Clown Princes

film no. 179

technical details:

Production 2613. The script is numbered B959.

Release no. C-938.

Filmed February 13 to 17, 1939.

Copyrighted April 12, 1939, by Loew's Incorporated. Registration no. LP8896. Renewed April 18, 1966, with registration no. R384187. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2034.

Released April 15, 1939. It was the 179th film in the series to be released.

Cutting continuity submitted May 1, 1939.

All-talking one-reeler, lasting 10 minutes and 29 seconds.

Opening title: 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Our Gang in "Clown Princes".'

the crew:

Produced by Jack Chertok for M-G-M
The film credit reads: Produced by Loew's Incorporated.
Directed by George Sidney
This credit appears in the film.
Photographed by Jackson Rose, A. S. C.
This credit appears in the film.
Film Editor: Roy Brickner
This credit appears in the film.
Screen Play by Hal Law and Robert A. McGowan
This credit appears in the film, but without McGowan's middle initial.
Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Indicated in the opening title card.
Western Electric Sound System
As indicated in the film.
Approved by the Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America
Certificate no. 5123.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
Teacher: Fern Carter

the kids:

Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as "Alfalfa"
Featured role. Also known as "Daredevil Alfalfa," the Man on the Flying Trapeeze. He sells lemonade, introduces the acrobats, and sings the big finale.
George "Spanky" McFarland as "Spanky"
Featured role. He introduces the sideshow acts and does an acrobat act with Leonard.
Darla Hood as "Darla Hood"
Supporting role. Or more specifically, "Mademoiselle Darla," the Greatest Rattlesnake-Charmer in the World. Her animal act is introduced as Miss Darla Hood and her Wild Lions.
Eugene "Porky" Lee as "Porky"
Supporting role. His mother can't make the rent, so the kids put on a circus. He appears in the sideshow as "The Head Without a Body."
Leonard Landy as "Leonard"
Supporting role. He does the acrobat act with Spanky.
Shirley Coates as "Muggsy"
Supporting role. She takes over the lemonade stand from Alfalfa.
Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas
Supporting role. He appears in the sideshow as "Oogie-Boogie," the Wild Man from Borneo.
Malcolm and George Crosby as "The Famous Sime and Neez Twins"
Small parts. Their grass skirt gets eaten by the goat. Malcolm is the older boy and George is his younger brother.
Gary "Slapsie" Jasgur
Small part. Listed by Maltin & Bann as Gary Jasgar. The nickname appears in the scripts and cutting continuity. He appears in the sideshow as the world's smallest man, and then appears again as a clown.
Joe "Corky" Geil
Small part. He appears in the sideshow as the world's tallest man, and is later in the audience to the far left.
Joe Levine
Small part. He has some dialogue during the sideshow sequence, and is seen in the audience later.
boy 171c
Small part. He has a bit of dialogue as well, but is merely part of the crowd during the circus sequence.
Larry Harris
Small part. He plays the snare drum in the orchestra.
Gerald Mackey
Small part. He's second from the left among the musicians.
Hugh Chapman
Small part. He's third from the left among the musicians.
Jimmy Brown
Bit part. He's the other clown besides Gary. The scripts indicate that this is the kid who plays this part, though it's possible that a different kid was chosen before shooting started. His first name is also indicated as Jimmie.
boy 179a
Bit part. He instructs Buckwheat and Porky to 'take it up.' Presumably, this is the "Jimmy" described in the cutting continuity and scripts.
Gloria Mackey
Extra. She's best seen standing between boy 171c and Joe Levine as Spanky is asking the kids for more money. She's also at the far left in the shot of the four kids looking at the tallest and smallest men.
Harold Switzer
Extra. He's best seen at the end of the film as the kids run out of the barn.
boy 179b
Extra. He's among the kids who run out of the barn to find Alfalfa.
James Gubitosi
Extra. It looks like he's the boy that sits in the second row, two seats to the right of boy 171c.
boy 161a
Extra. He appears in the circus audience.
boy 174
Extra. He can be seen standing in back as Spanky asks the kids for more money.
other kids
Bit parts and extras. Maltin & Bann list Payne Johnson and Freddie Chapman, but I haven't spotted them.
(1.) Four additional musicians.
(2.) At least twenty-five more kids in the audience.

