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"In the Spotlight"

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Thank you for your kind words, ugaarte! I have sent your comments on the Lorre biography (The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre) to my long-time friend Stephen Youngkin, who is always interested in what fans think of the book.


There are lots of Lorre fans out there, and if you would like to, you would be welcome to join my Lorre group on Yahoo. Just search on "Peter Lorre" and look for the photo of Marius. We have only 6 members currently, but we're not unfriendly.



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In the Spotlight: CARL 'ALFALFA' SWITZER




The off-key rascal with the cowlick was born Carl Dean Switzer on August 7, 1927 in Paris, Illinois.

He and his older brother, Harold, became famous around their hometown for their musical talent and performances; both sang and played a number of instruments.


The Switzers took a trip to California in 1934 to visit with family members. While sightseeing the Switzers eventually wound up at Hal Roach Studios. Following a public tour of the facility, 8-year-old Harold and 6-year-old Carl entered into the Hal Roach Studio's cafeteria, the 'Our Gang' Caf?, and began an impromptu performance. Producer Hal Roach was present at the commissary that day and was impressed by the performance. He signed both Switzers to appear in 'Our Gang'. Harold was given two nicknames, "Slim" and "Deadpan", and Carl was dubbed "Alfalfa".


The Switzer brothers first appeared in the 1935 'Our Gang' short, 'Beginner's Luck'. By the end of the year, Alfalfa was one of the main characters in the series which included Spanky, Darla, Buckwheat, Porky, Waldo, Pete the pup, etc.

His best friend in the "Our Gang" cast was Tommy Bond, who played his on-screen nemesis Butch.

Alfie appeared in 61 of the "Our Gang" comedies.


Although Carl Switzer was an experienced singer and musician, his character Alfalfa was often called upon to sing off-key renditions of pop standards and contemporary hits, most often those of Bing Crosby. Alfalfa also sported one of the most famous cowlicks in pop culture history.

His father was often engaged in power struggles with 'George 'Spanky' McFarland''s father (over billing, screen time, star status, etc.). The boys, however, managed to get along fine with one another.


Switzer's country-boy sense of earthy humor could often be cruel. He enjoyed playing tricks on his fellow cast and crew members.

After Hal Roach sold the series to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in 1938, the now-adolescent Switzer's behavior was even more extreme. He often sabotaged the production of 'Our Gang' films. Once, during a break in filming, Switzer urinated on the set's lights. When filming resumed, the lights heated up and filled the set with such a stench that filming had to be halted for the rest of the day. On another occasion, he put chewing gum inside one of the cameras.


Both Switzers' tenures in Our Gang ended in 1940, when Carl was thirteen.

Carl continued to appear in movies in various supporting and bit roles, including "The Human Comedy", "I Love You Again", "Going My Way", "Courage of Lassie", "It's a Wonderful Life", "A Letter to Three Wives", "House by the River", "Pat and Mike", "The High and the Mighty", "Track of the Cat", "Francis in the Navy", "The Ten Commandments", etc.

His final film role was in 1958's "The Defiant Ones" and on the television series, "The Roy Rogers Show," where he was called upon to reprise his off-key "Alfalfa-like" singing. Switzer's difficult reputation and his typecasting as Alfalfa made it difficult for him to find quality work.


in January 1958, he was shot in the arm while getting into his car. He survived the shooting, but the shooter was never identified. Months later, Switzer was arrested in Sequoia National Forest for cutting down 15 pine trees. He was sentenced to a year's probation and ordered to pay a $225 fine.


In the early 1950s, Switzer moved to Kansas. He lived and worked on a farm , west of Wichita. There he met and married Diane Collingwood, the heiress of grain elevator empire Collingwood Grain. The marriage only lasted four months, but did result in the birth of a son whose name is still a well kept secret.


While not acting, Switzer bred hunting dogs and led guided hunting expeditions. Some of his more notable clients included Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (Switzer's godparents), and Jimmy Stewart.


Although one of the most popular members of "Our Gang," Switzer's later life became an almost textbook example of the former child star whose life takes a turn for the worse. Numerous brushes with the law, a broken marriage, and grade-Z film work (when he could get it) all led up to his sudden, violent death in January 1959 at the age of only 31.


Sadly, he died by gunshot wound by an acquaintance in an argument over $50 which Switzer felt the acquaintance owed him. The acquaintance pleaded self-defense, and the judge ruled the death "justifiable homicide."

A similar fate befell his brother, actor Harold Switzer, who, nine years later, killed his girlfriend and (a few hours after that) himself.


The delightful Alfalfa of 'Our Gang' fame is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

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I have it on good authority that the picture of Alfafa and his hula girls is really a picture of our own FrankGrimes and the gals who love to make his life a living heck around here.

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