December 07, 2019

BLONDIE (1957)

BLONDIE (1957)
(NBC, January 5-July 5, 1957)

Hal Roach Studios, King Features Production

            Blondie is a comic strip created by Chic Young. Beginning on September 8, 1930, it originally focused on young, blonde, carefree flapper Blondie Boopadoop who spent her days in the dance halls with her boyfriend, Dagwood Bumstead; a bit of a bumbling playboy and heir to a fortune. When the Great Depression hit, the strip’s relevancy began to wane and was steadily dropped by various newspapers. Young decided to change things up in 1933 by having Blondie and Dagwood become married, resulting in his being disinherited by his father and forcing them to live like an average couple. Dagwood, who was originally the straight man, became the primary comedic source as Blondie assumed the sensible role as head of the family. Because of the strip’s popularity, the marriage was a largely publicized event. Eventually, they gained children, Alexander and Cookie, and a dog, Daisy. The strip features a variety of running gags, including Dagwood colliding with the mailman as he rushes out of the house, being always late for his ride to work, his impossibly tall sandwiches and midnight snacks, his interrupted naps on the couch, and more. While very little has changed about the strip as it continued under the stewardship of Young’s son, Dean, newer elements were gradually integrated in the form of current technologies and fashion.

The characters of the Blondie comic strip.

            In 1938, Blondie was adapted into a long-running series of low-budget films by Columbia Pictures. Starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake as the lead characters, Columbia took great care in incorporating as many elements as possible from the strip into the films, including the running gags, and to ensure they followed a continuity with each other. When the series began to slip in profits in 1943, Columbia released what was to be the last Blondie film as Footlight Glamour (removing the Blondie name from the title to try and lure in curious patrons) and Singleton and Lake moved on to other projects. However, fan demand brought the series back until it was finally ended with the 28th film, 1950’s Beware of Blondie. Singleton and Lake also starred in a radio adaptation that began in 1939 and was heard across all three major networks. It ran concurrently with the films and ended in 1950 with them.

The cast of the television show.

            In 1954, NBC commissioned a pilot episode for a proposed Blondie sitcom from Hal Roach Studios. Pamela Britton and Hal Le Roy assumed the lead roles, however the series wasn’t picked up until 3 years later. For the actual show, Le Roy was replaced by Lake. The Blondie television series was essentially a half-hour version of the films, attempting to maintain the same faithfulness to the source material. The series ran for a single season of 26 episodes, running from January 1957 until it was cancelled that July due to poor ratings.

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