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Matthew Beard

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Matthewbeard

George McFarland and Matthew Beard

Biography

Character: Stymie Beard
Birthday: January 1, 1925
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California
Date of Death: January 8, 1981
Place of Death: Los Angeles, California
First Short: Teacher's Pet
Last Short: Teacher's Beau
Number of Shorts: 36 (excluding The Stolen Jools and Reunion In Rhythm)
History: Matthew Beard Jr. was practically given the role of Stymie on a silver platter. In 1931, as Allen Hoskins was nearing the end of his contract as Farina, the longest lasting Our Gang character, the studio began a casting call for another African-American boy to replace him. The studio had already tested and screened around three hundred fifty kids when Matthew walked out on stage, looked round with his big expressive eyes and prompted Robert F. McGowan to sign him up with a five-year contract on the spot. They never even made it to the screen test.
Although they named him "Hercules" at first, McGowan named him "Stymie" and the name stuck. Matthew seemed to befuddle or "stymie" him on the set and that's where the name originated. The oversize derby hat he wore reportedly was a gift from Stan Laurel, his idol, who often worked just a studio away from the Rascals. In fact, Stannie sometimes bought young Matthew ice cream. Stymie later learned that in the tradition of the English music hall, the derby hat represented a crown of comedy, further cementing the admiration he had for Mr. Laurel.
The son of a Los Angeles preacher, Matthew stayed at Hal Roach Studios for every year of his contract, his salary going in to support his thirteen brothers and sisters, some of them, namely Carlena, Betty Jane, and Bobbie, even becoming Rascals themselves. (Matthew even gave them the names they would be known as in the series, and asked his parents to name his baby brother, "Dickie," after his best friend Dickie Moore, one of the Rascals.) However, when his Rascal career came to an end, he had to go back to a real life far from the enchanted life of being an actor and celebrity. He attended high school in the ghetto district of Los Angeles even while he still received acting roles in the movies. He flirted briefly with marijuana use and dropped out of school in the eleventh grade. On the streets, he became addicted to narcotics and then heroin, committing small crimes to indulge his habit. In the Sixties, he staggered as a very sick man into Synanon, a California community for recovering addicts. What was going to be a few weeks stretched into seven years. His rehabilitation was a great joy to his father as the two of them re-bonded as father and son. At this time of his life, he was living very close to the park used in the short, Fish Hooky. Matthew sort of fell into acting again, getting minor roles in movies and TV Shows like "Good Times," "Maude," and "Sanford and Son" as well as commercials. He also found his way into the Rascal circuit, making personal appearances as Stymie, wearing the same derby hat from the series and reuniting with George McFarland whom he had not seen in over thirty-five years.
Matthew spoke out often against his drug experience, trying to turn others away from the ugly business. He blamed it more on the ghetto than his Hollywood experience. Sadly, in 1981, he had a stroke with injuries and had to be hospitalized at USC Medical Hospital. Not long after he was reunited with Dickie Moore from Our Gang, Matthew quietly passed away at the age of fifty-six. He was with his brother Rene at the time; he had been a member of Hal Roach's failed attempt to revive the Rascals with the movies "Curley" and "Who Killed Doc Robbin" in 1947 and 1948.

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