Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Girls Do the Asking Today

The first Saturday in November (that's today) is Sadie Hawkins Day.  Who was this Sadie Hawkins?  She must have been some seriously important national figure of American history, since she had a day (and a social event) named after her.  Sorry, but not so; she was a cartoon character.

Sadie Hawkins

Anyone under age 50 probably doesn't remember the newspaper comic strip L'il Abner (1934-1978), created and drawn by cartoonist Al Capp.  It became a huge hit during the Great Depression, when, presumably, readers could more easily relate to the poor hillbillies of Dogpatch.  Sadie Hawkins was the "homeliest gal in the hills," and so, in the strip dated November 15, 1937, Sadie's father, Hekzebiah, decreed that the town's unmarried ladies would run a footrace in pursuit of the local eligible bachelors.  Within two years, over 200 colleges across the country were holding Sadie Hawkins Day events, such as the Sadie Hawkins Dance, in which girls asked out boys.  This folk tradition continues today, demonstrating the power of the newspaper comic strip as a medium of social influence.

L'il Abner was adapted into movies, animated cartoons, television series, and musicals over the years, and, 33 years after its final run, the cartoon continues to attract fans to its official web site.  It is a snapshot of mid-20th century rural American folklore.

I never followed the strip during its national newspaper syndication, but I occasionally was bewildered by it.  I don't rightly recollect seeing any feline characters.  This makes the cartoon's value immediately suspect in my view; but anything that draws millions of devoted followers must be worthwhile to those who appreciate the humor.

Now for some trivia.  Actress Julie Newmar played the character Stupefyin' Jones in the Broadway musical rendition of L'il Abner (1956).  Stupefyin' Jones neither spoke nor sang in the musical, because her beauty was so overwhelming that men froze in their tracks at the sight of her.  Newmar reprised the role three years later in the motion picture version of the musical.

Julie Newmar (center) as Stupefyin' Jones
in the movie musical L'il Abner (1959)

Want to see some excerpts from the movie musical version of L'il Abner (1959), featuring Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones?  Well, Scowl-Face certainly does.  Click here to see an edited clip.  (I've blogged about Julie Newmar before, if you'd like to see more photos.  I should mention that this Tony Award-winning actress has an I.Q. of 135--smarter than a lot of people I work with, but I'll not name names, Scowl-Face.)

Some of my lady minions have opined that the female characters in L'il Abner are sexist stereotypes.  That undoubtedly says something about the time periods in which the comic strip (and subsequent stage and silver screen adaptations) were most popular.  It is significant, however, that L'il Abner continues to be produced on stages in school and community theaters across the U.S.  Something in the story line must still be registering with modern audiences, if productions are still being made.

So, girl people, if you're planning to celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day by asking out a boy people, just make sure that Stupefyin' Jones is nowhere in the vicinity.  Who needs competition like that?

Felines Are Just Naturally Stupefyin'-ly Beautiful,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Folk Holiday News Beat

P.S.  Here's an excerpt from an early movie version of L'il Abner (1940), featuring Dogpatch's Sadie Hawkins Dance.  The movie starred Jeff York and Martha O'Driscoll.

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