For twenty-two years, from 1922 to 1944, a small, ever-changing group of children were part of this charming and very funny comedy team known first as Our Gang and then The Little Rascals. Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Jr. kicked off his film debut at age five when he became a regular in the Our Gang film series.
Perhaps Our Gang's best-loved character is derby-hatted Stymie. His beguiling personality and tantalizing smile brightened every scene he was in. Stymie often seemed detached, but he could generally outsmart or outmaneuver any adversary. He tossed off snappy dialogue with assurance, and above all could register a shrewd variety of double takes.
Beards' curiosity and adventurous nature earned him his nickname when the series director became "stymied" by the young actor who was always underfoot. Stymie is best remembered for his oversized derby hat and ornery smile. The smile came naturally, but the hat (which represented what he considered the crown of comedy), came as a gift from Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy.
Beard appeared in 36 Our Gang comedies and also had parts in Truck Turner, The Buddy Holly Story and TV sitcom Sanford and Son. He also appeared in Jezebel with Bette Davis and Stormy Weather with Lena Horne.
Beard died in 1981. His fans will always treasure him for his innocentl emotional eyes, comedic double takes and childhood antics. "We had a lot of fun doing the films," Beard recalls. "Aside from an occasional scrap, the kids got along very well. It was a wonderful experience." The magic of movies bestows a degree of immortality, and we can treasure forever the frozen illusions and dazzling eternally young faces we visit over and over again on the screen.
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© Matthew "Stymie" Beard Jr.