Billie Thomas
Film actor
Billie Thomas
William "Billie" Thomas, Jr. was an American child actor best remembered for portraying the character of Buckwheat in the Our Gang (Little Rascals) short films from 1934 until the series' end in 1944. He was a native of Los Angeles, California.
Billie Thomas's personal information overview.
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4-year-old Syracuse boy playing with matches causes fire at Onondaga Avenue home -
Google News - over 5 years
By Catie O'Toole / The Post-Standard File photo by Stephen D. Cannerelli / The Post-StandardFile photo of Billie Thomas standing outside her home, at 812 Onondaga Ave. in Syracuse, in 2008. Thomas was taken by ambulance to a hospital after a fire at
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Google News article
That of which good journalists are made -
Google News - over 5 years
I then told my intern about how years ago (1990), the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 aired a segment purporting to be an interview with “Our Gang'' member William “Billie” Thomas Jr., known to the world as “Buckwheat.” The man claiming to be Buckwheat was a
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Google News article
Small parade is big fun for kids - McDuffie Mirror
Google News - almost 6 years
"I have put more tiaras on little girls than you can think about," said Billie Thomas, who wore a wide-brimmed hat instead of a tiara or Easter bonnet. Jaye and Debbie Jones were on hand with daughter Lindsey, who rode the royal hay wagon
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What's On Today
NYTimes - about 6 years
8 P.M. (TCM) SPOTLIGHT: HAL ROACH STUDIOS They called it ''the lot that laughter built.'' From 1914 to 1960 the Hal Roach Studios, which set in motion the careers of Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon and the Our Gang crew, presented a prodigious number of comedy shorts, features and television series. This monthlong tribute concludes
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NYTimes article
NEW DVDS; It's Spanky And Gang: Hold On to Your Beanies
NYTimes - over 8 years
W. C. Fields is said to have been the source of the show business maxim ''Never work with children or animals.'' ''The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection,'' a boxed set of eight DVDs from Genius Entertainment, offers approximately 20 hours' worth of reasons Fields was right: nobody could compete. Some 220 shorts were produced between 1922 and
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NYTimes article
Gordon Lee, 71, Child Star in 'Little Rascals'
NYTimes - over 11 years
Gordon Lee, who as a chubby child actor played Spanky McFarland's little brother, Porky, in ''Little Rascals'' comedies, died on Sunday in Minneapolis. He was 71. Mr. Lee died in a nursing home after battling lung and brain cancer, said Janice McClain, his partner of 13 years. Mr. Lee played one of the younger members in the ''Our Gang'' shorts in
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NYTimes article
TELEVISION REVIEW; Room Service? One Romance, Please
NYTimes - almost 17 years
The best television series, it seems, come from somebody's personal experience or vision. Like Linwood Boomer's growing up as the smart one in a rowdy four-boy household, which turned into ''Malcolm in the Middle.'' Or whatever it is that inspired Chris Carter to create ''The X-Files,'' about F.B.I. agents, conspiracies and extraterrestrials.
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Billie Thomas
  • 1980
    Age 48
    Thomas died of a heart attack in his Los Angeles apartment on October 10, 1980, 46 years to the day after his mother brought him to audition at the Hal Roach Studios.
    More Details Hide Details Thomas is buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. The comedian and comedy actor Eddie Murphy performed a series of Buckwheat sketches on Saturday Night Live during the 1980s, when he belonged to "The Not Ready For Prime Time Players Company." But Thomas's co-star George McFarland, who played "Spanky" in the Little Rascals, made it clear that he hated Murphy's imitations. "I didn't care for them a bit," he complained of them. "Mr. Murphy did a very poor imitation. He made Buckwheat into a stereotype that he wasn't, at the expense of the people in his family who are still alive." In 1990, the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 aired a segment purporting to be an interview with Buckwheat, then a grocery bagger in Arizona. However, the interview was actually with a man named Bill English, who claimed to be the adult Buckwheat. English's appearance prompted public objections from George McFarland, who contacted media outlets following the broadcast to declare that he knew the true Buckwheat to have been dead for 10 years. Confronted directly by McFarland on the television newsmagazine A Current Affair, English refused to retreat from his claim, maintaining that he had originated the role of Buckwheat, with other actors playing the character only after he had left it. The next week, 20/20 acknowledged, on-air, that English's claim had been false and apologized for the interview. Fallout from this incident included the resignation of a 20/20 producer, and a negligence lawsuit filed by the son of William Thomas.
  • 1954
    Age 22
    After Our Gang was discontinued, Thomas enlisted in the US Army in 1954, and was released from active military service in 1956 decorated with a National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal.
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  • 1943
    Age 11
    He was twelve years old when the final Our Gang film, Dancing Romeo, was completed in November 1943.
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  • 1940
    Age 8
    By 1940, Thomas had grown out of his speech impediment, and with Lee having been replaced by Robert Blake, Thomas's Buckwheat character was written as an archetypal black youth.
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  • 1938
    Age 6
    Thomas remained in Our Gang when the series changed production from Hal Roach Studios to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1938.
    More Details Hide Details Thomas was the only Our Gang cast member to appear in all 52 MGM Our Gang shorts, and was also the only holdover from the Hal Roach era to remain in the series until its end in 1944.
  • 1936
    Age 4
    The reason for the change in appearance was so he could portray a runaway slave from late 1936's Our Gang feature film General Spanky..
    More Details Hide Details Thomas remained in Our Gang for ten years, appearing in all but one of the shorts, Feed 'em and Weep (due to sickness when Philip Hurlic filled in for him), made from Washee Ironee in 1934 through the series' end in 1944. During the first half of his Our Gang tenure, Thomas' Buckwheat character was often paired with Eugene "Porky" Lee as a tag-along team of "little kids" rallying against (and often outsmarting) the "big kids," George "Spanky" McFarland and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer. Thomas had a speech impediment as a young child, as did Lee, who became Thomas' friend both on the set and off. The "Buckwheat" and "Porky" characters both became known for their collective garbled dialogue, in particular their catchphrase, "O-tay!" originally uttered by Porky, but soon used by both characters.
    Despite the change in the Buckwheat character's gender, Billie Thomas's androgynous costuming was not changed until his appearance in the 1936 film Pay as You Exit.
    More Details Hide Details This new costuming—overalls, striped shirt, oversized shoes, and a large unkempt Afro—was retained for the series until the end.
  • 1934
    Age 2
    Billie Thomas first appeared in the 1934 Our Gang shorts For Pete's Sake!
    More Details Hide Details The First Round-Up, and Washee Ironee as a background player. The "Buckwheat" character was a female at this time, portrayed by Our Gang kid Matthew "Stymie" Beard's younger sister Carlena in For Pete's Sake!, and by Willie Mae Walton in three other shorts. Thomas began appearing as "Buckwheat" with 1935's Mama's Little Pirate. Despite Thomas being a male, the Buckwheat character remained a female - dressed as a Topsy-esque image of the African-American "pickaninny" stereotype with bowed pigtails, a large hand-me-down sweater and oversized boots. After Stymie's departure from the series later in 1935, the Buckwheat character slowly morphed into a boy, first referred to definitively as a "he" in 1936's The Pinch Singer. This is similar to the initial handling of another African-American Our Gang member, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, who worked in the series during the silent and early sound eras.
  • 1931
    Born on March 12, 1931.
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