Jack Hanlon, known for his famous childhood roles, would end up living for nearly a century as well as outliving most of the young co-stars he worked with. He starred in several movies that included at least two of the classic ‘Our Gang” films and a silent classic from Buster Keaton.
Sadly, The Associated Press reports that Jack Hanlon has died at the age of 96. Hanlon will be remembered for his roles in films that took place during the Depression era.
Hanlon, according to Variety, was “apparently the oldest living person to appear in the ‘Our Gang’ comedies and likely the last surviving cast member of the Buster Keaton silent classic “The General.” The Our Gang comedies, also known as The Little Rascals, became popular to moviegoers as the films featured child characters that were poor and ended up hanging out together despite their gender and racial differences.
During that era in Hollywood, child actors usually were portrayed in make-believe lives on the screen. The Our Gang characters were grounded in the naturalness and poverty the audience would see in their neighborhoods every day. Though there were many of these films, Hanlon appeared in only a few of them.
According to the Internet Movie Database, he appeared in “Olympic Games” and in “The Glorious Fourth.” The Variety, however, says Hanlon also appeared in “Ten Years Old.” Even though the characters in the Our Gang films had recurring names, Hanlon seems to have played characters with no name but as unnamed tough guys.
For example, in the film “Olympic Games,” his character is listed in IMDb as only “Kid Who Gets Beat Up.” Many of the Little Rascals stars died relatively early, such as Carl Switzer (Alfalfa) at age 31, Norman Chaney (Chubby) at age 21 and Billie Thomas (Buckwheat) at age 49.
Other films he starred in were the 1926 Buster Keaton silent classic “The General,” in which he had a small role. In 1929, he was in William Wyler’s film “The Shakedown” and played an orphan who ends up being taken in by a professional boxer. The film was actually released as both a silent film as well as a “talkie.” In 1930, he appeared in the film “The Romance” where he received a kiss from Great Garbo.
Even though he had appeared in several films, the AP reported that Hanlon rarely made more than $5 a day for acting. When he decided to leave acting, he attempted a career in professional baseball, became an Army paratrooper and finally a mover for Allied Van Lines.
Hanlon was living in Las Vegas for 18 years and had his own home until October when he ended up moving into an assisted living center. His niece, Wendy Putnam, said, “Surprisingly, he was in good physical shape until two months ago. He liked being independent and watching old movies on TV. He basically died of old age.”
She also talked about her uncle saying that he was a natural at being a child actor during 1926-1933. She told The Associated Press that, “He was absolutely the sweetest, most charming man. He loved talking about being in the movies if you brought the subject up. He loved sharing stories about being in them.”
Bob Satterfield, Hanlon’s friend, talked with the Las Vegas Sun and said that he watched “The General” and the Our Gang films with Hanlon. Satterfield, who is a Southern California high school activities director and a silent films buff, told the Sun that, “He told me it was like watching someone else because it was a lifetime ago … Jack led a full life.”
Jack Hanlon will be buried along with his wife Jean, of 37 years, in Santa Monica, California. He is survived by two other nieces and a nephew.
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