Summary

Birth:
18 Oct 1914 1
Baltimore MD 1
Death:
29 May 1936 1
Baltimore MD 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Norman Myers Chaney 1
Also known as:
Norman Chaney, Chubby from Our Gang 1
Birth:
18 Oct 1914 1
Baltimore MD 1
Male 1
Death:
29 May 1936 1
Baltimore MD 1
Cause: Glandular Disorder 1
Burial:
Burial Place: Section E of Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore MD 1
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Birth:
Mother: Carolyn Myers Chaney 1
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Occupation:
Actor 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1

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Stories

Norman 'Chubby' Chaney gets a headstone, 76 years later Band of fans gather at Baltimore Cemetery to remember 'Little Rascals' star

A small group gathered Saturday at Baltimore Cemetery for the unveiling of a headstone for Norman "Chubby" Chaney, a child star in "The Little Rascals" whose grave had gone unmarked for 76 years.

The small constellation of fans was brought together by Detroit-area rock musician Mikal C.G., who led an online fundraising drive to buy stones for Chaney and his mother. He led the low-key ceremony Saturday, giving a short speech and pulling a white sheet off markers, to coos of "beautiful!" and "awesome!" from the eight people looking on.

The chubby little face that took Chaney from Baltimore to Hollywood in the 1920s peeped out, etched into the stone.

Chaney was paid a weekly salary for his appearances in the films, which told the stories of kids living in a poor neighborhood, but he received no royalties or residual payments when they ran. He died at age 21, but his mother could not afford a headstone and his burial spot went unmarked until Saturday.

"I just thought to myself, 'That's kind of a tragedy,'" Mikal said.

He learned about Chaney's unmarked grave when he was researching the show online and set up the campaign earlier this year. People donated from around the country, but most of the $3,000 raised came from Baltimore.

"I think they were taking care of their hometown son," Mikal said before the unveiling. "It's really Baltimore that made this happen."

The campaign fell a little short, but Mary Allan, 49, chipped in an extra couple hundred dollars to make up the difference.

"As short as his career was, he's still iconic," the Bel Air woman said. "I love the simpler time of 'The Little Rascals' and 'Our Gang.'"

To help stretch the tight budget, Heather Brown-Simons of Baltimore's Hubbard Funeral Home helped get a good deal on a headstone.

Mikal said his favorite scene featuring Chaney was in a film called "Love Business" in which Chubby tries to win the affections of a teacher, asking her to call him "Chubsy-ubsy." It was a popular moment in the films and Mikal's recounting of it drew a wave of laughs.

Chaney appeared in the films between 1929 and 1931, before growing out of the role. He came back to Baltimore and finished school, but he struggled with his weight, which ballooned to 300 pounds before crashing to less than half that before his death in 1936.

The fans who came out for the headstone unveiling were too young to remember Chaney from the first time around, but they remember him from when the series, originally titled "Our Gang," was rerun on television as "The Little Rascals."

Michael Ferens, 48, drove up from Washington, D.C., for the unveiling of the monument. He described himself as a "fanatic" for Hal Roach Studios, which produced the original films.

"This is kind of nice because being here years later I can still tie into it," he said.

Ferens said Chaney was schooled in the art of comic facial expression by Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy, another Roach production.

"A child actor having all these adult reactions to the scenarios he was in was hilarious," Ferens said.

After about an hour the band of fans, brought together by a shared affection for an actor who died more than seven decades ago, began to drift off. But Jane Brettschneider, who grew up watching the show with her brother, said she was glad she came.

"It meant a lot to me," she said. "Whatever my history is, he's in there."

Norman Myers Chaney

yers Chaney (October 18, 1914 – May 29, 1936) was an American child actor, notable for appearing in 19 Our Gang comedies as "Chubby" from 1929 to 1931

Chaney was born on October 18, 1914 in BaltimoreMaryland, and became a member of Our Gang at the dawn of the sound era. He relied on an affable personality, a flair for funny dialogue, and a priceless frown of frustration that seemed to swallow up his whole moon face. In fall 1928, Our Gang producer Hal Roach and director Robert F. McGowan began to look for an overweight child actor to replace Joe Cobb in the popular film series. Cobb was twelve years old, and the series was about to transition to sound. Roach and McGowan held a nationwide contest to find a replacement for Cobb. Chaney won this contest in early 1929 and was offered a two year contract. "He adapted gracefully, and we all liked him, he was a nice fellow," said McGowan of Chaney.[4] The roly-poly youngster's stay with the series was brief, but made a memorable impression on generations of fans. He was taught the expression of the "slow burn" by the comedian Edgar Kennedy.

At the time, Chaney was only 3' 11" and weighed about 113 pounds. He was nicknamed "Chubby" for the series and made his debut in the second sound entry, Railroadin', appearing in 19 Our Gang films over a period of two years, including shorts such as Boxing Gloves and Teacher's Pet. Norman Chaney and Joe Cobb appeared in three shorts together. Chubby's meatiest moments are in Love Business, in which he competed with Jackie Cooper for the affections of their teacher, Miss Crabtree (bringing her flowers and candy, he coyly proposes, "Don't call me Norman: call me 'Chubsy-Ubsy'").

By spring 1931, Chaney was getting taller and increasingly heavier. He finished out the 1930-31 season without being offered another contract. Both Chaney and his parents decided he would not pursue acting following his final Our Gang short, Fly My Kite. Chaney's departure occurred during a period of great cast turnover, as Allen Hoskins (a member of the original 1922 cast), Jackie Cooper and Mary Ann Jackson had overgrown the series as well.

After leaving the series, Chaney returned to his native Baltimore and attended public school, where he excelled in his studies. He continued to gain weight and eventually topped 300 lb (140 kg), though he never grew beyond 4 ft 7 in (1.4 m). His weight continued to increase, and it was discovered that he had a glandular ailment. In 1935, Chaney underwent treatment for the ailment atJohns Hopkins Hospital; his weight then dropped from over 300 lb (140 kg) to less than 140 lb (64 kg).

Chaney became seriously ill afterward and died on May 29, 1936 at age 21. At the time of his death, Chaney weighed 110 lb (50 kg). He was the first of the regular Our Gang alumni to die, and the only one not to live to see the end of the series in 1944.

Chaney was buried in Section E of Baltimore Cemetery in his hometown.[5] His grave remained unmarked for 76 years because his mother was not able to afford a marker for him or herself. Even though he was paid a weekly salary for his movie appearances, he never received any royalties or residuals for the films' subsequent uses. An online fundraising drive led by Detroit rock musicianMIKAL raised US $4,500 for headstones to be placed at the graves of both Chaney and his mother. The etched black granite markers, both of which are 16 inches (40.64 cm) tall and 28 inches (71.12 cm) wide, were unveiled on November 10, 2012

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