George “Spanky” McFarland, Former Little Rascal Dead At 64
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) _ George ″Spanky″ McFarland’s acting career ended when he was a teen-ager. Yet generations were moved to smiles by images of the chubby child star of the ″Our Gang″ and ″Little Rascals″ comedies.
McFarland died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack. The cause of death was unknown, said Baylor Grapevine Hospital spokesman Steve Tatum.
″He made four generations of people all over the world laugh,″ said his son, Verne McFarland of Watauga. ″You couldn’t ask for a better legacy.″
Former ″Our Gang″ colleague Dick Moore, who played ″Dickie,″ said his friend ″was a super guy.″
″The thing that I liked so much about Spanky as an adult was he treated everyone the same,″ Moore said. ″He was down home and unpretentious.″
Spanky’s popularity endured long after his acting career ended.
He was a hit at charity appearances and often popped up on cameo roles in movies and television shows, including a spot on ″Cheers″ last April.
″He was a favorite of the executive producers when they were growing up so they invited him and he accepted,″ Bob Meyer, NBC manager of media relations, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
McFarland also was revered by another childhood star - Michael Jackson, who visited McFarland’s home in 1984.
Betsy McFarland said her father was due to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame soon. He didn’t know, she said - it was to be unveiled on a surprise trip to California.
McFarland became an actor in 1931 when he was 3. He modeled baby clothes in his hometown of Dallas and made a one-minute Wonder Bread commercial that was noticed by director Hal Roach.
In addition to ″Our Gang,″ McFarland made 14 feature-length movies including ″Trail of the Lonesome Pine″ with Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray and ″Woman in the Window″ with Edward G. Robinson.
″When I reached 16, and they stopped making the comedies, I made the decision then - I told my parents - I wasn’t going to make any more films,″ he told the Midland Reporter Telegram in October 1988.
After retiring from the movie industry, McFarland worked in sales for 29 years. He also owned a barbecue restaurant in Oklahoma City.
Survivors include his wife, three children and mother.