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Matthew 'Stymie' Beard — Life and Death of the Beloved 'The Little Rascals' Star

Busayo Ogunjimi
Dec 23, 2020
03:50 A.M.
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Matthew Beard warmed the hearts of American movie lovers as a child actor in the "Our Gang " short films in the 1930s but off the screen, he had a troubled life.

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Born in 1925, Matthew Beard became one of the most successful child actors of his generation after portraying the character of Stymie in the "Our Gang" short films from 1930-1935.

Beard had already started playing some baby roles before signing a five-year contract to play Stymie in the "Our Gang" short films. His success in the films led to him adopting the name "Stymie Beard."

Matthew Beard as Stymie in the Our Gang series, later to be know as The Little Rascals. Image dated January 1, 1932. | Photo: Getty Images

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Beard's character was known for his bald head alongside an oversized hat, which he got from comedian Stan Laurel. Off the screen, Beard had a tough time with his many struggles.

At the age of ten, he left the "Our Gang" series and featured in other projects but would go on to be a troubled teen. Beard grew up in a tough environment alongside his 13 siblings in east Los Angeles.

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His paycheck would go on to be of great support to his family. Beard's parents allowed him to name most of his siblings, out of which four would appear in the "Our Gang" comedy short films.

After his stint with the "Our Gang" series ended in 1935, Beard found other roles in "Captain Blood," " The Return of Frank James," and "Jezebel."

Beard would be remembered for turning his life around and helping others find the light.

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By the time Beard was in high school, he had already retired from acting and, at the age of 16, got into the dark path of heroin addiction, which he would struggle with much of his growing days.

The former child star became addicted to heroin before slipping into drug use and street life. He spent most of his early adult life in and out of custody on drugs and robbery charges.

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At some point in his life, Beard, who starred in "The Little Rascals," looked like he would not make it out of his youth alive and would join a lot of other stars who died at early ages.

Later on in his life, the actor sought a change of lifestyle and decided to check himself into Synanon, a drug rehabilitation center in Los Angeles, in the 1960s and ended his use of heroin successfully.

Matthew Beard as Stymie with Petie the dog in the Our Gang series, later to be know as The Little Rascals. Image dated July 1, 1932. | Photo: Getty Images

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Although Synanon would later lose its reputation and become associated with violence and crime, it was Beard's path into a more stable life and a way back into his Hollywood career.

In 1981 Beard's suffered a stroke at the age of 56 and died of pneumonia a few days after his stroke. Although he walked in darkness for a long time, Beard would be remembered for turning his life around and helping others find the light.

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