Vile Lookin’ Varmints in Vile Lookin’ Garments


LI’L ABNER (1959) is an odd thing, isn’t it? “My blog will have more to say about this,” as Catherine Coulson almost said.

The movie, which bridges the various gaps between comic strip, Broadway musical and film, is something we viewed as part of my research for POW!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: Origin Story, an illustrated talk I’ll be giving at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival on Thursday 16th June. That’s (ulp!) next week. The talk will attempt to trace the prehistory of our modern movie miracle/malaise, delving into the movies which preceded the first real burst of comic-strip inspired activity in the sixties and seventies. It turns out comics and cinema have been interwoven since the start, and in curious ways…


It would be nice to see some Shadowplayers at the event. You can get to see what I look like and hear what I sound like, or vice versa if you happen to be synesthetes. Either way I can assure you it’s a fairly disappointing experience, but I intend to make up for it by saying interesting stuff and showing clips of comic book adaptations obscure (The Gumps, Hairbreadth Harry) and unobscure (and Kirk Allen begat George Reeves begat Christopher Reeve). This is kind of a big event for me, but thankfully it’s happening in a small cinema, Filmhouse 3.

10 Responses to “Vile Lookin’ Varmints in Vile Lookin’ Garments”

  1. Mark Evanier has some useful background:

    Also about the contradictions of Al Capp himself, the Bill Cosby of his day:

    Myself, I like the staginess of “Li’l Abner” — it’s really the only way to go, short of animation. Also fond of “Pirates of Penzance”

  2. chris schneider Says:

    Two names that I’d like to see mentioned in connection with the LI’L ABNER musical are Johnny Mercer (song lyrics) and Michael Kidd (choreographer). Kidd was the movie’s choreographer, but he *also* was overall director as well as choreographer for the stage version.

  3. I think Kidd is credited on the movie for his work on the stage version, but it looks like they adapted it very closely for the film (Panama & Frank favouring a faithful approach, which is where Frank clashed with Richard Lester on A Funny Thing Happened…)

    Surprise connection: Lester’s wife Deirdre worked extensively with Kidd: when a show went on tour and he couldn’t go with it, she would learn all the parts and run things in his absence.

    I really enjoyed the stylised look of this one. Al Capp was, as suggested, a ghastly piece of work — I’m fascinated by the psychology of a rapacious, oversexed, ugly amputee spending forty years writing and drawing a handsome hero with no interest in romance who spends his time trying to avoid the women who pursue him.

  4. I saw it on stage with the original cast. Back then the real star for me was Stubby Kaye whose rendition of “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” in Guys and Dolls (the greatest 11 O’clock number prior to “Rose’s Turn”) changed my life. I was four when I saw the great Loesser musical, and old enough when I saw Abner on screen to appreciate Peter Palmer’s towering beauty. Leslie Parrish — on her way to The Manchurian Candidate — was lovely too. But the real jaw-dropper was the great Julie Newmar as “Stupifyin’ Jones.” As “Julie Newmeyer” she was one of the Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Here she’s something quite unique. And she’s still with us!

    (So is Jerry Lewis who puts in a cameo appearance as a Dogpatch native.)

  5. “Put ’em back the way they was.” Thanks for the nostalgic hit. I haven’t seen this movie since my youth, but I enjoyed it.

  6. theredshoes1 Says:

  7. Or send them to Jack Cole

  8. According to Jane Russell (as told to Mark Cousins) the lug who accidentally knocked her in the pool was fired, and then th next day they decided to use that take. Hollywood could be a harsh mistress.

  9. And Jack Cole was a Tough Top.

  10. If his ass-kicking turn in Designing Woman is anything to go on, I can believe it!

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