of performing. Even the big stars had to chase around and audition; it seemed like a rat race to me, with no security." Of being part of The Little Rascals, he added, "I enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun together. Just like a family. We went to school together, played together, laughed together. It was great." Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas, late 1930s He died of a heart attack in his Los Angeles apartment on Oct. 10, 1980, 46 years to the day after his mother brought him to audition at Hal Roach Studios. 2. George 'Spanky' McFarland Pinterest George Robert Phillips McFarland was born October 2, 1928, in Dallas. Before he joined Our Gang, McFarland modeled children\u2019s clothing for a Dallas department store. He also was famously seen on Dallas highway billboards and in print advertisements for Wonder Bread. Spanky McFarland, 1930s McFarland\u2019s Aunt Dottie responded to an ad from Hal Roach Studios requesting photographs of \u201ccute kids," and he was cast as Spanky. The nickname is said to have come from his mother, who urged him not to misbehave in Roach\u2019s office. He had a habit of grabbing things and, in doing so, his mother warned, \u201cSpanky, mustn\u2019t touch!\u201d In later years, he was affectionately called \u201cSpank.\u201d George 'Spanky' McFarland, Pete the Pup, (ca. 1933) In the series, Spanky was known as the president of the \u201cHe-Man Women Hater\u2019s Club.\u201d At 24, McFarland left showbiz and joined the United States Air Force. Unfortunately, he couldn't get out from under the Spanky stereotype and worked odd jobs at a soft drink plant, a hamburger stand, and a popsicle factory. He became an avid speaker about his days as a part of The Little Rascals. In fact, with friend and manager Rick Saphire, he embarked on a college tour to do just that. Spanky with manager Rick Saphire (photo courtesy Rick Saphire) Speaking to\u00a0Do You Remember, Saphire notes, "After Spanky said, 'Okay, let's do it,' he then added \u2014 and these were his words \u2014 'I can't believe that college kids of today are going to be excited about coming to see a little fat man who hasn't made a movie in 30 years.' And I said, 'Spanky, I guarantee you're going to get a standing ovation before you even open your mouth.' As it turned out, I was right." Little Rascal photographers CARL "ALFALFA" SWITZER and SPANKY MacFARLAND get their subjects LAUREL & HARDY into a friendly pose, 9\/30\/36 "I had a ball," he has said in regards to playing Spanky. "I have no regrets. Even though it was a job, we had a pretty good time making those comedies. As a kid I had most everything I wanted and we had a good life. When it was over, it was over. I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience, and I wouldn't take a penny to do it again." Spanky McFarland, 1952 His final television performance was in 1993, playing himself in the opening of the Cheers episode \u201cWoody Gets An Election.\u201d He died shortly thereafter, in June of that year, of a heart attack. He was 64. He was posthumously honored with a star on Hollywood\u2019s Walk of Fame in January 1994. 3. Matthew 'Stymie' Beard Getty Images Matthew Beard Jr. was born on January 1, 1925, in Los Angeles. Beard was cast as a baby in many films before signing a five-year contract to play \u201cStymie\u201d in Our Gang. The character was originally named \u201cHercules\u201d until Our Gang director Robert McGowan renamed him Stymie, as he was always \u201cstymied\u201d by little Beard\u2019s curious wanderings around the studio. THE LITTLE RASCALS, (aka OUR GANG), Spanky McFarland, Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, early 1930s His trademark was a bald head, crowned by an oversized derby hat. The hat was gifted to him by comedian Stan Laurel, who had also worked under Our Gang creator Hal Roach in shorts and filmed in which he teamed up with Oliver Hardy (hence Laurel & Hardy). He reflected, "I took to him from the start. Lots of times our sets would be next to Laurel & Hardy's on the same stage. They would watch us shoot and we would watch them shoot. I was a curious kid, and I got a charge out of Stan Lauren, and he knew it. I used to follow