Cinema Sentries: 'Our Gang' is book club pick
The cherubic innocence of Hal Roach's Our Gang series delighted children and adults throughout the nation in the early years of cinema. But as racial politics changed the adventures of Alfalfa and his friends were criticized for their past connections to racism. Author Julia Lee attempts to debunk the cries of Our Gang's fraught past by looking at the series from a racial angle. Blending individual episode analysis with the history of the series, Lee tells the tale of Roach's desire to make a series about real children having fun and, in so doing, created an idealized world of racial harmony in a time that was anything but. Though the book reads rather academically there's no denying Lee's assertions that, yes, for the time things were problematic butOur Gang was by far the most inclusive world for both African-Americans and white people. If you've enjoyed an Our Gang short or two, this is a must read.