Sunday, March 13, 2016

HAROLD SWITZER: ALFALFA'S BROTHER


It is not widely known but Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) from the Our Gang comedies had an older
brother - who also had a tragic end. Harold Frederick Switzer was the son of G. Frederick and Gladys Switzer of Paris, Illinois. Born on January 16, 1925 he and his young brother, Carl Switzer, became popular in Paris for their musical talents and performances. They both sang and played instruments in fairs and the carnival circuit, but in 1934, they headed to California to visit relatives and take a sightseeing tour, particularly around Hal Roach studios where the Our Gang shorts were being filmed.

It might have been fate or their father trying to steer them to greater success, but the boys' impromptu performance in the studio cafeteria impressed Hal Roach enough that they got to appear in the short, Beginner's Luck. 


Both Harold and Carl got acting contracts in the series, but it was Carl's comedic timing and look that made him the bigger star of the two; Harold pretty much did nothing but accompany his brother in singing acts or appear as an extra. Behind the scenes, his father often fought with the father of George McFarland as the two men argued the better talents of the two top Rascal stars. Harold was a background character through much of his brother's run in the series, even into the less-than-stellar M-G-M years, and when Carl was let go, Harold went with him. 

Afterward, as Carl was trying to find his identity after Our Gang, he returned to a normal life and left acting behind for a real job in the real world. He married and had three children while working for Speed Queen Company, installing and servicing washers and dryers, but like his brother, he seems to have inherited his father's argumentative behavior. 

In 1958, Carl had been shot to death in a disputed ambush over some money. Outliving his younger brother, in 1967, after killing a customer over a dispute, he himself drove to a remote area of Glendale, California and quietly took his own life. He died on April 14, 1967. He was quietly buried near his father and brother in Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery close to several other dearly departed stars of yesteryear...


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