‘M.A.S.H.’ Legendary Co-Creator Gene Reynolds Got His Start As a Boy on ‘Little Rascals’

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Gene Reynolds was a legend within the TV industry, playing a role in several classic TV shows. But he actually got his start as just a boy in the industry on the children-led series “The Little Rascals.”

“The Little Rascals,” or “Our Gang” as it was also known, was a series of comedy shorts in the 1920s to 40s. It featured a cast of children from the lovable Spanky to Alfalfa to Buckwheat. While Reynolds was never part of the gang, he did make his debut during one of the comedy shorts.

In 1934, Reynolds appeared in the short “Washee Ironee” for a small part. Reynolds played a local boy in the neighborhood named Gene. During the short, he played football with some of the kids and Rascals including Stymie Beard, Tommy, Jerry Tucker, and Leonard Kibrick.

During the episode, one of the Rascal’s clothes ended up getting muddy. The rest of the gang decides to help him clean up so he doesn’t get in trouble with his parents. Reynolds only had a small role in the short. But it was just the start of a long and lucrative career.

Gene Reynolds As A Director

Perhaps, Gene Reynolds reflected on his own boyhood and “The Little Rascals” when he directed several episodes of “Leave It to Beaver.” That sitcom focused on childhood and coming of age through the lens of Beaver Cleaver. In total, Reynolds ended up directing three episodes of the series: “Beaver’s Accordion”, “Beaver’s Big Contest”, and “Beaver Becomes a Hero”.

Later, Reynolds also turned his lens to slices of life with episodes on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “My Three Sons” as well. On “The Andy Griffith Show,” he directed three classic episodes such as “Mayberry on Record”, “Andy the Marriage Counselor”, and “Alcohol and Old Lace.”

But Reynolds’s most remembered creation will always be “M*A*S*H,” which ran from 1972 to 1983. The show focused on the humanity and smaller moments of the Korean War. It proved to be instantly popular and an industry-changing show for many audiences. Reynolds drew from his own experiences in World War II.

“In directing, I’m always looking for the little human touch,” Reynolds told Archive of American Television. “Something that is real. It could be very, very small. It could be a hand on the shoulder. It could be just an extra lingering look on somebody you care about and so forth, for just a fraction. It could be a reaction from somebody… I’m looking for humanity, really. And that goes with comedy or drama.”