“Fats” Is Reported Dead And Little Rascals Fans Scratch Their Heads In Confusion.
The Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer were among the dozens of newspapers reporting the sad news of the passing of Don Law aka “Fats.” The Associated Press photo shows a rather glum grown-up Don.
You remember “Fats” from Our Gang a.k.a. The Little Rascals, right? Even serious fans of Our Gang may not exactly be sure which one Fats was. Probably the big fat kid.
Search your memory. You’ll come to the conclusion that you don’t remember anyone named ‘Fats’ in Our Gang.
But there were some big kids, right?
True, there was Joe Cobb who played “Joe’ and and Norman “Chubby” Chaney who replaced Cobb and played…Chubby. Not too much work coming up with nicknames. Norman and Joe were the large children who played “fat” kids.
But Our Gang creator Hal Roach never named any of his rotund child actors “Fats.”As a matter of fact in its 22 year run from 1922 -1944 there is no record of anyone called Fats.
But Everyone Called Don “Fats”
So how did Don Law get identified as a former Our Gang Comedy star known as Fats?
The truth is hard to determine. Over the years a handful of people claimed to have been part of the Our Gang films who were not. Some people were simply charlatans. But most were just misguided.
When you are a youngster and have a brief movie appearance, your memory may not be the best barometer of accuracy. Many of the non-Our Gang child actors were told by their parents that they were part of Our Gang, In fact they may have been in motion pictures but were not in Our Gang.
So the fact checkers back in 1959 just didn’t do any checking when it came to Don Law. Possibly Don Law was in some kiddie film as child, but was told he was in Our Gang.
In a longer obituary in the New York Herald Tribune it says Law appeared in 20 Hal Roach comedy films. After his film career Law’s family moved to Meadville. PA in 1934. He later managed a clothing store and worked for Greyhound – Harmony Shortline Bus Companies. Law left behind a wife and three children. Who provided the information about Law appearing in Our Gang is unsourced. Family and friends probably spread the word from Law himself. Don was Fats in the Our Gang series. That’s what Don always told us.
Then there’s the outside chance that someone close to Law saw an opportunity to create a hoax on an anonymous death. Just two weeks previous to Law’s death one of the biggest Our Gang stars did die.
Carl Switzer, better known as “Alfalfa: was shot to death on January 21, 1959. An argument over a dog and a reward was the cause. Eclipsing Alfalfa’s death that same day was the passing of legendary director Cecil B. DeMille. One month after Alfalfa died, Helen Parrish another real Our Gang alumus died of cancer at age 35 on February 22.
Leonard Maltin’s authoritative book about Our Gang makes no mention of Don Law. Neither does IMDB.
Our Gang Survivors
Today there are only nine surviving cast members of the scores of kids who appeared in the Our Gang films. The most significant living cast member is Sidney Kibrick who played “Woim,” the sidekick of tough kid Tommy “Butch” Bond. The other big name appearing in many shorts is Robert Blake (real name Michael Gubitosi) who was the annoying, constantly crying Mickey in the 1940s series of Our Gang films.
The other seven surviving cast members are: Donnie Smith, Mildred Kornman, Margaret Kerry, Betta St. John, Annie Ross, Daryl Hickman and Dwayne Hickman.
UPDATE 2023 – Annie Ross died in 2020 (age 89) Donnie Smith died in 2022 (age 97); Mildred Kornman died in 2022 (age 97); Dwayne Hickman died in 2022 (age 87); and Robert Blake died in 2023 (age 89), leaving four surviving cast members