Cousin Wilbur

film no. 180

technical details:

Production 2618. The script is numbered B963.

Release no. C-939.

Filmed March 13 to 17, 1939.

Released April 29, 1939. It was the 180th film in the series to be released.

Copyrighted May 4, 1939, by Loew's Incorporated. Registration no. LP8953. Renewed May 4, 1966, with registration no. R385283. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2034.

Dialogue cutting continuity submitted June 19, 1939.

All-talking one-reeler, lasting 10 minutes and 24 seconds.

Opening title: 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Our Gang in "Cousin Wilbur".'

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.
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. 5194.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
Teacher: Fern Carter
possible uncredited involvement
photography - This may have been handled by Jackson Rose, Ray June or Harold Marzorati.

the kids:

Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as "Alfalfa" aka "Alf"
Lead role. Wilbur calls him "Cousin Alfie." He's embarassed about having to introduce his cousin to the gang, and has little patience for him.
Scotty Beckett as "Wilbur Nesbit Newcomb II"
Lead role. He suggests to the gang that they found a benevolent society, and eventually protects the organization from Butch. He ends up becoming 'honery president.'
Tommy Bond as "Butch"
Featured role. He tries to take over the club, but ends up needing insurance after Wilbur takes care of him.
George "Spanky" McFarland as "Spanky"
Featured role. He's president of the society.
Sidney Kibrick as "Woim"
Supporting role. He accompanies Butch throughout the film. The scripts refer to him as "The Woim."
Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas as "Buckwheat"
Supporting role. Wilbur calls him "Master Buckwheat." He's the doorman at the club.
Eugene "Porky" Lee as "Porky"
Supporting role. Wilbur calls him "Master Porky." He's the 'policy giver outer."
Joe "Corky" Geil
Small part. Not listed by Maltin & Bann. He's examined by Alfalfa and later arrives with a black eye.
Darla Hood
Small part. She's the nurse who assists Alfalfa.
Leonard Landy
Small part. He's the first kid shown being examined by Alfalfa.
Phillip "Lucky" Hurlic
Bit part. He turns down the insurance, since a black eye would never be visible on his face.
boy 179a
Bit part. He's the boy with the fake black eye.
Gary "Slapsie" Jasgur
Extra. Listed by Maltin & Bann as Gary Jasgar. He can be seen in several scenes, but doesn't do anything specific. This was his final appearance in the series.
Freddie Chapman
Extra. He's next in line to be examined after Joe Geil, and is to the right of Payne Johnson in the final scene.
Joe Levine
Extra. He's second from the right in the scene where the boys return to collect their insurance, and is also in the final scene.
boy 174
Extra. He's to the left of boy 152 in the scene where the boys return to collect their insurance.
Payne Johnson
Extra. He's in the center of the front row in the final scene.
Darwood Kaye
Extra. Maltin & Bann indicate that the "Waldo" moniker was used, but it wasn't. He's at the right end of the front row in the final scene.
Harold Switzer
Extra. He's at the right end of the back row in the final scene.
Tommy McFarland
Extra. According to Maltin & Bann. He may be the boy sitting to the left of Harold in the final scene.
other kids
Extras. There seems to be at least 6 more boys in the film.

the animals:

Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.

the adults:

Mary Currier as "Aunt Martha," Alfalfa's mom
Bit part. She's shown at the beginning of the film.

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.
"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 March 13 to 17, 1939. Here's a breakdown of the script activity:
Jan. 9 - An outline by McGowan & Law derives from this date, and is labeled "insurance idea." The gang is running the "2nd Nat'l Bank" at the start of the film. Over the radio, they hear comments from Wilbur T. Whistelbotham, president of the Dreadnaught Insurance Company. This inspires the kids to form the Goliath Accident Insurance Co. One gag that made it into the film, albeit with alterations, involved Leonard bringing Gary to the gang, who discover that Gary's black eye is fake. There is also a 'headless Alfalfa' gag that may have been a precursor to the gag with Porky in "Clown Princes" (no. 180), the scripts for which were written in the latter part of January.
Feb. 13 - A new version of the story derives from this date. The gang is no longer running a bank at the start of the story.
Feb. 15 - An outline by McGowan & Law derives from this date, and is labeled "insurance idea." In this version, the gang gets their insurance idea from a radio broadcast about the Fraternal Order of Muskrats. The elements in which Butch gets involved are present in this version. Buckwheat and Porky lure him into the initiation chamber, which convinces him to stop hitting the lodge members.
Feb. 16 - Another version was finished on this date. The gag with Slapsie and Leonard was still intact.
Feb. 17 - Changes were made on this date by McGowan & Law, but mostly by McGowan. This was the first version with the brainiac character, who was known as "Algernon" at this point. He addresses Alfalfa as "Cousin Alfred." The kids get their insurance idea by observing a doctor examining Spanky's father. The gag in which Leonard brings Slapsie to the gang is still intact. Buckwheat tries to sell insurance to a black girl, but this was changed to a black boy in the finished film.
Feb. 20 - More changes were made to the script on this date. Early parts of the script still include the names "Algernon" and "Cousin Alfred," but later parts change these to "Wilbur Nesbit Newcomb II" and "Cousin Alfie."
Feb. 22, 23, 24 and 28 - More changes were made on these dates. Originally, Slapsie (Gary Jasgur) is the one being examined by Alfalfa. By the end of this process, it had become Leonard on the examining table.
Mar. 1 and 2 - More changes were made on these dates. By the 2nd, the title had become "Gang Insurance." This particular version of the script, written by McGowan & Law, was okayed by Jack Chertok. There was also a dialogue continuity from Mar. 2nd which was also given this title.
Mar. 3 - More changes were made on this date. At this point, Leonard is the loan black-eyed chiseler and no longer has Gary with him.
Mar. 4, 7 and 8 - More changes were made on these dates.

The gang's club is called the All 4 One Club, but changes its name to the All For One Society.

In the category of unseen characters is Alfalfa's "Aunt Penelope," who is presumably Wilbur's mother. This character had previously appeared in "Alfalfa's Aunt" (no. 176).

The April 6, 1939, Hartford Courant reported the following: "Members of 'Our Gang' have started their own Christmas fund for needy children. The plan was suggested by Spanky McFarland on the 'Gang Insurance' set and each of the children are donating part of their weekly allowance from now until next Christmas, when they will buy groceries and toys for deserving youngsters."

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)
Eric Feick (for information about "Our Gang's Favorite - Alfalfa")
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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