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Selected Short Subjects: The Our Gang Miss Crabtree comedies part two

School's Out (1930)
School's Out (1930)
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The second in a trilogy of Our Gang comedies

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School’s Out

Directed by Robert McGowan. Dialog by H.M. Walker. Cinematography by Art Lloyd. Music by LeRoy Shield. Sound by Elmer Raguse. Starring Jackie Cooper, Allen Clayton “Farina” Hoskins, Norman “Chubby” Chaney, Matthew Beard, Dorothy DeBorba, Bobby “Wheezer” Hutchins, Clifton “Bonedust” Young, Buddy McDonald, Mary Ann Jackson, Donald Haines, June Marlowe, Creighton Hale. A Hal Roach production for MGM. Filmed June 17-25, 1930. Released November 22, 1930.

School’s Out is one of the funniest efforts during this period of Our Gang series. While the previous short, “Teacher’s Pet,” introduced the character dynamics between the kids and the Miss Crabtree character (June Marlowe), this short uses the established situation for humor, and most effectively.

The film opens with a smitten Jackie (Jackie Cooper) trying to get the others to sign a “partition” to keep school going straight through the summer. “How are we gonna go fishing if we have to go to school?” Farina (Allen Hoskins) asks pointedly. The amusing dialog continues with Chubby (Norman Chaney) stating that last night his father spanked him “fluently,” this misrepresentation of words becoming something of a fixture in the dialog throughout the short.

The gang mistakes Miss Crabtree’s visiting brother (Creighton Hale) for a likely beau and, fearing they might lose yet another beloved teacher “like what happened with Miss McGilligcuddy,” they tell the man a series of fibs. Indicating Miss Crabtree has a wooden leg, two sets of false teeth, and “a mean temperature,” they believe they’ve frightened the man away. But to make sure, when the man decides to go for a dip in the pond, they steal his clothes.

When Miss Crabtree later asks the class if her brother has come around to see her, the kids react comically and then tearfully confess what they told him. She fakes crying as if hurt, in order to teach them a lesson, but her tears change to laughter when her brother enters with brush from the woods covering up his naked body.

Unlike “Teacher’s Pet,” which took a more sentimental approach and allowed the adult to control the situation, “School’s Out” follows the more effective method of having the mischievous rascals defying authority figures. When they realize their control of the situation regarding the visiting boyfriend was actually a brother, their tearful confession follows the comic trajectory. It does not come off as mawkish and sentimental but as yet another funny scene within a series.

One of the funniest sequences in “School’s Out” is a vignette separate from the central narrative. Bonedust (Clifton Young) gets answers for that day’s lesson “out of a book” and shares them with the others. Thus, when Miss Crabtree quizzes the children, she is met with the following responses:
Where is Washington?
First in war, first in peace, and third in the American League!

What was Abraham Lincoln’s mother’s name?
Mrs. Lincoln!

What did Paul Revere say when he stopped his horse in front of the Colonial home
He said “Whoa!”

Who was the hunchback of Notre Dame?
Lon Chaney!

What was Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?
1644 South Main Street

It is later revealed that the “book” Bonedust used for his information was a minstrel joke book!

“School’s Out” works perfectly as the pivotal film in the Our Gang Crabtree trilogy. It is tightly structured, maintains a relaxed pace, is consistently funny, and never lapses into dated sentiment. Where “Teacher’s Pet” was the setup, “School’s Out” is the bridge, and the forthcoming “Love Business” will be the conclusion.