George "Spanky" McFarland (Wikimedia Commons / Gordon Douglas)
George McFarland appeared in more than 100 movies during his career in Hollywood, but most probably wouldn't recognize his name. Even in his heyday, it is doubtful many moviegoers knew him as George McFarland. To a generation of Our Gang fans, he was simply Spanky.
McFarland, who died June 30, 1993 – 20 years ago today – appeared in an amazing 95 Our Gang films in the 1930s and '40s, including a headlining gig in a rare Our Gang full-length feature, General Spanky. He didn't have a broad acting career beyond his Spanky stardom; he found it difficult to break away from the iconic character and hard to get back into the biz after a stint in the Air Force. But his vast number of appearances in the groundbreaking Our Gang series added up to many more credits than most actors generate in decades-long careers – and McFarland did it in just 10 years. Here are a few highlights of his work as Spanky.
McFarland joined Our Gang when he was just a toddler, quickly gaining fans who loved his chubby cheeks and precocious acting skill.
As McFarland grew into boyhood, he became a scene-stealer who was often the focus of the Our Gang shorts, along with costar Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer.
Spanky became the "idea man" for the group, often driving their schemes.
Just a few months before McFarland's death, he had one last role – he appeared as himself in an episode of Cheers.
Written by Linnea Crowther