the animals:

mule 111
Small part. This mule controls the flying trapeze.
Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.
dog 179
Small part. This is the second dog from the right in Darla's lion act.
other animals
Small parts and bit parts.
(1.) The goat named "Violet," who drinks the lemonade.
(2.) The three remaining dogs passed off as lions in Darla's act.
(3.) The dog passed off as "Flippo," the trained seal.
(4.) The black cat passed off as the "wild spotted leopard."
(5.) Porky's dog.

the adults:

Clarence Wilson as the landlord
Small part. He appears at the beginning of the film briefly, and then again later on to drink the one-cent lemonade.
other adults
Bit part. The only remaining adult is the stunt double for Clarence Wilson, who interestingly enough, has strings attached to him as he falls to the ground.

the music:

"Our Gang" by David Snell
This is played over the opening titles. This is a medley of three songs:
(1.) "London Bridge" - The earliest reference to this nursery rhyme is in a play from 1659, and it was associated with children by 1720. It may derive from a part of the "Heimskringla" by Snorri Sturluson, which was composed around 1225.
(2.) "Mulberry Bush" - Also known as "So Early In The Morning" and "This Is The Way." It was probably originally called "Here We Go Round The Bramble Tree" in the mid 18th century, with the type of tree changed by inmates of Wakefield Prison, who exercised around a mulberry bush.
(3.) "The Farmer In The Dell" - This nursery rhyme is of uncertain origins.
"Hey, Babe, Hey" by Cole Porter
Published in 1936. From the MGM musical "Born To Dance." This is the tune being played as the truck advertising the circus drives down the street.
"The Man On The Flying Trapeze" by George Leybourne, Gaston Lyle, Alfred Lee and Walter O'Keefe
Lyrics written by Leybourne in 1867 with music by Lee and Lyle. Later re-written by O'Keefe and copyrighted in 1933. Performed by Rudy Vallee in "George White's Scandals," it was also a number six hit for O'Keefe in early 1934. In this film it's initially heard in an instrumental version as we first see the gang's circus. Later, it's sung by Alfalfa.
"Oriental Ballyhoo"
This is the title listed in the cutting continuity, which states that the composer is unknown. This melody has been around for centuries, and is better known as "Hootchy-Cootchy Polka." In this film, it starts as a drum beat to accompany Buckwheat's wild man act, and then the melody is added during Darla's snake-charming act.
"The Eddy" by David Snell
This is played during the remainder of the sideshows. It's played again as the goat drinks the lemonade.
This is the fanfare introducing Spanky and Leonard.
"Over The Waves" by Juventino Rosas
Published in 1888. Originally titled "Sobre los olas." Lyrics were added by an unknown person in the early 1890s. In this film, an instrumental version is played during Spanky and Leonard's acrobat act. The song was later rewritten as "The Loveliest Night Of The Year," becoming a hit for Mario Lanza.
This is the fanfare introducing Darla's lion act.
"The Hop Off" by Frey
Listed in the cutting continuity with only the last name of the composer, who was probably Hugo Frey. This is played during Darla's act.
"Fanfare And Drum Roll"
This is the fanfare with drum roll introducing Alfalfa.
"The Gang Goes Home" by David Snell
This is a shorter version of "Our Gang," including only "London Bridge."


