Child actor Jack Hanlon, apparently the oldest living person to appear in the “Our Gang” comedies and likely the last surviving cast memember of the Buster Keaton silent classic “The General,” died in Las Vegas on Dec. 13. He was 96.
Hanlon was raised by his grandmother in Culver City. With a face full of freckles and a tough-guy demeanor, he seemed a natural as a child actor. His first film was Mack Sennett Studio’s “Chester’s Birthday Party,” one entry in a film series based on comicstrip cowboy Chester Gump.
In 1927 he was cast in the Hal Roach Studio’s “Our Gang” series, in which he portrayed the neighborhood tough guy. His credits included “Ten Years Old,” “Olympic Games” and “The Glorious Fourth.” Also in 1927, Hanlon was cast in Keaton’s “The General,” in which he played one of the town children who follows Keaton’s character.
The young actor’s most substantial role was in William Wyler’s “The Shakedown” (1929), starring James Murray. It was shot as a silent film, then transformed into a talkie. The next year, in “Romance Jack,” he played a street urchin who receives an onscreen kiss from Greta Garbo. Other credits included several films in the Ken Maynard series: “THhe Wagon Master,” “Parade of the West” and “King of the Arena.”
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In his teens Hanlon unsuccessfully attempted a career in professional baseball before ultimately becoming a furniture mover. He was to have served as a paratrooper during WWII but arthritis in his hands relegated him to an Army desk job.
Hanlon was married for 37 years until the death of his wife Jean in 1977.
Survivors include three nieces and a nephew.