Sic Transit Alfalfa
I HAD THE ULTIMATE FLASHBACK THIS MORNING.
The fact that it all happened at a little after 5 AM made it even more unusual.
As I do most mornings I am up early because… because my eyes pop open like two deviled eggs and I cannot roll over and go back to sleep.
This morning as I was sitting on the edge of the bed trying to figure out how socks work I flipped on the TV and there was “The Roy Rogers Show.” A classic show where Dale Evans “Queen Of The West” had billing after Roy’s horse. This was a show from the early 1950s that I remember from that distant past.
As the story unfolded, if you can call it that, I noticed one young actor, but I couldn’t place him. I’d seen that face before somewhere. His voice was also familiar. I’d heard it before.
I watched the entire episode sitting there on the bed just so I could see the credits at the end while Roy and Dale serenaded me with “Happy Trails. Roy and Dale were listed at the top in bigger letters and then the rest of those actors who got paid to talk.
And there it was.
That young actor, in his twenties I guessed, was someone I had seen a thousand times when he was a famous child actor. That young man was Carl Switzer! Carl Switzer was known worldwide as “Alfalfa” in the “Our Gang” comedy shorts. They were also called “Little Rascals” when they reran on TV.
There have been thousands of child actors who have tried to make that transition to adult roles when they have survived the trial of puberty. It is not easy for anyone. For others it just never happens. Perhaps the biggest child star of all, Shirley Temple, had a short career as she matured, but she never caught on as an adult. On the flip side of that is Elizabeth Taylor who did run that gauntlet to become a Superstar.
And then there was Carl Switzer.
As a child actor he was one of the stars of the “Our Gang” franchise. His hilarious looks and character made him a hit in those films.
When I saw him in that episode of Roy Rogers he was struggling to be taken seriously as an actor and was not getting much action. In 1954 he married and had a son before getting a divorce in 1957.
And then came January 21, 1959.
Switzer was supporting himself as a dog trainer and had a dispute with a client he felt owed him some money. The two men argued, Switzer pulled a knife, screaming, “I’m going to kill you!” The other man had a gun and shot Switzer who was dead on arrival at the hospital.
The man with the gun was acquitted in the shooting as witnesses said that he fired in self defense.
Carl Switzer was one of the best known faces in film as a child actor but died at 32 years of age in an argument over $50 Dollars.
“What? And give up Show Business?”