Ye Olde Minstrels

film no. 198

technical details:

Production 2716.

Release no. C-297.

Filmed January 13 to 16, 1941.

Copyrighted March 13, 1941, by Loew's Incorporated. Registration no. LP10344. Renewed March 15, 1968, with registration no. R431749. This copyright is currently due to expire at the end of 2036.

Released March 18, 1941. It was the 198th film in the series to be released.

All-talking one-reeler, lasting 10 minutes and 50 seconds.

Opening title: 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Our Gang in "Ye Olde Minstrels".'

Some of the excess footage of the audience in this film wound up in "Calling All Kids" (no. 215).

the crew:

Produced by M-G-M
The film credit reads: Produced by Loew's Incorporated. For some reason, Jack Chertok and Richard Goldstone are not credited by Maltin & Bann, but they were in charge of the short subject department during this period.
Directed by Edward Cahn and Bud Murray
Only Cahn is credited in the film.
Director of Photography: Jackson Rose, A. S. C.
This credit appears in the film.
Film Editor: Albert Akst
This credit appears in the film.
Story by Sam Baerwitz
This credit doesn't appear in the film.
Dances by Bud Murray
This credit appears in the film.
Art Director: Elmer Sheeley
This credit appears in the film.
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
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
Teacher: Fern Carter

the kids:

George "Spanky" McFarland as "Spanky" aka "Spank"
Featured role. He convinces the kids to raise money for the Red Cross, and then hosts the resulting minstrel show.
Billy "Froggy" Laughlin as "Froggy"
Featured role. He enlists help from his uncle and provides a comic tune during the show.
Darla Hood as "Darla"
Supporting role. She sings "Auld Lang Syne."
Mickey Gubitosi as "Mickey"
Supporting role. Along with Froggy, he provides the comedy during the show.
Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas
Supporting role. He's given several closeups during the course of the show.
Valerie Lee
Small part. She sits next to Froggy during the show and is also one of the twelve kids that dance with Walter Wills. A newspaper article listing the kids in this film list her by her real name, Valerie Shepard.
Dickie Humphries
Small part. He's the one performing kid for whom I've found no documented evidence of his inclusion in this film, but it's pretty obvious that it's him. He's sitting just right of center in the second row, and is also just right of center among the twelve kids dancing with Walter Wills.
David Polonsky
Small part. He's listed as a cast member in a 1941 casting directory. He's in the second row, second from the left, and is at the far left among the kids that perform with Walter Wills.
Ardith Dondanville
Small part. She's sitting to the left of Spanky, and is also part of the "Lazy Moon" performance.
Joline Karol
Small part. She sits two seats to the right of Spanky, and is clearly seen during Froggy's number.
Priscilla Montgomery
Small part. She's in the front row midway between Mickey and Spanky, and is fourth from the left during Walter Wills' number.
Ralph Hodges
Small part. The 1941 directory states that he appeared in this film. He's shown to the upper left of Spanky, and is also just to the left of Walter Wills during his number.
Raphael Dolciame
Small part. The 1941 directory states that he appeared in this film. It appears that he's located right above Joline Karol and Valerie Lee.
Betty Bailey
Small part. A couple of contemporary newspaper articles reveal that she was one of the kids in this film. It looks like she's in the third row, second from the right.
Michael Miller
Small part. He's at the far right in the fourth row.
Billy Davis
Small part. He's third from the right in the fourth row.
boy 186a
Small part. He's second from the left in the fourth row.
Bobby Browning
Small part. He's second from the right in the top row.
Ralph Freeto
Small part. He's second from the left in the top row.
Peggy Canada
Small part. She's third from the left in the fourth row.
Giovanna Gubitosi
Extra. Later known as Joan Blake. She can be seen in the audience as everybody laughs at Froggy's singing.
Tommy McFarland
Extra. He's sitting in the second aisle seat on the right.
James Gubitosi
Extra. He's in the second row of the audience, but his face is hidden. His identity is revealed by watching the leftover footage in "Calling All Kids."
other kids
Small parts and extras.
(1.) Sixteen addition kids out of a total of 30 (16 girls and 14 boys) performing in the show along with the five regulars of Our Gang. Of the 30, twenty-six are listed in an article published by the Citizen-News of Hollywood on Jan. 25, 1941. The only performers listed above that are omitted from that article are David Polonsky, Michael Miller and Dickie Humphries. However, the first two are verified in a late 1941 Children's Casting Directory. In Humphries' case, it's just visibly obvious that he's there. This leaves one more name, a girl's, missing from the article, but I don't yet know who she is. Of the 26 names that are in the article, eleven are listed above. From there, we wind up with fifteen names that haven't been connected with faces, one of which belongs to boy 186a. These are Betty Martin, Janet Logan, Beverly Jean Brummel, Janet Poggemuller, Anthony Julianelli, Robert Syvester, Sidney Goldberg, Andre Giacomelli, Betty Wakeland, Marjorie Memoli, Charlene Meyer, Althea Gray, Bobby Mueller, Shirley Kennedy and Billy Murphy. Maltin & Bann also list Marlene Mains, who could potentially be the missing girl from the list, and Jackie Salling, who apparently isn't in the film at all.
(2.) At least one more girl in the audience, and probably a handful of other kids as well.

