In A Nutshell
The Little Rascals comedy shorts were incredibly popular in the early years of film, but the crew could easily be described as cursed— many of the cast members died under horrifying circumstances, not limited to murder, plane crashes, suicide, and motorcycle accidents.
The Whole Bushel
Beginning in 1922, a series of live-action comedy shorts starring a group of children called Our Gang hit the silver screen. The shorts were a hit, and over decades, a constantly evolving cast of “Little Rascals” entertained audiences, new kids joining up as older ones grew into their teens. While many cast members lived full, normal lives following their stint on the program, a chilling number went on to perish in most terrible fashion.
Bobby Hutchins (20) and Donald Haines (23) both died while serving in World War II. Billy “Froggy” Laughlin died at just 16 when his motor scooter was struck by a car. Norman “Chubby” Chaney died of a glandular ailment at 21. Kendall McComas (64) and Scott Beckett (38) committed suicide. Darla Hood, who frequently figured in as the show’s love interest, died of a heart attack at 47 after contracting hepatitis from a blood transfusion.
In 2002, Jay R. Smith, who lived to 87 years old, was stabbed to death by a homeless man he had befriended. His corpse was found in the desert north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Robert Blake, who successfully made the transition from child to adult actor, found himself in the crosshairs of a murder investigation when his second wife, Bonnie Lee Bakly, was killed in 2001. Blake was acquitted of the charges, but was found liable for her death in a subsequent civil trial.
Perhaps the most famous rascal of all was Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, the freckled, cowlicked boy who yearned for the affections of his beloved Darla. Switzer left the show in 1940 at the age of 12, and though he had a few bit parts afterward, including roles in such classics as It’s a Wonderful Life and The Ten Commandments, his acting career was pretty much over. Switzer did a series of odd jobs afterward; he had a talent in particular for training hunting dogs. On January 21, 1959, Switzer got into an argument with another man concerning a dog and a debt of $50. He was shot in the groin and bled to death. He was 31. Sixteen years later, Carl’s brother Harold (who also appeared on the series) killed a man in a dispute, then committed suicide at the age of 42.