The Big Show!

film no. 7

technical details:

Production A-7.

Filmed July 28 to August 15, September 11 to 28, 1922, and January 10 and 11, 1923. See 'miscellaneous' section below for details.

Released on February 25, 1923. It was the 9th film in the series to be released.

Copyrighted February 26, 1923, by Pathé Exchange, Inc. Registration no. LU18734. Since the copyright was not renewed, this film is now in the public domain.

Silent two-reeler.

Opening title: '"Our Gang" Comedies - Hal Roach presents His Rascals in "The Big Show".'

Released into TV syndication as Mischief Makers episode no. 1021, "County Fair," copyrighted Sep. 1, 1960, with registration number LP17326.

the crew:

Produced by Hal Roach
Probably credited in the film as a presenter.
Directed by Robert F. McGowan
This credit appears in the film, but without his middle initial.
Assistant Director: Clarence Morehouse
This credit derives from Morehouse's payroll status as the Our Gang assistant director during this period.
Photographed by Len Powers
This credit appears in the film. The studio payroll summaries begin to list names starting the week ending Aug. 5th. Powers is listed that week and thereafter until the week ending Jan. 13th. So basically, his participation in this film can be verified with the exception of the first two days of shooting. It's likely, though, that he had been the cameraman for a few months already.
Edited by Thomas J. Crizer
This credit appears in the film.
Titles by H. M. Walker
This credit appears in the film.
Props by Charles Oelze and Dick Gilbert
This credit derives from their payroll status as Our Gang prop men during this period.
Story by Hal E. Roach
This credit probably doesn't appear in the film.
Teacher: Fern Carter
Her name first appears in the studio payroll summaries the week ending Sep. 16th, which means that the new school year probably began on the 11th.
Released by Pathé Exchange, Inc.
Passed by the National Board of Review
As indicated in the film.
studio personnel
general manager - Warren Doane
assistant general manager - L. A. French
secretary-treasurer - C. H. Roach
construction supervisor - C. E. Christensen
purchasing superintendent - John L. Murphy
still photographer - Bud "Stax" Graves and Gene Kornman
possible uncredited involvement
supervision - Charles Parrott (better known as Charley Chase) was still director-general at the studio when this film was started, but had stepped down by the time of its release.
titles - Tom McNamara probably illustrated the title cards.
writing - Robert F. McGowan, Tom McNamara, Thomas J. Crizer and Leo McCarey may have contributed gags.

the kids:

featured players
Jackie Condon
Featured role. He appears off and on throughout the film, being left out of the fun because he's too little, but getting his revenge in the long run. He suffered a fractured arm on Aug. 8th.
Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison as "Booker T."
Featured role. He seems to be the leader of the gang in this film. He gets to portray Uncle Tom in the gang's 'movie.'
Allen "Farina" Hoskins as "Farina"
Featured role. He's identified as Booker T.'s 'sister.' He appears off and on throughout the film, serving as security guard outside the entrance to the gang's fairgrounds.
Mickey Daniels as "Mickey"
Featured role. He's in almost every scene, and gets to portray Douglas Fairbanks in the gang's 'movie.' His first name appears at the lemonade stand run by himself and Jack, as revealed in a publicity photo.
Jack Davis as "Jack"
Featured role. He appears in most of the scenes and gets to portray William S. Hart in the gang's 'movie.' His first name appears at the lemonade stand run by himself and Mickey, as revealed in a publicity photo. Maltin & Bann refer to him as Jackie in their cast listing.
Richard Billings as "Muggsy"
Supporting role. He gets quite a bit of footage in this short as De Rues' young helper.
Joe Cobb
Supporting role. Joe, making his series debut, is one of the main kids in this film. He serves as the projectionist for the gang's 'movie.'
Donald Hughes
Supporting role. He's featured during the 'movie' sequence portraying Harold Lloyd. He's listed by Maltin & Bann as Billy Lord.
Andy Samuel
Supporting role. He's featured during the 'movie' sequence portraying Charlie Chaplin, and is also seen during the 'wild animals' sequence in regular clothes. This was his series debut.
Mary Kornman
Supporting role. She's seen only during the 'movie' sequence, portraying Mary Pickford. This is the earliest film for which I'm able to verify her participation.