Five shooting dates went into the making of this film, from February 13 to 17, 1939. Here's a breakdown of the script activity:
Jan. 24 - A treatment by McGowan & Law entitled "Circus Capers" derives from this date. In this version, Porky is already established as the kid who needs the gang's help. They actually enter his home and his mother is present. The real-life circus that serves as a blueprint for the junior version is Bungling Brothers Circus, a name that ended up in the film. The gang's version is called Spanky and Alfalfa's Big Circus. Buckwheat is already established as the wild man in the sideshow. Leonard plays a 'Strange Monster - Half Man Half Beast.' This is a variation of the headless man idea, but with a fake body. Gary Jasgur is also present, and is called "Gary" in the script. Darla is selling tickets and is not part of the sideshow. Porky is the one selling lemonade, and instead of a goat, it's a cat that gets into the lemonade, with the price being reduced from 3 cents to 1 cent. Porky's landlord is Butch's uncle Ferdinand, and both uncle and nephew drink the tainted lemonade. Spanky does the acrobatic act with two kids, and Butch disrupts this with a bean shooter. Darla does her lion-taming act and Alfalfa sings "The Man On The Flying Trapeze," both ideas being retained for the finished film. Alfalfa's troubles are the result of Butch taking over the mule.
Jan. 26 - A treatment by McGowan & Law entitled "Circus Capers" derives from this date. This version opens with a rooster named "Henry" tugging at a worm. This gag never made it into the film, but was later resurrected for "Goin' Fishin'" (no. 192). Also included was Buckwheat's alarm clock gag. Basically, the boys, after deciding that they have enough worms, go over to Porky's house so he can go fishing with them. At this point, the script becomes like the finished film, in which the landlord is standing outside the house warning Porky's mother, who is unseen. Butch is not part of this version. The star of the Bungling Brothers Circus is Fearless Florello - the Daredevil of the Flying Trapeze! This name made it into the finished film. The kiddie circus is called Our Gang's Mammith Circus, and stars Daredevil Alfalfa - The Man on the Flying Trapeze. The lemonade gag is like in the film, with Muggsy (listed as Muggsie) replacing Alfalfa and the goat drinking the two-cent lemonade. Mademoiselle Darla is now the snake charmer during the sideshow, which now includes Porky as the headless man. Slapsie (Gary Jasgur) is the world's smallest man, and a kid on stilts is the world's tallest man. Also present are the Siamese twins and the man eating fish, the latter of which is a pretty bad gag which didn't make it into the film. During the actual circus, Slapsie and Jimmy Brown are the clowns, while Spanky and Leonard are the acrobats. Alfalfa's act is essentially like it is in the film.
Jan. 30 - A composite script by Law & McGowan derives from this date. Still included is the "Henry" gag at the beginning. The kiddie circus is now called Our Gang's Calousal Circus, and the spelling has now been altered for Daredevil Alfalfa - The Man on the Flying Trapeeze. The character names "Muggsy" and "Slapsie" are used, as well as the "Sime and Neez Twins." Leonard is the man eating fish and is referred to as "Leonard." The goat is named "Violet." Slapsie and Jimmie Brown are the clowns, and their portion is a bit longer than in the film, with a camera gag in which Slapsie squirts Jimmie. The kid who lowers the trapeze is also named "Jimmie," which may indicate that this was supposed to be the same kid, but that's not what ended up in the finished film.
Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 6 - Changes were made to the script on these dates by Law & McGowan. The story was still called "Circus Capers."
Feb. 6 - A dialogue continuity entitled "Circus Capers" derives from this date, but oddly enough, includes the words 'from script 2/11/39. February 6th was also the date of the official script, which is also stamped with Feb. 10th. Also written in is 'changes thru 2/11.' This script was okayed by Chertok, and credited to Law & McGowan. Everything seems to be the way it is in the finished film. The kid with Slapsie is identified as Jimmy Brown, while the kid pulling the rope is "Jimmie."
Feb. 7 to 11 - Changes were made to the script on each of these dates.
Feb. 14 - A document for "Circus Capers" was prepared on this date containing 'additional dialogue in case of rain' and 'additional dialogue in case rain stops.'
May 1 - The cutting continuity was submitted on this date. Gary Jasgur is listed as "Slapsie," while the kid with the pulley is "Jimmy."

According to Maltin & Bann, "Circus Capers" was the original title, and was followed by "For Porky's Sake" before MGM settled on "Clown Princes."

The circus that the gang emulates is Bungling Bros. Circus, featuring "Fearless Florello," the Daredevil of the Flying Trapeze.

The gang's version is called Our Gang's Xtra Big Circus, and takes place in Porky's Barn.

See page 235 of Maltin & Bann's book for this film's expenses and profits.

© Robert Demoss.

My thanks to the following people for assisting with this page:
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)
Steven R. Wright (for identifying Joe Levine)
Debby Mendelsohn (for verifying the spelling of Gary Jasgur's last name)
bigshotjones (for researching Gary Jasgur and getting discussion started on this matter)

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