the animals:

Bit part. The only animal in this film is the MGM lion.

the adults:

Minstrel Maestro Walter Wills as "Walter Wills"
Supporting role. He agrees to put on a minstrel show with the kids and sings "Lazy Moon."
other adults
Bit parts and extras. There are eight musicians in the pit, and perhaps a hundred adults in the audience.

the music:

"Our Gang" by David Snell
This is played over the opening titles. This is the earlier recording, used prior to "The Big Premiere" (no. 189). 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.
"Oh! Dem Golden Slippers!" by James A. Bland
Published in 1879. An instrumental version is played at the opening of the minstrel show.
"Carry Me Back To Old Virginny" by James A. Bland
Published in 1878. This was a number two hit for Len Spencer in 1893, and a number one million-seller for Alma Gluck in 1915. It was the state song of Virginia from 1940 to 1997. In this film, it's sung by the ensemble of kids.
"Camptown Races (Gwine To Run All Night)" by Stephen Collines Foster
Published in 1850. Billy Murray had a number nine hit with this song in 1911. An instrumental version of this song is played as the ensemble plays their tambourines.
"Oh! Susanna" by Stephen Collines Foster
Published in 1848. Wendell Hall & Shannon Four had a number eight hit with this song in 1924. In this film, it's the second half of the instrumental medley played as the ensemble plays their tambourines.
"Runnin' Wild" by A. Harrington Gibbs
Published in 1922 with lyrics by Joe Grey and Leo Woods. Ted Lewis and His Band had a number 9 hit with an instrumental version in 1923. In this film, an instrumental version is played as the ensemble tapdances.
"When Big Profundo Sang Low C" by Marion T. Bohannon and George Botsford
Published in 1921, with words by Bohannon and music by Botsford. Not "When De Profundis Sang Low C" as stated by Maltin & Bann. In this film, it's sung by Froggy.
"Lazy Moon" by J. Rosamond Johnson and Bob Cole
Published in 1903, with music by Johnson and words by Cole. Also known as "Lazy Moon, Come Out Soon." In this film, it's sung by Walter Wills.
"Auld Lang Syne"
Robert (or Rabbie) Burns sent a copy of this Scottish song to the British Museum in the 18th century, which he learned from an old man. This was a number seven hit for Frank Stanley in 1907, and a number five hit for the Peerless Quartet in 1921. In this film, it's sung by the ensemble as part of a medley with "Lazy Moon," and continues over the end title.


Four shooting dates went into the making of this film, from January 13 to 16, 1941. Here's a breakdown of the script activity:
Nov. 12 - A Sam Baerwitz script entitled "Ye Olde Minstrels" derives from this date. It essentially consists of the following list of segments:
1. "Carry Me Back To Old Virginia" (to be sung by entire company)
2. "Chair Dance By Entire Company"
3. Comedy gag between Spanky and Froggy
4. "Lazy Moon" - To be sung by Froggy's uncle, backed up by 8 boys and 8 girls. After one chorus of singing they all do a Primrose dance to another chorus. Darla then will sing a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne," Froggy's uncle and the boys and girls continue dancing and they all exit at the end of "Auld Lang Syne."
5. Comedy gag between Spanky & Mickey
6. "When Big Profundo Sang Low C" (singing solo by Froggy)
7. "Tambourine Drill" (Finale) (by entire company)
Nov. 13 - Changes were made to the script on this date.
Dec. 10 - More changes were made to the script on this date. It was decided that the chair dance would be performed to the tune of "Runnin' Wild."
Dec. 11 - More changes were made to the script on this date.
Jan. 2 - More changes were made to the script on this date, which was now organized as follows:
1. Carry Me Back To Old Virginia
2. tambourine drill is "De Camptown Races" (once through) and "Oh Susannah" (once through and repeat last eight bars) followed by Spanky/Froggy comedy
3. Runnin' Wild followed by Spanky/Mickey comedy
4. Big Profundo
5. Lazy Moon/Auld Lang Syne
Jan. 11 - On this date, Edward Cahn prepared a shooting layout for gags and musical numbers.

At least two 80rpm records were prepared for rehearsal purposes on Jan. 6, 1941.

The gang's club is called the One For All and All For One Club.

The name of the show in this film is "Ye Olde Minstrels."

In the category of unseen characters is "Waldo," mentioned in reference to the failed floor show in "Waldo's Last Stand" (no. 194).

The show is held at Greenpoint Auditorium, and the costumes are donated by Greenpoint Costumers.

There is some confusion over the meaning of the word 'ye' in the title of this film. Generally speaking, 'ye' is the plural of 'you.' However, the visible similarity between the runic letters 'thorn' (which makes the 'th' sound) and 'y' has led to an archaic definition of 'ye' as 'the.' So which definition applies to this film title? The original copyright registration was filed under 'O,' while the renewal was filed under 'Y,' so the jury is still out on this one.

See page 236 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:
Bob Satterfield (for identifying Priscilla Montgomery)
bigshotjones (for identifying Giovanna Gubitosi)

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