other kids
Vonda Phelps
Bit part. She's the rich girl who makes a face at the 'wild man.'
boy 007b
Bit part. This is the boy in charge of the shooting gallery. I'm pretty sure he's also in "The Champeen!" (no. 9). A title card refers to "Rooster" Davis, but it doesn't explicitly say that the boy running the booth is the same person.
boy 007c
Bit part. This is the blonde boy shown behind Ernie on the merry-go-round. I'm pretty sure he's also in "The Champeen!" (no. 9).
boy 005a
Bit part. The blonde boy painting on the left in the first shot of the gang's version of the fair looks like one of the boys in "A Quiet Street" (no. 5).
boy 007d
Extra. This is the boy that resembles Johnny Downs, sitting in the front row during the performance.
Elmo Billings
Extra. It looks like this is one of the boys in the audience during the 'movie.'
George "Freckles" Warde
Extra. His presence is confirmed by a photo in which he operates the telescope attraction.
other kids
Small parts, bit parts and extras.
(1.) The boy in the audience dressed as Ford Sterling.
(2.) The boy seen in closeup on the merry-go-round and later looking through the telescope. He's also seen walking through the kiddie zoo.
(3.) The smaller rich girl who seems to be the 'daughter' in the family.
(4.) "Hank the Wild Man." He looks like he could be the second closeup boy on the merry-go-round wearing the cap.
(5.) The rich boy in the top hat.
(6.) The little boy being held up to look at the 'wild cats.'
(7.) The boy shown going through the turnstile (twice). I'm pretty sure he's the one seen behind the Ford Sterling boy.
(8.) The very small girl trying to pet the pony and being shooed away by De Rues. She looks similar to Lassie Lou Ahern.
(9.) The tall girl holding up a small boy to look at the 'wild cats.'
(10.) There are anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five kids at the junior fair not already mentioned, mostly boys. The earlier scenes at the real fair show several kids in the distance.

the animals:

Supporting role. He's seen off and on during the film.
mule 007 as "Featherfoot"
Supporting role. She appears early in the film pulling Ernie's wagon. Later played "The Sheik" in "Boys To Board" (no. 10).
Dinah the Mule
Supporting role. She's one of De Rues' animals. During the 'movie,' a kid-made title card refers to her as "Dinnah."
dog 003
Small part. Mary's dog during the performance, and also the 'raindeer.'
dog 002
Bit part. The 'north pole lion.' He previously appeared in "Fire Fighters" (no. 2) and "Saturday Morning" (no. 6).
dog 007
Bit part. The 'Afriken Polar Bear.' Possibly the dog that appeared in "The Champeen!" (no. 9).
other animals
Supporting roles and bit parts. In addition to those listed below, there's also a 'wild seequel.'
(1.) Yet another black pony with a white spot on its nose, or possibly the one from "Fire Fighters" (no. 2). This is one of DeRues' animals.
(2.) The Shetland pony owned by DeRues.
(3.) The 'fish hound.'
(4.) The 'Siberium See Lien.' Similar to dog 003.
(5.) The kitten in the cage on the merry-go-round, which seems to be the same one that gives Donald trouble during his act.
(6.) The two-tone pig that's passed off as a 'rhynorsurus' and also appears during the movie sequence.
(7.) A goat that's passed off as the 'rocky mountin zebra.'
(8.) A goat that's passed off as the 'cammel.' It may also be the same goat used for the lower half of the 'giraft.'
(9.) A goat that's passed off as the 'elefant.'
(10.) A goat that's passed off as the 'pet goof.'
(11.) A cow that's passed off as the 'wild cow.'
(12.) One of the 'wild cats,', possibly the same cat from "Our Gang" (no. 1).
(13.) The other 'wild cat,' possibly the same cat from "Fire Fighters" (no. 2).
(14.) A rabbit that serves as the head of the 'giraft.'
(15.) A dark pig that appears with the other pig during the movie sequence.
(16.) The white goose that's passed off as an 'ostrish,' which may have been previously seen.
(17.) The large goose that's passed off as a 'pelikan,' which may have been previously seen.
(18.) The large goose that chases Farina, which may be the same as the 'pelikan.'
(19.) The white goose in polka dots, which may have been seen previously.
(20.) The squirrel in the wheel at the shooting gallery.
(21.) The little dog passed off as the 'north pole lion.'
(22.) The larger dog below the 'north pole lion.' In the photos, his sign is partially blocked, but it might say 'Afriken polar bear.'

the adults:

Roy Brooks as "De Rues"
Supporting role. He appears twice in the film, and has the biggest role among the adults. Maltin & Bann list Lincoln Stedman, but since they name Brooks in other instances that aren't him, I'm thinking that all the Stedman listings are actually Brooks.
Dick Gilbert as the security guard
Supporting role. He's seen in the opening scenes as the boys are trying to sneak into the fair.
other adults
Small part and extras.
(1.) The police officer who appears briefly at the very end of the film.
(2.) Dozens and dozens of adults seen during the opening fairground shots, but it's impossible to identify them.
in still images
Posters of Harold Lloyd, Charles Chaplin, William S. Hart and Douglas Fairbanks are shown at the entrance of the gang's 'picher show.' The Chaplin poster is from "The Idle Class," and the Hart poster is from "John Petticoats."