him around the lot, he'd buy me ice cream and one day he said, 'Well, give this kid a derby.' That's why it never fit me; it belonged to Stan Laurel." Matthew 'Stymie' Beard (front), mid 1930s Stymie enjoyed making the films and, more importantly, the sense of equality that Roach insisted on when it came to his productions. Sadly, outside the studio gates, his life couldn't be more different. He lived in East Los Angeles with his parents and 13 siblings, which his paycheck provided support for. Unlike other kids, he couldn't really go outside and play, and not because of his stardom, but rather because the neighborhood they lived in was so dangerous. Stymie Beard from 'The Little Rascals' and his idol, Stan Laurel (RetroVision Archive) After Beard left the series at the tender age of 10, he went on to score some minor roles in such feature films as Captain Blood (1935) and The Return of Frank James (1940) with fellow child star and Our Gang alum Jackie Cooper. By the time he was in high school, he had retired from acting. Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, ca. early 1930s Unfortunately, Beard eventually became addicted to heroin. He was able to turn his life around, though, and after rehabilitating, he appeared as a guest star on Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons, and had a recurring role on Good Times as \u201cMonty.\u201d In 1978, he appeared in The Buddy Holly Story as a member of the backstage crew at the Apollo Theatre, wearing his trademark bowler hat. Beard maintained his sobriety, giving lectures on drug-abuse awareness. FOR PETE'S SAKE!, from left: Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, Tommy Bond, Wally Albright, Kendall 'Breexy Brisbane' McComas, 1934 He had a stroke on Jan. 3, 1981, sustained head injuries from falling down a flight of stairs, and succumbed to pneumonia five days later. He was 56. He was buried with the famous derby hat he wore all his life, back from his Stymie days. 4. Billy 'Froggy' Laughlin Pinterest William Robert Laughlin was born on July 5, 1932, in San Gabriel, California. Laughlin rose to fame at the age of 8, joining Our Gang in 1940. Laughlin\u2019s character Froggy was known for his strange, guttural voice, which sounded like a frog\u2019s croak \u2014 thus a nickname was born. Laughlin did the voice himself. When Our Gang stopped production in 1944, Laughlin appeared in Johnny Doesn\u2019t Live Here Anymore (1944), then left show business to enjoy his teenage years. THE LITTLE RASCALS\/OUR GANG COMEDIES, Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas, Robert Blake (aka: Mickey Gubitosi), Billy 'Froggy' Laughlin, George 'Spanky' McFarland, circa 1942. While out delivering newspapers on the back of his friend\u2019s scooter \u2014 near his home in La Puente, California \u2014 Laughlin was fatally struck by a speeding truck. He died on Aug. 31, 1948. The scooter was given to Laughlin by his parents only two weeks prior to the accident. He was only 16, the youngest to die of any of the Our Gang actors. 5. The Little Rascals - Eugene 'Porky' Lee Porky from The Little Rascals Eugene Lee was born on Oct. 25, 1933, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Lee family traveled from Texas to Culver City, California. Hal Roach noted how much the 18-month-old toddler looked like Our Gang star Spanky McFarland, also from Texas. As a result, Lee \u2014 nicknamed \u201cPorky\u201d by the studio \u2014 joined the cast as Spanky\u2019s little brother. Five-year-old Lee had a growth spurt in early 1939, outgrowing 10-year-old McFarland. He was replaced by Mickey Gubitosi, better known as\u00a0Robert Blake. Hal Roach's Our Gang, (clockwise from bottom left): Eugene 'Porky' Lee, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, Baby Patsy May, Darla Hood, George 'Spanky' McFarland, Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas, Pete the Pup, ca. 1936 Lee retired and became an\u00a0alternative school educator at Broomfield High School in\u00a0Colorado. To escape his acting career, he changed his name to Gordon Lee after his favorite\u00a0Our Gang\u00a0director, Gordon Douglas. Eugene Gordon Lee, aka 'Porky' from 'The Little Rascals' (RetroVision Archive) As he