Derby Day (1923)

Our Gang Derby Day poster

Hal Roach Studios
Starring:
 Mickey Daniels, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon
Directed by: Robert F. McGowan

Synopsis: The Gang get the chance to see a horse race and then decide to put on their own derby race.

Kitty Cameo: This is another early example of what was a common joke in the Our Gang shorts wherein some kind of makeshift car is featured using a cat as an incentive to make a dog run and power said vehicle.  In this case it is Mickey (spelled Mickie) who has entered such a means of transportation to compete in the derby day race.  As Mickey prepares his vehicle, being powered by the Gang’s dog (in the pre-Pete days) he opens a box at the front to reveal a small white cat.

Our Gang - Derby Day Mickey Daniels with white cat in cage in front of dog on vehicle

Mickey says to the cat (via title card): “Do y’r stuff, Whitey — we gotta win.”

Our Gang - Derby Day Mickey Daniels with white cat in cage in front of dog on vehicle meowing

The cat is obviously upset with being inside the cage and so close to the dog.  Sadly concern for animals in movies is something that was not a major issue at the time.

Our Gang - Derby Day white cat in cage hissing at Mickey Daniels

The cat is seen several times in the cage as the dog runs, often over a very bumpy track.

Our Gang - Derby Day white cat in cage in front of dog on vehicle running around track

The Our Gang silent films are always a mixed bag when it comes to modern-day sensitivities.  Racial stereotypes and odd use of animals to comedic effect are not considered to be funny today, but taken in the context of the day it’s interesting to note just how popular this gag was and how often it would recur.  The gag was even featured in the artwork for the movie’s promotional poster.

Our Gang - Derby Day poster close up on cat and dog vehicle

Final Mewsings: Could cats be the answer to our need for alternative energy?


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