the locations:

Motor Avenue, Palms district, Los Angeles
According to the 1922 datebook, Palms was used as a location on Aug. 8th and 9th. The location of the kids' fairgrounds was on the east side of Motor Avenue on the block just north of Palms Garage, which can be seen in some of the long shots. In fact, the back entrance to the garage was Scholtz Blacksmith Shop, which is the part of the building that appears the most. Also seen is the Palms Feed & Fuel on the southwestern corner of Motor Avenue and Featherstone Street (now part of the re-routed National Boulevard). This is seen not only in the distance, but is where Ernie parks his mule earlier in the film. As the rich kids are walking towards the fair, you can see the house on Irene Street that later served as Dickie Moore's house in "Free Wheeling" (no. 117). The short cliffs shown behind the kids' fairgrounds are also shown in other early silents. The road at the top is the old portion of National Boulevard before the freeway was put in.
Palms Lumber Company, Palms district, Los Angeles
This was located at 10321 National Boulevard. When the kids spot Muggsy with his ponies, they're on the curb at the Palms Feed & Fuel. But Muggsy is on National Boulevard, across the street from the Palms Lumber Company. Behind him is the large house at the corner of National and Vinton. When he demonstrates his skills to the gang, he crosses the street and does this in front of the lumber yard.
the fairgrounds
The adult fair is obviously the real thing, with the Roach studio taking the opportunity to get some footage.
The datebook also reveals that footage was shot at a racetrack on Sep. 20th. It's likely that the footage of the Our Gang boys sneaking into the fairground at the beginning of the film was actually shot at a racetrack. Or perhaps the actual adult fairgrounds, being temporary in nature, were located at a racetrack.


According to the 1922 and 1923 studio datebooks, 32 shooting dates went into the making of this film. However, it should be noted that the datebooks don't mention production A-9 ("The Champeen!") at all. It's probable that production number A-8 ("The Cobbler") was absent-mindedly pencilled in on the A-9 dates, but since "The Big Show" had extensive reshooting during this latter period, some of the A-7 dates may have also involved the making of A-9. Filming for A-7 began on July 28th and initially ended on Aug. 15th. No shooting took place on July 30th, Aug. 6th, or Aug. 13th, which were all Sundays. Filming took place in The Palms on the 8th and 9th, and the datebook mentions that Jackie Condon suffered a fractured arm on the 8th.Work then commenced on "The Cobbler" (no. 8) and (presumably) "The Champeen!" (no. 9) from Aug. 16th to Sep. 9th. After this, shooting was resumed for "The Big Show," taking place from Sep. 11th until Sep. 16th. For the 11th, the datebook states that 'added scenes' were filmed, but it's likely that this was the case for the entire week. The number A-7 was written over A-8 on the 16th, suggesting that things were taking longer than expected. No shooting took place on Sep. 10th or 17th, which were both Sundays. After devoting the 18th and 19th to "The Cobbler," more footage was shot for "The Big Show" from Sep. 20th to Sep. 28th. The datebook states that the 'racetrack sequence' was shot on the 20th, which probably indicates that the opening fairground footage showing the Our Gang boys was probably actually shot outside a local racetrack. Presumably, this is where shooting took place for all seven of these dates. Filming on the 28th was divided between "The Big Show" and "The Cobbler." No shooting took place on Sep. 24th, which was a Sunday. After two more days of retakes for "The Cobbler" on the 29th and 30th, shooting took place for "Boys To Board" (no. 10), "A Pleasant Journey" (no. 11), "Giants Vs. Yanks" (no. 12) and "Back Stage" (no. 13). Retakes for "The Big Show" then took place on Jan. 10th and 11th, 1923. Originally, the 10th was meant to be the 'finishing' date for "Back Stage," but this was achieved the previous day. The 11th was meant for "Dogs Of War!" (no. 14), but this production waited until the 12th. It's interesting to note that there were no gaps in the shooting schedule during this period, other than Sundays and holidays. "The Big Show" began the day after the retakes for "A Quiet Street" (no. 5) were finished, and "Dogs Of War!" began the day after "The Big Show" was (finally) finished.

