Tuesday, October 27, 2009

George "Spanky" McFarland

George "Spanky" McFarland was born George Robert Phillips McFarland on October 2, 1928 in Dallas, Texas. His parents were Robert Emmett and Virginia McFarland. He had three siblings, Thomas ("Tommy," who himself appeared in a few Our Gang episodes as "Dynamite"), Amanda, and Roderick ("Rod").

Spanky began his career modeling children's clothing for a Dallas department store and also was seen around Dallas on highway billboards and in print advertsidements for Wonder Bread.

In January 1931, in response to a trade magazine advertisement from Hall Roach Studios, requesting photographs of "cute kids," Spanky's Aunt Dottie sent pictures from his portfolio. An invitation for a screen test soon arrived, which happened that spring, leading to his acting career in the Our Gang series (Later named the Little Rascals).

Spanky was three years old when he made his film debut in Free Eats (1932). He would continue to appear in more than 100 Our Gang films, the last being in 1942.

Spanky's famous double and triple-takes were taught to him by Stan Laurel, while a lot of his mannerisms (rolling of eyes, hands on hips, and his trademark exasperated expression) were inspired by Oliver Hardy.

In 1952, at age 24, McFarland joined the U.S. Air Force. Upon his return to civilian life, he was typecast in the public's mind as Spanky from Our Gang and was unable to find work in show business.

He took less glamorous jobs inclduing working at a soft drink plant, hamburgery stand and a posicle factory.

In the late 1950's, when the Our Gang Comedies were once again sweeping the nation on television, Spanky hosted an afternoon children's show "Spanky's Clubhouse" in Tulasa, Oklahoma. The Show included a studio audience and appearances by celebrities such as James Arness. It also ran the Little Rascals shorts.

After Spanky's Clubhouse, he continued at odd jobs selling wine, operating a restraurant and night club, and selling appliances, electronics and furniture. He was selling for Philco-Ford Corporation where he advanced to national sales director.

Spanky loaned his name and celebrity to help raise money for charities, primarily by participating in golf tournaments. Spanky also had his own namesake charity golf classic for 16 years, held in Marion, Indiana.

He wasl also an ardent golfer who, in his later years, could be frequently seen on the pro-am circuit.

George Spanky McFarland continued to do personal appearances and cameo roles in films and television, including an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Spanky's final television performance was in 1993 in an introductory vignette at the beginning of the Cheers episode "Woody Gets An Election".

Spanky was the only member of Our Gang to ever receive on-screen and poster billing. He received on-screen billing in Choo-Choo (1932) and the Pooch (1932). Most of the Our Gang posters during the mid-1930s were billed: "Our Gang, featuring 'Spanky' McFarland, in..."

Spanky was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he and Our Gang co-star Jackie Cooper being the only other one to be honored with a star.

Spanky's star is located in front of the Labrea Plaza strip mall, at 7095 Hollywood Blvd on the North side of Hollywood Blvd, between the two closest cross streets of N. Labrea Ave and El Cerrito Place and his star is near the stars belonging to Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr and composer Irving Berlin.

George Spanky McFarland died on June 30, 1993.

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