Alfalfa was born Carl Dean Switzer on August 7, 1927 in Paris, Illinois to Frederick and Gladys Switzer. He had two older siblings which consisted of a brother, Harold and a sister, Janice. Money was scarce in the Switzer family in the early days and to produce an income, the parents would flaunt Carl and Harold where they would sing and play instruments for people. They soon became known for these performances. In 1934, the Switzer family took a trip out west to California to visit a relative. It is said the family had lunch in a cafeteria on the lot of Hal Roach Studios. Upon encouragement from the parents, Carl and Harold broke out in an unrehearsed performance. The boys seemed to be in the right place at the right time because producer Hal Roach was in the cafeteria that day and signed them both to appear in the wildly popular comedy shorts known as “Our Gang”.
It was here that Carl Switzer was given the famous nickname “Alfalfa”. In 1935, they appeared in their first “Our Gang” short appropriately titled “Beginner’s Luck”. More shorts soon followed in this series such as “Sprucin’ Up”, “Little Papa”, “Little Sinner”, and “Our Gang Follies of 1936”. Near the end of 1935, Carl had broken out as one of the most beloved characters of the series while his brother Harold, had been assigned the task of appearing as an extra or being in the background. It’s been said that he was happy to hand the spotlight over to his younger brother. The Alfalfa character consistently called for Switzer to sing off-key when in reality, he was an accomplished singer. On set, Switzer was known for his unrelenting antics that he bestowed on the members of the crew and cast. One involved tricking fellow cast member, Darla Hood into putting her hand in a pocket where a switchblade was and putting fishing hooks in the pants of George McFarland. Despite problems outside of the production, Switzer continued on with the series making shorts such as “Two Too Young”, “Pay As You Exit”, “Glove Taps”, “Three Smart Boys”, and rounding off 1937 with “Our Gang Follies of 1938”. In 1938, the series was sold to MGM and Switzer stayed on board for two more years. He made “Alfalfa’s Aunt”, “Dog Daze”, “Alfalfa’s Double” and “Waldo’s Last Stand”. His last appearance with the series was “Kiddie Kure” at the age of 13. His acting career still moved forward. He found himself opposite Elizabeth Taylor in “There’s One Born Every Minute” and acting alongside her again in “Courage of Lassie”. He starred in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “State of the Union”, “House by the River”, “Track of the Cat” and even found himself playing Alfalfa again in “Gas House Kids Go West” and “Gas House Kids in Hollywood”. He also did television roles in shows such as “Science Fiction Theatre” and appearing in several episodes of “The Roy Rogers Show”. His final appearance on screen was in the film, “The Defiant Ones” in 1958.
On January 21, 1959, Switzer went to the home of Moses Stiltz to settle a debt he had owed. An argument had ensued between the two where it quickly escalated into a physical altercation. It is then alleged that Switzer attempted to cut Stiltz with a knife. Attempting to defend himself, Stiltz shot Switzer in the chest. Carl Switzer died on the way to the hospital. He was just 31 years old. The shooting was an act of self-defense and Stiltz did no time in prison. Carl Switzer is entombed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.