According to Joe Cobb, he arrived at the Roach studio in September, but didn't join the Our Gang unit until after working in Snub Pollard's "A Tough Winter." The weekly payroll summaries indicate that Joe was paid a full week's salary on Sep. 9th, so if he did start in September, then he was considered part of the Our Gang unit even while working with Pollard. This information supports the notion that the opening footage was shot in late September, since Joe is featured throughout that part of the film. It also makes sense that, perhaps, the cutaway shots of Joe during the 'movie stars' section of the film were shot on the January dates as a way of getting him into the second half of the film.

According to Andy Samuel, who debuted in this film, Roach came up with the idea for this short because of Samuel's Chaplin imitation. This would suggest that the July and August dates probably involved the 'movie stars' section of the film. Since Jackie Condon got injured during this time, it's possible that the mid-September dates involved the animal sections of the film, including the footage where he sets them free.

The Motion Picture News of January 13, 1923, reported the following: "The Bob McGowan kid comedy title 'The Big Show' is finished and has been previewed at the Venice theatre this week." Presumably, the retakes of Jan. 10th and 11th were due to some shortcoming detected during this preview.

A Krazy Kat doll was used in the "Two Marbles For 3 Shots" booth, tied up by the arms to be the recipient of thrown bricks.

The datebooks also give information on the weather for the various shooting dates. For the initial shooting dates in July and August, the weather is described as 'bright' on each day with one exception: for Aug. 8th, it's described as 'bright AM dark PM' (which proves that the weather reflects injuries suffered by small boys). For the mid-September dates, the weather was usually 'bright,' but is described as 'medium foggy late & early' on the 12th, 'fog late & very early' on the 13th, and 'bright very hot - some heat haze' on the 17th. For the late September dates, the weather is usually described as 'bright.' Specifically, though, it's described as 'bright & pleasant' on the 20th, 'bright - dull in morning' on the 27th, and 'medium bright morning dark' on the 28th. The weather is described as 'bright' for both of the retake dates of Jan. 10th and 11th.

In the Motion Picture News of Mar. 3, 1923, the following review by Lillian Gale appeared: "Where is the person, grown-up or not, who, in his secret self does not enjoy the circus? In 'The Big Show' there are two circus entertainments, the first a real one, from which the children without funds are barred. They get into a lot of comical trouble trying to peep through knot-holes in the high-board fence. The second circus is one the children put on, using decorated domestic animals and fowl to represent the wild specimens they caught glimpses of when the real circus played their town.
"It is easy to imagine what happens with Sunshine Sammy, little Farina, Mickey Daniels and the rest contributing special 'acts' and at the same time keeping tab on the box office receipts.
"Every child will find delight in this amusing two reeler, which may serve, also, as a panacea for the grouch, the tired business man and busy housewife. There are laughs for every member of a family, from baby to grandpa, laughs that are not forced by over-done, unnatural things, but sparkling, fast and merry comedy. 'The Big Show' is the kind of two-reeler that may safely be advertised as an 'added attracion.'"

The Motion Picture News of Apr. 14, 1923, reported the following: "Freckled Mickey Daniels and the other juvenile screen stars in the Hal Roach two-reel Our Gang Comdies made themselves doubly amusing to Capitol theatre, New York, audiences last week in 'The Big Show.' Over and above the customary stunts of unterrified boyhood that distinguish the Our Gang Comedies, 'The Big Show' includes 'take-offs' on several of the screen's most celebrated figures.
"Mickey Daniels - with whom Hal Roach has just made a five-year contract - thus pays his respects to Douglas Fairbanks in that star's most Dumasesque role. Harold Lloyd and 'Two-gun' Bill Hart are 'interpreted' by other members of the cast hardly less laughably, while little Mary Kornman is declared to be Mary Pickford 'to the life.'"

This film was the third of six in the second 'series' of Our Gang films.

An item of August 13, 1936, reveals that this short was shown as part of the "Our Gang" Review along with the newly-released "Bored Of Education" (no. 146) and the previous short, "Arbor Day" (no. 145).

40 still images were printed into numerous press photos to promote this film.

The opening shot in the film is of a sign advertising the Lincoln County Fair, and saying that it lasts from September 9 to 14. Research reveals that California has never had a Lincoln County.

At the grown-up fair, there are some signs that are partially covered up, but one seems to identify Maria Calvo, and another Edythe Sterling, A Daughter of the West.

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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)
Drina Mohacsi (for giving a positive ID of Donald Hughes)
Matthew Lydick (for pointing out George Warde in the publicity photo and pointing out the opening title cards at Lord Heath's site)
Joe Moore (for providing the copyright information)

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