related to film historian Leonard Maltin, it was tough adjusting to life once he was no longer a part of Our Gang. "The MGM limousine stops coming to your house," he recounted, "and you wonder why the world has ceased loving you so suddenly at age seven." In school he was teased by other students, causing him to note, "Kids can be mean. So I learned to disown Porky. Even as an adult, I told none of my friends. My wife knew of my background, otherwise I was happy to conceal the 'Porky' tag until the last few years." Eugene 'Porky' Lee, (aka Gordon Lee), ca. 1930s On Oct. 16, 2005, at the age of 71, he lost his battle with lung and brain cancer. 6. Mickey 'Mickey' Gubitosi Wikipedia Michael James Gubitosi, aka Robert Blake, was born on Sept. 18, 1933, in Nutley,\u00a0New Jersey. Blake\u2019s parents began a song-and-dance act in 1936 with his three siblings, billed as \u201cThe Three Little Hillbillies.\u201d The family moved to Los Angeles in 1938, where the kids began working as movie\u00a0extras. THE LITTLE RASCALS\/OUR GANG COMEDIES, George 'Spanky' McFarland, Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas, Robert Blake (aka: Mickey Gubitosi), in DON'T LIE, 1942. Blake got his break at 9 years old when he began playing Mickey in Our Gang, after replacing Porky. He later became Spanky\u2019s best friend and graduated to the leader of the group. He also appeared as a child actor in the\u00a0Red Ryder\u00a0film franchise. In many of his other roles as an adult, he was cast as a Native American or Latino character, despite being an Italian from New Jersey. After a stint in the Army, Blake returned to acting, making a name for himself in the television series\u00a0Baretta\u00a0as an undercover police officer. THE BIG PREMIERE, from left, George 'Spanky' McFarland, Darla Hood, Robert Blake, (billed as Mickey Gubitosi), Shirley Coates, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, 1940 However, in 2005, Blake became much more famous for his personal life when he was tried and acquitted\u00a0of the 2001 murder of his second wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley. She notoriously dated Christian Brando, Marlon\u2019s son, while she was with Blake. On Nov. 18, 2005, he was found liable in a California civil court for her\u00a0wrongful death. Blake, now 85, has maintained a low profile since his acquittal, filing for bankruptcy with debts of $3 million for unpaid legal fees and taxes. 7. Mickey 'Mickey\/Algebra' Daniels Wikipedia Mickey Daniels was one of the most Rascals to appear most frequently in Hal Roach\u2019s original Our Gang shorts, with between 70 and 80 appearances spanning 1932 to 1935. According to IMDB, Daniels was living pretty large during his time on the show, making $37 per week when he started and up to $175 per week when he left (or more than $2,500 in today\u2019s dollars). Hal Roach's Little Rascals: (from left): Jack Davis, Allen 'Farina' Hoskins, Jackie Condon, Mickey Daniels, Hal Roach Sr., Mary Kornman, Joe Cobb, Ernie 'Sunshine' Morrison, c. 1922 Unfortunately, Daniels\u2019 career never took off after the shorts He reportedly married and divorced, and had one daughter, but died alone in a hotel room in 1970 while working as a taxi driver. 8. Petey the Dog Petey The Dog - The Little Rascals The original Petey was an American Pit Bull Terrier\u00a0named Pal, the Wonder Dog. Pal got his start as Tige in the\u00a0Buster Brown\u00a0series in the 1920s. It was during this time that he acquired the circled eye. Maksymilian Faktorowicz, who founded\u00a0Max Factor & Company in Los Angeles, drew the circle. When he was recruited to appear in the\u00a0Our Gang\u00a0comedies later that year,\u00a0Hal Roach\u00a0simply left it on, creating one of the most recognized dogs in film history. Petey, the dog from the Our Gang comedies, celebrates his tenth birthday at the Park Central Hote, NYC, 5\/29\/35. He's surrounded by Honey Gordon and Rosaland Lanzer. In 1930, Pal was tragically poisoned and killed. His offspring inherited the role of Petey, though his eye circle mysteriously moved to the left side of his face. LITTLE RASCALS, THE, Spanky McFarland, Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins), Dorothy DeBorba, Breezy Brisbane (Kendall McComas), Donald Haines, Stymie, Petey c. 1932 After Lucenay (the dog\u2019s owner) was fired from Our Gang, he retired to Atlantic City. He died on January 28, 1946. He was 16 \u2013 as old as Billy \u201cFroggy\u201d Laughlin \u2014 when he died. In the 1994 feature-film remake of The Little Rascals, Petey is an American Bulldog. 