The son of a Los Angeles minister, three-year-old Matthew Beard won out of 350 kids to replace Allen "Farina" Hoskins as the resident black child in Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies. Nicknamed Hercules in his first two-reeler, Teacher's Pet (1930), Beard was thereafter known as Stymie because of his innocent offscreen habit of confounding his elders. Wearing an oversized derby hat (borrowed from Roach comedian Stan Laurel), the clever, resourceful, eternally grinning Stymie quickly became one of the most popular Our Gang kids. After appearing in 36 Our Gang shorts, Beard began freelancing in 1935, playing small roles in big films like Captain Blood (1935), Jezebel (1938), The Great Man Votes (1939), and Stormy Weather (1943). Alas, after dropping out of high school in 1945, he fell into a bad crowd, spending the next two decades in and out of jails for committing crimes to feed his drug habit. Miraculously, Beard completely turned his life around in the mid-'60s when he entered the drug rehab organization Synanon. Looking remarkably like the eternally optimistic Stymie of old, Matthew Beard made a successful show business comeback in the 1970s, appearing in such films as The Buddy Holly Story (1978) and such weekly TV series as Good Times and The Jeffersons.
by Hal Erickson biography