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1930s & Earlier / Our Gang - Farina
Allen Hoskins became part of Hal Roach's Our Gang troupe in 1922 before he was two years old. At first Hoskins' Farina character was androgynous; in some films he's a male, in others he's a female. Farina soon evolved into a fully male character--and one of the most popular of the late silent and early talkies period. Often dressed in a bizarre array of mismatched gaudy clothes, Farina's character was the stereotypical 'pickaninny.' By the time his tenure as Farina on Our Gang ended in 1931, Hoskins was the top-salaried performer, earning $250 per week. Hoskins briefly had a vaudeville act with his sister, but gradually drifted away from show business. 'I prefer jobs where I eat regularly,' he quipped. Hoskins served in WWII, rising to the rank of sergeant. Late in Hoskins' life he worked tirelessly with the disabled and mentally ill. Like his fellow black Our Gang performers, Hoskins was annoyed at the political correctness that caused the series to be heavily edited for TV in the early 1970s. While acknowledging that blacks were steroetyped in the Our Gang comedies, he pointed out that whites were too: There were the stereotypical fat kids, bullies, nerds, freckle-faced kids, and pretty blondes. He was also quick to point out that in an era when much of America was segregated, the racially mixed Our Gang kids played, socialized, and went to school together. Hoskins died of cancer a month before his 60th birthday in 1980.