2013-01-14 19:40:19 UTC
Pursuant to the on-going discussion of "Our Gang" wanna-bes like George "Freckles" Wendelken, I am reminded of actor Howard Caine (1928-1993), who essayed the recurring role of "Major Hochstetter" on TV's "Hogan's Heroes" (also memorable for his catch-phrase "Mr. President, New York abstains ... courteously," when he played Congressional delegate Lewis Morris in the film version of "1776").
While giving cast biographies in her book "Hogan's Heroes: Behind the Scenes at Stalag 13" (Renaissance Books, 1998), author Brenda Scott Royce, on pages 124-125, writes:
"HOWARD CAINE as Major Wolfgang Hochstetter.
"Most people are surprised to learn that Howard Caine, the ruthless Msjor Hochstetter, was a Southern born Jew. Born Howard Cohen on January 2, 1928 in Nashville, Tennessee, Caine began his show business career at the tender age of two, when Hal and Jack Roach filmed the original 'Our Gang' silent films in Nashville. His older brothers and sister heard about the audition and dressed Howard up in one of his doll's clothes and brought him to the theater. Howard was cast as Wheezer and performed in a few of the films. The Roach brothers wanted Howard's parents to move the family to California so that Howard could perform in more 'Our Gang' shorts. Howard's parents refused to uproot the family, and the toddler's career in show business was put on hold. Bobby Hutchins took the part of Wheezer in the rest of the 'Our Gang' films."
Caine's filmography (page 128)gives his time as "Wheezer" as having occurred in 1929 -- before he even turned two! The 1929 book "A Day with Our Gamg" [alternate title: "A Story of Our Gang: Romping Through the Hal Roach Comedies"] (Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin) by Eleanor Lewis Packer clearly depicts Bobby Hutchins, Also, Leonard Maltin's book states that Hutchins made his "Wheezer" debut in 1927.
Most fans of "Our Gang"/"The Little Rascals" can immediately pick out all the historical inaccuracies published in the "Hogan" book. The Maltin book clearly spells out that the series was always filmed in California and how Bobby Hutchins was, indeed, the series' only "Wheezer." If Hal Roach did have a brother named Jack working at the studio, I really do not remember him as being much of a player.
Maltin explains in his "Our Gang" book the way it usually worked. A small-town character concocts a interesting back-story and tells all his friends how he used to play "Freckles" or "Stinky" or some other nonexistent Gang member. When said "big shot" dies, somebody in his orbit (friends, family, etc.) reports this legend to the local press and it then gets picked up by the national press, and ... you get the picture.
Something similar happened a few years ago. Some guy named Paul Vander-something died and his widow reported to the press that he had had a former music career as "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" songwriter Paul Vance many years preceding their marriage. Problem was the REAL Paul Vance was still alive and the widow had been led to believe she had been married to somebody famous. If I remember correctly, she seemed to be resentful when the legitimate Paul Vance came forward and effectively took this mythos away from her.
Whether it's the Grand Duchess Anastasia, a phoney songwriter, or a "Buckwheat" bagging groceries in Tempe, Arizona, don't you hate it when folks stick to totally de-bunked claims?
Contrary to popular belief, Buckwheat never converted to Islam and changed his name to "Kareem of Wheat."