Header Image: The 3 Sisters

The Brian Sisters

Our Gang Follies of 1936 (1935)

Producers were not renowned for their kind, understanding nature when confronted with yet more child acts to audition, but in the late summer of 1935, Meda and the girls managed to impress enough people in the Hal Roach studios that they ended up being offered a film appearance by Hal Roach himself, in Our Gang Follies of 1936. This is one in a series where all the actors were young children, so Mr Roach was not being entirely altruistic! 
Of course, the Brian Sisters took the job.

The Hal Roach ledger for 1935 shows that they were each paid checks of $10 for each of the four days September 11, 12, 13 and 14; a total of $120 and a good result! Doris and Betty recall the filming taking two days, so it is possible that the studio kept them on hand for a further two days in order to cover any re-shoots etc.

At this time Betty was 12, Doris 9 and Gwen 7.

They are introduced on the act list as "The Farmer Girls" and their song is How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis with music by Walter Donaldson, which was published in 1918.

They sing in excellent harmony, arranging parts themselves as they had before all this began, with Gwen taking the melody and Doris and Betty harmonizing (or should that be farmonizing) in their usual competent way. Unfortunately their act is spoiled somewhat by the superfluous antics of 'Buckwheat' and his monkey.

When the girls sing their individual lines as they 'take you round the farm; come on, let's go' in the specially-written 'interlude', you might notice that, as Doris sings her line "and lots of rabbits that are in the sheds", Betty is also miming the same words. She does the same when Gwen sings her line "Horses, cattle, other things, there's a bee!", but Betty has her head down so it is not easily visible. Betty, always a strong and supportive eldest sister, was doing all she could to ensure that there were no snags.

The film's director decided that all three girls should wear glasses 'for effect' and told them to sing in a 'hick' style. They disliked both requests, but did them, of course. This was the first, but sadly not nearly the last time that their singing was compromised by a director's idea of how they should look and sound.
The requests may have been unwelcome, but the pay from this, their first film, was useful.
Their performance is absolutely delightful.

Beware the loud, distorted sound on this clip!
(The distributed film has proper sound level)

Gwen, Doris, and Betty

The Brian Sisters outdid even Shirley Temple by appearing in Our Gang.   Little Miss Broadway Shirley auditioned for Our Gang but was not given an appearance.

"Our Gang Follies of 1936" is available on the Region 1 DVD "Little Rascals Varieties", which is a collation of Our Gang short films. It is also sometime shown on television in USA.
The film has also recently been released in a colorized collection.




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