On Strips: Blondie Movies

By | Friday, June 10, 2016 1 comment
Blondie, of course, is one of the long-running comic strips, created back in 1930 by Chic Young. Although it's had a fairly consistent family dynamic for much of its life, Blondie and Dagwood started out in the strip just dating each other. They got married in 1933 and had their first child the year after. (Originally called Baby Dumpling, later Alexander.) A daughter, Cookie, was added in 1942.

The strip was very popular back in the day, and several movies were made based on it. I recall seeing a few of them on television on Saturday afternoons in the early 1980s. What I didn't realize, though, was HOW popular they were. The first film was called, not surprisingly, just Blondie and starred Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake as Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead. It debuted in 1938 and basically lifted the existing continuity up until that point; the characters were already married and had had their first child. The strip's popularity carried over to the movie and warranted a sequel. And another. And another. And another...

They made TWENTY-EIGHT Blondie movies in all between 1938 and 1950. And all 28 of them featured the same cast. And then cast went on to continue their roles on the radio for a Blondie radio program that lasted from 1939 until 1950! But TWENTY-EIGHT films (each an hour and ten minutes long) over the course of twelve years?!? That's more than two films a year on average, and doesn't even factor in that they took two years off starting in 1943 because producers thought maybe audiences were tired of the Bumsteads! (They weren't.) Holy cow! The only film series I can think of that's comparable in any way is the James Bond series which, over the past fifty years still hasn't quite made to to 28 movies!

Lake was 33 when he started in his role as Dagwood and was 45 when the series ended. But he so embodied the character that when a television was attempted in 1957, they brought the then-52-year-old actor back to reprise the role once again. His comedic acting style was over-the-top, but seemed to suit the character perfectly, and audiences loved clearly loved it.

Did I mentioned that there were TWENTY-EIGHT of these movies?

If you've got several hours to spare, they're all available on YouTube. Despite some obviously sexist views (and I expect a few racist ones too, but I haven't watched them all) there's some decent stuff in there, certainly, but... wow, twenty-eight!
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Michael Frank said...

In the pre-TV days, you either did movies or shorts. It is interesting, though, that they stayed with the movie route. You'd think something based on a comic strip could translate easily to the 20 minute short like the 3 Stooges or other comedies or serials of the time. Maybe making a 2-3 movies in a year was easier on everyone than making a whole bunch of short features.