blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Helping Grandma (1931, Robert F. McGowan)

A scene from HELPING GRANDMA, starring Robert F. McGowan for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Helping Grandma gives the impression directing Our Gang shorts for so long, McGowan lost (or never developed) any ability to direct adults. The way he holds shots on the kids, making sure they get their gags done, makes sense… even if it lacks any artistry. But in Grandma, he inexplicably holds shots on Margaret Mann. She’s not doing gags, just poorly delivering dialogue. It’s completely unnecessary.

The story concerns the gang helping Mann at the grocery store. The short actually does distinguish itself in a few ways. First is the racism. The older kids don’t treat Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins any different, but the younger ones do. Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins is constantly abusing Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard and Grandma makes high minded “watermelon” jokes at Beard’s expense.

Second, there’s an anti-corporate sentiment about chain stores. It’s sort of interesting… though it’s eventually invalidated.

Grandma could be worse. But not by much.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by McGowan and Hal Roach; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins (Wheezer), Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard (Stymie), Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Mary Ann Jackson (Mary Ann), Norman ‘Chubby’ Chaney (Chubby), Jackie Cooper (Jackie), Shirley Jean Rickert (Shirley), Clifton Young (Bonedust), Dorothy DeBorba (Dorothy), Donald Haines (Speck), Oscar Apfel (Mr. Pennypacker) and Margaret Mann (Mrs. Margaret Mack).


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