9. Darla Hood \u00a09. Darla Hood Pinterest Darla Hood was born on November 8, 1931, in Leedey, Oklahoma. Her mother introduced her to singing and dancing at an early age. For her third birthday they went to New York to seek fame and fortune in the arts. Joe Rivkin, a casting director for Hal Roach Studios, cast her in the role of Darla in the Our Gang shorts. Darla is mostly remembered for her coquettishness, as she often was the object of affection for Alfalfa, Butch, and Waldo. THE NEW PUPIL, from left: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, Darla Hood, 1940 As Darla was reported as saying in a\u00a0DYR\u00a0profile of her, "I was born in a small town in Oklahoma and I guess my mother wanted to get out of there, because she took me to Oklahoma City and signed me up with a dancing teacher. My dancing teacher talked my mother into letting me go to New York City, where I wound up leading the band at the Edison Hotel and caught the eye of the\u00a0Our Gang\u00a0casting director. I singed the contract in 1935 when I was three years old and did my first\u00a0Our Gang\u00a0film a year later." LITTLE RASCALS VARIETIES, insert from left: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, Darla Hood, Spanky MacFarland, 1959 After outgrowing Our Gang, Hood continued her education in high school, where she organized a vocal group called the Enchanters. Rivkin, who discovered her as a child, cast her in The Bat \u2014 her last film role \u2014 in 1959. It was her first and last adult role in a movie, and she played a secretary alongside Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. THE BIG PREMIERE, from left: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, Darla Hood, Spanky McFarland, 1940 The Little Rascals never left her after all those years, with Darla enthusing, "I had a very happy childhood. It may sound like a strange life, but since it was my life for as long as I can remember, I loved it." From left: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer (standning), Hal Roach Jr., Darla Hood (front next to Pete the Pup), Eugene 'Porky' Lee, Spanky McFarland, Patsy May (on lap) greeting studio visitor Vittorio Mussolini, 1937 While she was busy organizing the 1980 Little Rascals reunion for the Los Angeles chapter of the Sons of the Desert, she underwent an appendectomy. She didn\u2019t make it and died suddenly of heart failure on June 13, 1979, at age 47. 10. Mary Ann Jackson Mary Ann - The Little Rascals One of the most popular female characters in\u00a0Our Gang\u00a0during the 1930s, Jackson often played the older sister of Wheezer. She had a bobbed haircut and acted quite tomboyish. She started in the series in 1928, just as the silent era was ending, and left in 1931 at age 8. Our Gang, Mary Ann Jackson, Jean Darling, early 1930s In later years, she gave up acting and spent her time working in department stores and going out to parties with her sister. She had fond memories of her days being a little rascal and died of a heart attack in 2003. 11. Dorothy DeBorba The Little Rascals Today Dorothy DeBorba joined the cast of Our Gang in 1930 in \u201cPups is Pups.\u201d She is best remembered for her elaborate hairstyles and bows on the series. Additionally, there's her mischievous nature and her ability to mimic other characters\u2019 lines in a humorous way, which gave her the nickname \u201cEcho.\u201d From left: Dorothy Deborba, Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, Dickie Moore, 1933 She left the series in 1933 after making 24 pictures. Dorothy graduated high school and became a clerk. She had two children and later died of emphysema in 2010. 12. Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer The Little Rascals - Carl Dean Switzer Carl Dean Switzer was born on Aug. 7, 1927, in Paris, Illinois. He and his brother, Harold, became famous in their hometown for their musical talents. In 1934, the Switzers traveled to California to visit family and, as fate would have it, went on a sightseeing tour to Hal Roach Studios, where the Our Gang shorts were filmed. THE LITTLE RASCALS\/OUR GANG COMEDIES, 1937, Alfalfa Switzer, Darla Hood, with the Flora Dora Girls, in 'Our Gang Follies of 1938' After the tour, 8-year-old Harold and 6-year-old Carl went for a meal at the Our Gang cafe and began an impromptu performance. Roach just happened to be there and was so impressed that he signed them both on the spot. Carl was dubbed \u201cAlfalfa" and, over the course of the films, he became best friends with Spanky and, of course, was always pursuing Darla. Hal Roach's Little Rascals, Carl Switzer, Spanky McFarland, 1938 After leaving the series in 1940, he was the victim of typecasting and struggled to find roles. He appeared in bit parts and B movies as an adult, including the classic It's a Wonderful Life(1946). During the making of what would be his final film,\u00a0The Defiant Ones\u00a0(1958), he told a newspaper, "I look just like I did when I was a kid. It's hard for a child actor to start working again. I've never played a part over 19. I'm always a teenager and there haven't been many jobs until recently. I'll see how this turns out. If this doesn't do it for me, nothing will." IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Donna Reed, James Stewart, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, 1946 In the end, he left show business and became a dog breeder and hunting guide. As he explained in 1953, "Don't get me wrong. I didn't quit Hollywood. I'm a guy who likes to eat and I found I couldn't do it without working. I would have stayed in Hollywood if I could have gotten picture jobs." In January 1958, it was reported that while he was getting into his car in Studio City, someone fired a bullet at him, which crashed through the window and hit him in the right arm. Ironically, this would end up being a "preview" of what would ultimately be in store for him. In January 1959, Switzer met an untimely end as he was fatally shot during a fight over $50 and a hunting dog. He was only 31. 13. Norman 'Chubsy-Ubsy' Chaney One of the saddest lives among all the members of Our Gang was undoubtedly Norman Chaney, who was better known as Chubsy-Ubsy. He was born October 18, 1914 in Cambridge, Maryland. As the shorts moved from silent films into the sound era, cast member Joe Cobb had aged out and Hal Roach, with director Robert F. McGowan, were looking for a heavy-set replacement. At the time, Norman was 3'11" and weighed 113 pounds. Appearing under the "official" name of Chubby, he starred in a total of 19 short films over the course of two years, but his time in the cast was cut short by the fact that he was continually putting on more weight despite his attempts not to do so. His contract was not renewed in 1931, so he and his family moved back to Baltimore. There he attended public school and attempted a life of normalcy. Sadly, though, that life was short-lived. As it turned out, he was suffering from a glandular ailment which resulted in his weight reaching 300 pounds while he stopped growing at 4'7". He did undergo surgery, after which he dropped down to 140 pounds and then, 110, but the end result was disastrous. On May 29, 1936, when he was only 21, Norman died of myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. For much more on Norman, please check out our profile of him. All of us at DYR sincerely hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane to check out the original cast of The Little Rascals! To learn much more about George "Spanky" McFarland as told by a close friend, please click here.\u00a0 (Everett Collection) ALSO: 'The Little Rascals: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer Was the Target of a Shooting a Year Before His Murder' 'The Little Rascals': By 1959, Much of 'Our Gang' Was Running into Tough \u2014 Sometimes Deadly \u2014 Times 'The Little Rascals': Norman Chaney, Who Preferred 'Chubsy-Ubsy,' Had a Short and Sad Life This story may contain some links from which we may earn a small affiliate commission. For more of these throwback videos, check out our YouTube Channel!