Friday, May 24, 2013

Whatever Happened to Stymie from The Little Rascals?

TV Blog / Stymie Beard / Little RascalsI've been watching The Our Gang / Little Rascals Complete Collection and it is so much fun. I'd almost forgotten how funny those short Hal Roach comedies were, especially the early ones with Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, baby Spanky McFarland, Dickie Moore and Scotty Beckett, all amazingly unpretentious young actors.



A Los Angeles native, Matthew Beard was the highest paid Rascal and with good reason. There wasn't anything forced or false about his performances, he was adorably enthusiastic. The camera loved him, so did film audiences and his peers. Stan Laurel, one of the child actor's comedy influences, gave Stymie the bowler hat he wore in the series out of admiration for his work.



After 5 years and 36 shorts subjects, Matthew 'Stymie' Beard was retired from the Little Rascals in 1935 at age 10. Before the next decade was over he had developed a heroin addiction. Prison time followed for dealing, as a result the 1950s and 1960s were a wash for him professionally. When 'The Little Rascals' films were sold to TV syndication, he looked on from the sidelines in disgust as others got enormously wealthy off of his past performances.

A story about his recovery from drugs went over the AP in 1973, helping Stymie achieve his "secret ambition" of performing again. He was hired as a supporting player on Hawkins,  Sanford & Son, Starsky & Hutch, Maude, and Good Times along with some small film roles and other TV productions.

Here's Stymie in the Sanford & Son episode 'A Little Extra Security,' he appeared 3 times on that show, twice on Maude, and 5 times on Good Times where he was seen as Monty. Stymie as Otis enters with Grady at 9:37. He was just as engaging and naturally funny as ever, though he was pushing a bit too hard. He might have had an illustrious television career if he had been given the opportunity to work more often and regain his confidence.



In January, 1981, Stymie suffered a stroke; he lay for 2 days unconscious on his apartment floor before being discovered. He died a few days later at age 57. Redd Foxx stated, "It's a shame that Stymie and so many people like him could be in show business all their lives and be basically unknown. He never made any money to speak of in the 'Our Gang' comedies even though people are enjoying them 50 years later and will continue to forever."



Norman Lear, who produced many of the sitcoms Matthew Beard appeared on, tried to revive 'The Little Rascals' in the mid-1970s with Gary Coleman playing Stymie. Four pilots were reportedly filmed, we can be thankful that never got off the ground.

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