School Begins

film no. 79

technical details:

Production G-13.

Filmed June 7 to 28, 1928. See the 'miscellaneous' section below for details.

Title sheet prepared by H. M. Walker on July 9, 1928.

Cutting continuity submitted July 11, 1928.

Music and sound effects recorded Aug. 10, 1928.

Copyrighted November 17, 1928, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corporation. Registration no. LP25844. Renewed December 7, 1955, with registration no. R160739. This copyright expired at the end of 2023, and the film is now in the public domain.

Premiered in New York City on Sep. 16, 1928.

Released November 17, 1928. It was the 79th film in the series to be released.

Silent two-reeler, with sychronized music and sound effects, on disc only.

Opening title: '"Our Gang" Comedies - Hal Roach presents His Rascals in "School Begins".'

the crew:

Produced by Robert F. McGowan for Hal Roach
This is the way Maltin & Bann put it. The film probably credits Roach as the presenter, with a separate credit reading "A Robert McGowan Production."
Supervising Director: Robert F. McGowan
This credit appears in the film, but is not indicated by Maltin & Bann.
Directed by Robert F. McGowan and Anthony Mack
The film credits only Mack, who was actually Robert A. (for Anthony) McGowan, the nephew of Robert F. The 1928 studio datebook reveals that the uncle also directed, and that the nephew (credited as McGowan, Jr.) directed on June 9th through 12th, 14th, 16th through 19th, 21st, 22nd and 25th.
Photographed by Art Lloyd
This credit appears in the film.
Edited by Richard Currier
This credit appears in the film. Currier also prepared the soundtrack while at the Victor headquarters in New York.
Titles by H. M. Walker
This credit appears in the film.
Animation by Roy Seawright
This credit derives from Seawright's payroll status as the studio animator during this period. The animation in this film consists of sound effects in word form.
Story by Robert F. McGowan
This credit doesn't appear in the film, but is indicated on the title page of the cutting continuity.
Animal Trainer: Harry Lucenay
He was Pete's owner and trainer.
Music performed by the Motion Picture Orchestra
According to the Victor ledgers, as described at the DAHR website. The musical director was David Mendoza, assisted by Don Albert, with choral director Bradley Barker.
Teacher: Fern Carter
Since there were a lot of extra kids in this film, temporary teachers were hired to handle the surplus. Vita Geddes worked on eight of the shooting dates, Charlotte Pringle worked on five of them, and I'm pretty sure the person listed as G. Street, who worked on one of the days, was a teacher as well.
Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Indicated in the opening title of the film.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
All Rights Reserved Under International Convention of Buenos Aires
As indicated in the film.
studio personnel
director-general - Leo McCarey
general manager - Warren Doane
assistant general manager - L. A. French
secretary-treasurer - C. H. Roach
construction supervisor - C. E. Christensen
laboratory superintendent - Charles Levin
optical effects supervisor - Roy Seawright
still photographer - Bud "Stax" Graves
transportation director - Bob Davis
possible uncredited involvement
assistant direction - Probably Charles Oelze.
cutting - Possibly Lloyd Campbell.
writing - Robert A. McGowan, Jean Yarbrough and Charlie Hall may have been among the gag writers.
property department - Charles Oelze, Don Sandstrom and Thomas Benton Roberts were probably involved in this capacity.
animal training - Tony Campanaro may have been among the animal trainers.

the kids:

Joe Cobb as "Joe" aka "Joseph"
Featured role. He has Harry thinking school is like prison. Later, he tries to go home early with a phony note, but it backfires on him.
Harry Spear as "Harry"
Featured role. We first see him having a nightmare about school. Later, he's the victim of Mary Ann's practical joke.
Allen "Farina" Hoskins as "Farina"
Featured role. He doesn't have to go to school, but helps Joe by delivering the phony note. He's involved in many of the gags.
Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins
Featured role. He's Harry's little brother. He's featured in the fishing scene with Pete, and subsequently attracts the seals into the classroom.
Mary Ann Jackson
Supporting role. She plays a practical joke on Harry, only to have an immediate comeuppance.
Jean Darling as "Jean"
Supporting role. She's involved in the practical joke, but otherwise does ensemble acting.
Jimmy Farren
Small part. A publicity photo reveals that he sits behind Harry in class. He may be one of the boys mentioned below.
other kids
Bit parts and extras. Of the extra kids in this film, the one who worked the most days (10) was Johnny Aber, who seems to have been both in the regular schoolroom, as well as the one in Harry's nightmare. Putting in nine days of work were Artye Folz, Buddy Moore, Jack Henry and Bobby Jackson, the last of whom was probably Mary Ann's brother, who was around nine at this time. Working eight days were Camilla Johnson and Beverly Parrish. Billy Schuler worked for seven days, and his involvement is corroborated by a contemporary casting directory. Kids who worked for five days were Joe Sewall, Hammond Holt, Mary Jayne Ransom, Virginia Wiseman, Bobby Heck, Bob Ogden, Joe McGee, Jimsy Boudwin and June Rock. Kids who put in four days of work were Austin Jewell, Adeline Craig, Patsy Buckley, Wayne Parsons and Ben Bilger. Louise Watson worked for three days, Lois Mannis, William Stein and Fletcher "Rusty" Tolbert worked for two, and Seessal Anne Johnson, Virginia Braun, Marguerite Preston, Margaret Tyson, Myrtle Martin, Dick Johnson, Orville Randoll, Billie Tait and Robert Parrish each worked for one day. The filming of Harry's nightmare, in which his first day of school involves a bunch of tough kids, probably took place on June 9th. I say this because all of the kids on that day were boys, and of the ones that I'm familiar with, they're big enough to have been intimidating to a kid Harry's size. These are Donald Tait, Ivor de Kirby, Godfrey "Duffy" Craig, Billie Jones, Kip Cooper, Rusty Preston, Jack Bedard, Buddy Dillon, Jimmie Kessling, Bill Kahlo, Donald House, Jack McHugh, Bobby "Bonedust" Young and Stanton Heck, Jr.
(1.) The boy on his hands and knees as part of the practical joke.
(2.) The boy who provides Mary Ann with the grease.
(3.) The girl talking to the teacher as Joe's mom walks in.
(4.) The tough kid with the straw hat picking his teeth with a knife in Harry's dream.
(5.) The boy with the flap over his eye scratching his head with a gun in Harry's dream.

