Friday, September 16, 2011

Rant #582: Darn Right It's Butch

Tommy Bond would have been 85 years old today.

Who is Tommy Bond, you ask.

Tommy Bond was the kid actor who played the meanie Butch in all those old Our Gang/Little Rascals short features.

Although Spanky, Alfalfa and Darla got most of the applause, Tommy Bond was probably the best pure actor of the bunch. He started off with the Gang as merely an ancillary player--most notably warbling the adult tearjerker "Just Friends" in one episode--but as the series grew and a protagonist was needed, Bond kind of morphed into Butch, the bully who really wasn't all that bad.

From about 1936 to 1940, Butch regularly competed with Alfalfa for the attention of comely Darla. Although he only periodically won the favor of the Gang's lovely lass, he became the comic foil for the good guys of the Gang, including Buckwheat and Porky, two of the little kids that he regularly threatened, often sending his henchman, Woim, to do the dirty work.

In 1937, still as a kid actor, he was one of the first members of the Screen Actors Guild.

When Bond finally left the series in 1940, he continued to do films. and he served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, he was the first movie Jimmy Olsen in the Superman serials alongside Kirk Allyn and Noelle Neil.

Bond later turned his attention to television, and worked on many productions behind the scenes. In fact, if you remember Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and all the crazy props they used, you can thank Bond, because he was the prop master of that show.

As one of the last surviving major members of the Our Gang/Little Rascals cast, in his later life he represented the Gang in a number of productions, and he eventually wrote his own autobiography.

Bond died Sept. 24, 2005.

His legacy are those Our Gang/Little Rascals films. Today, where bullies are looked down upon, Bond's characterization seems completely out of touch with today's reality.

But way back when, the character of Butch was a bully, but he kind of had a heart of gold. Although he won many victories over the more popular characters, he never won the war, so to speak.

And he took it, and we laughed at him, with him and against him.

Tommy Bond was a one of a kind actor in a series that has also been proven to be one of a kind, and I salute him on what would have been his birthday.

"Darn Right It's Butch"--and we're all better for it.

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