Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer--America's Most Beloved Little Rascal!
Carl Dean "Alfalfa" Switzer, who was born in Paris, Illinois, on August 7, 1927, is best remembered as "Alfalfa" on The Little Rascals (originally known as Our Gang)--Spanky's skinny, freckle-faced sidekick with the irrepressible cowlick, and off-key singing voice. He appeared in a total of sixty-one episodes of Our Gang, delighting theater-goers--and later, television audiences--worldwide.
Carl's most famous role in Our Gang was as a crooner-- sort of a kiddie knockoff of Bing Crosby. His squeaky high-pitched off-key singing voice butchered many a Crosby classic, and the audience loved it! One of his most memorable songs was, "I'm in the Mood For Love." He portrayed a variety of characters: football hero, boxer, ballerina, Romeo, and even a he-man woman hater!
Carl had a charisma, charm, and natural acting ability that captured the hearts of audiences everywhere; although he suffered an untimely death at the age of thirty-one, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's legacy lives on. Thanks to the syndication of Our Gang (renamed "The Little Rascals" for television), as well as Carl's irrepressible talent, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer will forever be remembered as the most beloved of all the Little Rascals!
Our Gang Follies of 1938
A Born Entertainer
Carl and his older brother, Harold, were well known around town for singing at auctions and various events near their farm in Illinois. While visiting their grandparents in California, Carl and Harold planned to audition for the Hal Roach Studios, but there was one problem--they didn't have a pass to get in. Then they got a bright idea--why not sing at the Our Gang Cafe, which is open to the public? They did, and knocked the socks off Hal Roach, who just happened to be there. He quickly wrote them into the current Our Gang picture, titled, "Beginner's Luck." It was 1935, and the start of seven-year-old Carl's seven-year stint as Alfalfa on Our Gang.
Although Carl sang off-key as "Alfalfa" (the effect of which was akin to fingernails scraping across a blackboard), he was actually a very talented musician who, in real life, could actually carry a tune, as well as play a slew of instruments. Carl and brother Harold were quite popular around the local circuit for their hillbilly harmonizing.
Carl Alfalfa Switzer--an Onion-Eating "Romeo"
Alfalfa the Crooner
Alfalfa and the Gang Crooning
A Young Alfalfa and the Gang
Alfalfa--More Popular Than Clark Gable?
Carl Switzer, who appeared in a total of sixty-one Our Gang Comedies, from "Beginner's Luck," to "Kiddie Kure," became George "Spanky" McFarland's sidekick, replacing Scotty Beckett, who left Our Gang to appear in feature films.
Carl was a fast learner, and could effortlessly carry out any direction for a scene and get it right the first time. In his first appearance, in "Beginner's Luck," Carl and brother Harold were billed as the singing act, "Tom & Jerry." From then on, Carl was "Alfalfa" (inspired by his country background). Harold, relegated to background roles, was known as "Deadpan" or "Slim."
Alfalfa quickly became Our Gang's most popular kid, who, according to Darla Hood, was even more popular than Clark Gable! Here is her story: "Once, when he left at the end of the day, I remember Clark Gable and Alfalfa went out through the gate at the same time, and people made a bigger fuss over Alfalfa. I saw it happen."
Carl, who was reportedly fun to be around, could also invoke unease. He liked to play practical jokes, and they often got out of hand. One time, he put fish hooks in Spanky's pants, which resulted in Spanky having to get stitches; another time, he persuaded co-star Darla Hood to reach in his pocket for a ring, a present which he claimed to have for her. Unfortunately, Darla came close to losing her fingers when the "ring" turned out to be an open jack knife!
Carl had a short temper, which was often aimed at producers and directors, according to Robert Blake, who was "Mickey" on Our Gang in the '40s. "One time on the set," Blake said, "Alfie was fooling around, and the cameraman got mad at him. 'Come on kid,' he barked, 'let's get this scene, so we can go to lunch.' The guy was insensitive about it. Alfie simmered. Okay, you could see Alfie was going to fix him. During lunch, he grabbed all the gum he could carry, made us chew it up, then wadded it into the size of a softball, opened the camera, jammed it inside the lens, down into the sprockets and gears, just everywhere. No one worked that afternoon except the cameraman."
Even though "Alfie" (as he was known to friends) could be a devil, "He was a riot; everyone loved him [according to Tommy "Butch" Bond a popular Our Gang regular]."
"Once, when he left at the end of the day, I remember Clark Gable and Alfalfa went out through the gate at the same time, and people made a bigger fuss over Alfalfa. . . ."
— Darla Hood
I own this Little Rascals DVD set and I love it!
Carl Switzer Shortly Before His Death
A Victim of the "Child Star Curse?"
After leaving Our Gang, Carl met the all-too-common fate that befalls many former child stars--his life went into a downward spiral. He appeared in other features, including "It's a Wonderful Life," but never again found the success and popularity he had achieved as child star "Alfalfa" in Our Gang.
Carl's adult life was filled with strife and disappointment. His marriage to Diane Collingwood lasted only four months; he was forced to supplement his meager acting income by bartending and serving as a fishing and big-game hunting guide in California; he was arrested for chopping down Christmas trees in Sequoia National Forrest; he was shot by an unknown assailant in the late '50s, while getting into his car. On January 21, 1959, Carl died at the much-too-young age of thirty-one after being shot to death over a $50 debt.
Carl Switzer in "The Courage of Lassie," starring Elizabeth Taylor
Grave of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer
The Life and Death of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer
Click Photo to Purchase on Amazon
I own this book, and I LOVE IT! If you're a true Little Rascals (Our Gang) fan, as I am, it's a must-have! It's a big 294 pages long, and chock-full of historical photos and information about the history of Our Gang, including all the episodes, in addition to bios of every kid who was lucky enough to have been there. What happened to these cool kids after Our Gang? Buy the book, and find out. I highly recommend it.
Who Was Carl's Real Life Best Friend From Our Gang? The Answer:
Have you guessed the answer to "who was Alfalfa's best friend?" it was the unlikeliest character of all--"Butch," the bully!
Did You Enjoy This Hub About Alfalfa Switzer?
Carl S. on December 21, 2014:
Go to The Alfalfa Conspiracy on Facebook to read Jack Piott's contestant at the coroners inquest for the truth of how Stiltz murdered Alfie.
He was unarmed, had his left hand on the doorknob trying to leave when Stiltz shot him. The conspiracy is the cover up that ensued to protect the Corrigan's reputation.