the animals:

Pete (no. 1) as "Petie"
Supporting role. Or more specifically "Petie Dog," as Wheezer calls him. He accompanies Wheezer throughout the film.
Bit part. The MGM lion appears at the opening of the film.
other animals
Supporting roles and bit parts.
(1.) The two seals that invade the classroom.
(2.) The various fish in the stream and in the classroom.

the adults:

Ruby Blaine as the teacher
Supporting role. Judging by the cutting continuity, she gets a decent amount of screen time.
May Wallace as Harry's mother
Supporting role. Judging by a couple of postcards showing scenes from this film, it appears that she plays this role.
Lyle Tayo
Supporting role. She almost certainly played Joe's mother, putting in four days of work for a part that appears in more than one scene.
Leo Sulky and Jack Gorton
Small parts. These two probably played the seal trainers, with each working on two shooting dates.
Alice Belcher
Small part. She almost certainly played the part of the teacher in Harry's nightmare, as the cutting continuity describes him as jumping when he sees her. There's also a face superimposed on the schoolhouse in Harry's nightmare, which perhaps is Belcher as well.
Harry de More and Al Senator
Small parts. These two were probably the men running the spanking machine in Harry's nightmare.
other adults
Small parts and bit parts. Chet Brandenburg had some involvement for one day on this film, though his check wasn't made out until July 6th, at least a week after shooting had finished. Edward J. Meese and Lee Lindsay both worked for three days on this film. They were both Culver City police officers, and may have been present to provide security, but it wouldn't have been unusual for them to do a little acting as well.

the music (sort of):

"Ol' Man River" by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern
Written in 1927, with lyrics by Hammerstein and music by Kern. This is what Farina says after he finishes playing the mouth organ.


19 shooting dates went into the making of this film. A week and a half after shooting finished for "The Ol' Gray Hoss" (no. 78), the Our Gang unit began filming "School Begins" on June 7th. Shooting continued until the 'finish' date of June 28th. No shooting took place on June 10th, 17th, or 24th, which were all Sundays. Direction was almost evenly divided between Robert F. McGowan and Anthony Mack (listed in the 1928 studio datebook as McGowan Jr.). McGowan directed on the 7th, 8th, 13th, 15th, 20th, 23rd, 26th, 27th, and 28th, while Mack directed on the remaining days. Only four days after shooting finished for this film, the Our Gang unit began to film "The Spanking Age" (no. 80).

It's probable that a Roach comedy entitled "School Days" was actually a working title for this film.

The title sheet reveals an altered inter-title: "Ol' Man River goes rollin' along - Li'l white boys in school where they b'long." The cutting continuity reveals that the word 'white' was omitted from the finished film.

The 16-inch disc masters containing the music and sound effects were Victor matrix MVE-46754 (for reel 1) and Victor matrix MVE-46755 (for reel 2). The takes were all recorded at the Church Bldg. in Camden, NJ. The takes for reel 1 were numbered 1, 1A, 2, and 2A, with take 2 becoming the master. The takes for reel 2 were numbered 1, 2, and 2A, with take 2A becoming the master. The orchestra was made up of 28 men, while the chorus (which more likely provided sound effects rather than singing) was made up of 3 women, 1 man, 3 boys and 2 girls. It appears that the chorus may not have been utilized for reel 1. The Victor ledgers use the word "Inaudible" to indicate that the soundtrack contains no dialogue or other closely synchronized sound.

The script submitted to MGM was given the catalog number B590.

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© Robert Demoss.

My thanks to the following people for assisting with this page:
Rob Stone (for providing the production number and shooting dates)
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)
Jesse Brisson (for pointing out that Meese and Lindsay were actual police officers)
Ed Slonina (for pointing out the DAHR website containing the sound-on-disc info)

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