Pete the Pup, also known as Petey, was the canine role of the hugely successful American comedy short film series Our Gang, later known in television syndication as The Little Rascals.
There were actually multiple Peteys, but the first two dogs who played the role are the best remembered in the Hal Roach Studio series from 1927 until 1938 (Our Gang actually started in 1922, but didn’t include a dog until 1927).
The first Petey was a UKC registered American Pit Bull Terrier named Pal, the Wonder Dog (1924-1930), who had a natural ring that nearly encircled his right eye.
Owned by trainer Harry Lucenay, Pal, the Wonder Dog was already a star when he joined the cast of Our Gang in 1927. He had performed as Tige in the popular Buster Brown series in 1925. Pal was also in Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman (1923), and both of Stan Laurel’s Somewhere In Wrong (1925) and Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pride (1925).
During the Buster Brown series, Pal‘s natural semi-ring around his right eye was fully completed using permanent dye. When he joined Our Gang, Hal Roach had no choice but to leave it alone. The result was one of the most instantly identifiable canines in motion picture history.
With a starting salary of $125 per week, Hal Roach Studios signed Pal, the Wonder Dog to a three-year contract in 1927. He was the second-highest paid actor in the Our Gang series. Farina (Allen Hoskins), the most popular African-American child actor of the 1920s, was the highest paid star.
Pal, the Wonder Dog made his Our Gang entrance as Pete the Pup in The Glorious Fourth, released on June 26, 1927.
Originally a silent series, Our Gang made its talking debut on May 18, 1929 with Small Talk where audiences first heard Pal try to sing while sitting at a player-piano.
His last appearance was in A Tough Winter, released on June 21, 1930. Tragically, Pal was poisoned shortly thereafter from eating tainted meat, most likely by someone who held a grudge against Harry Lucenay.
The second Petey, named Lucenay’s Pete (1929-1946), was the son of Pal and just six-months-old when he made his debut on August 30, 1930 in Pups is Pups.
Lucenay’s Pete lacked his father’s distinctive eye circle, so one was created by legendary Hollywood make-up artist Max Factor.
The only problem was that Harry Lucenay requested that Factor draw the circle around the dog’s left eye to differentiate him from his father who had the circle around his right eye.
Lucenay probably did it for sentimental reasons, and didn’t think it mattered, but audiences noticed immediately and soon learned the horrible truth about Pal, the Wonder Dog’s demise.
Like Pal, his son Lucenay’s Pete was born an American Pit Bull Terrier, but was later registered with the American Kennel Club as an American Staffordshire Terrier. The AKC had recognized the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed, but changed the name in 1935 to the American Staffordshire Terrier. Many say Lucenay’s Pete was among the first dogs to be registered in the new name.
Lucenay’s Pete starred in the role of Petey for only two years, from 1930 until 1932, but was featured in more talking versions of Our Gang than his father, thus becoming better known after the series was syndicated to television in 1954 and renamed, The Little Rascals.
After the release of The Pooch on June 11, 1932, Harry Lucenay was fired by Hal Roach Studios. He left Hollywood and took Lucenay’s Pete across the country to Atlantic City were he signed autographs at the Steel Pier.
Starting with Hook and Ladder on August 27, 1932, other dogs continued to play Petey in Our Gang, but none of them matched the cinematic impact of Pal, the Wonder Dog or his son, Lucenay’s Pete.
In 1938, Hal Roach sold the rights to Our Gang to MGM who proceeded to produce inferior and less well-received films for the series until ceasing production in 1944.
When asked about Lucenay’s Pete after his death in 1946, Harry Lucenay said, “He was a gentle, playful and warm dog. He would sleep at the foot of my bed. He was just the regular family dog. I really miss him.”