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Claim to Fame
Spanky of Our Gang
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Prior to joining the Our Gang comedies, he modeled children`s clothing for a Dallas department store and also was seen around the Dallas area on highway billboards and in print advertisements for Wonder Bread. This established "Buddy" early on in the local public`s eye as an adorable child model and provided experience before cameras. In January of 1931, in response to a trade magazine advertisement from Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, California, requesting photographs of "cute kids," Spanky`s Aunt Dottie (Virginia`s sister) sent pictures from Buddy`s portfolio. An invitation for a screen test soon arrived, which happened that spring, leading to his acting career. Portions of Spanky`s screen test are included in a 1932 Our Gang entry, aptly entitled Spanky.
McFarland`s nickname "Spanky" is said to have arisen from warnings by his mother not to misbehave during one of the initial discussions with Hal Roach in his office. As the story goes, he had a habit of reaching out and grabbing things, and on doing so his mother Virginia would say, "Spanky, spanky, mustn`t touch!" Spanky himself refuted this version in later years, saying that the name was given by a Los Angeles newspaper reporter. Use of the "Spanky" name by McFarland for subsequent business or personal activities was expressly granted to McFarland in one of his studio contracts. In later years some in his family would affectionately refer to him as "Spank." Spanky McFarland`s only starring feature-film vehicle was the 1936 Hal Roach film General Spanky, an unsuccessful attempt to move the Our Gang series into features. He also appeared as a juvenile performer in many non-Roach feature films, including the Wheeler & Woolsey comedy Kentucky Kernels and two Fritz Lang features of the 1940s. Following the 1938 Our Gang short Came the Brawn, McFarland "retired" from Our Gang, beginning a persona appearance tour. In mid-1938, Hal Roach sold the Our Gang unit to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who began casting for a new "team leader" character in Spanky`s vein and ended up rehiring McFarland himself. He remained in the MGM Our Gang productions until his final appearance in the series, Unexpected Riches, in 1942 at age thirteen. In 1952, at age 24, McFarland joined the U.S. Air Force. Upon his return to civilian life, indelibly typecast in the public`s mind as "Spanky" from Our Gang, he found himself unable to find work in show business. He took less glamorous jobs, including work at a soft drink plant, a hamburger stand, and a popsicle factory. In the late 1950s, when the Our Gang comedies were sweeping the nation on TV, McFarland hosted an afternoon children`s show, "Spanky`s Clubhouse," on KOTV television in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The show included a studio audience and appearances by other celebrities such as James Arness, and it ran Little Rascals shorts.
After that stint, he continued at odd jobs - selling wine, operating a restaurant and night club, and selling appliances, electronics and furniture. He was selling for Philco-Ford Corporation, where he advanced to national sales director. After his self-described "semi-retirement," 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. McFarland continued to do personal appearances and cameo roles in films and television. His final television performance was in 1993 in an introductory vignette at the beginning of the Cheers episode "Woody and the Election." McFarland died suddenly of a heart attack on June 30, 1993, at age 64. His remains were cremated shortly thereafter.
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Full Name at Birth
George Robert Phillips McFarland
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George "Spanky" McFarland (October 2, 1928 – June 30, 1993) was an American actor most famous for his appearances as a child in the Our Gang series of short-subject comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. The Our Gang shorts were later syndicated to television as The Little Rascals.
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Child actor, Child actor
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