When the Our Gang series premiered in 1922, it was an immediate hit. Child actors were not new to the screen. But the idea of a group of children — acting like children –with other children — was a revelation in the movie industry.
Seven-year-old Ernie Morrison, nicknamed “Sunshine Sammy”, was the first black performer signed to a long-term contract in Hollywood. The charismatic and talented actor worked with Fatty Arbuckle before stealing scenes from the best Hal Roach comics, including Harold Lloyd. In 1922, “Sunshine Sammy” became the nucleus for a new series Charley Chase and Roach were developing around a group of kids. Not show business kids, but real kids doing real things.
The success of OUR GANG produced a host of imitators. But none came close to the charm or popularity of the original. The comedies would continue for the next twenty-two years.