Thursday, March 15, 2012

Those Rascally Kids

Though you’ve likely never heard of it, Reg’lar Fellers was a staple for readers of newspaper comics in the 1920s and ’30s. Created by Gene Byrnes, the strip ran from 1917 to 1949 and centered on the shenanigans of a group of young friends including Jimmy Dugan, the Duffy brothers (Puddinhead and Pinhead), Angie Riley, and Jimmy’s dog Bullseye, who sported a black circle around his left eye. The success of the series’ gaggle of kids formula, which proceeded Hal Roach’s first Our Gang silent film by five years, led others such as Ad Carter’s Just Kids, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Newsboy Legion, and Will Eisner’s Hilde and the Kid Gang to emulate the approach. 

Despite the strip’s longevity, it was only adapted into one 60-minute, live-action film. Released on September 5, 1941, Reg’lar Fellas, directed by Arthur Dreifuss, features Buddy Boles as Jimmy, Malcolm Hutton as Puddinhead, Billy Lee as Pinhead, and Janet Dempsey as Angie. Carl Switzer (a.k.a. Alfalfa of Our Gang fame) also appears as Bump Hudson, a new boy admitted to the crew. The plot is itself reminiscent of a Roach comedy: the kids play music, built their own amphibious tank, save an old lady’s fortune from a pair of conniving thieves, and help her and her estranged son’s family reconcile. And that sure beats sitting around the clubhouse pining for a penny or two to buy some licorice.

(Image: Reg’lar Fellers, April 3, 1926, Gene Byrnes)

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