The Revision Redux: Blondie

I still have some movies to watch and review to wrap up this project, but I do have a lot of supplemental stuff from my (now inactive) Patreon. I always said I’d post it publicly so I’m going to start doing that weekly on Fridays.

So many Blondie movies

I did not watch all of them. I watched maybe … 5? I admittedly lost track. There may have been another I don’t remember.

Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939, directed by Frank R. Strayer) is the third of them and it was when they were still having fun. This involves — as the title would imply — the Bumstead family going on vacation. There are various shenanigans after Baby Dumpling sneaks their dog, Daisy, on the train, angering a fellow passenger, Harvey Morton. In a plot twist, Harvey Morton is also the owner of the hotel where the Bumsteads are going to stay. So they have to wander about a bit before they find an empty hotel run by an elderly couple.

There are some implications the hotel may be haunted, but it’s not. It turns out Morton is trying to take over their establishment.

Then there’s a fire and Dagwood is arrested for arson (he seems to get arrested a lot) but everything resolves itself nicely in the typical fashion of these movies.

Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake are still pretty winning as Blondie and Dagwood. The plot feels like they were just making it up as everyone went along, but that fits in nicely with the odd spirit of these movies.

After being mistaken for students, Blondie and Dagwood decided to go to college in the aptly named Blondie Goes to College (1942, also directed by Strayer). They ship Baby Dumpling off to military school (who takes to it a little too well because Baby Dumpling is a budding psychopath) and enroll. For whatever reason, Blondie and Dagwood pretend they’re not married (it was a misunderstanding they just didn’t clear up) and suddenly become hot commodities on campus.

Singleton was 34 in 1942 and Lake was 37 and while both still look good here, they do not look young enough college students. Janet Blair, who plays Laura, the woman interested in Dagwood, is the only one who could plausibly be in college.

Long story short, Dagwood joins the rowing team and is then suspected of being a kidnapper when Mr. Dithers brings Baby Dumpling for a visit. And yes, Dagwood gets arrested again.

Blondie eventually reveals the truth to everyone (because she’s the only one in any of these movies with sense for the most part) and Blondie and Dagwood quit college.

Nothing in this movie makes any sense, really, but I was still entertained by it, mostly because I had no idea where any of this was going. 

Poster for Beware of Blondie

Beware of Blondie (1950, directed by Edward Bernds) is the final of the Blondie movies and it was clear everyone was kind of over it at this point. Dagwood is put in charge of the office while Mr. Dithers is on vacation.

He takes a potential client  — an attractive woman named Toby (Adele Jergens) to lunch at a French restaurant (where Dagwood is confused by the menu, which is a pretty tiresome joke). Toby only seems interested in seducing Dagwood (for whatever reason) and there’s gossiping and jealousy and …

Ultimately, everything is OK, though, because of course it will be. Toby is revealed to be a con artist and Dagwood and Blondie live happily ever after. Or something.

This is actually one of the shorter ones (only at 64 minutes) and still feels stretched out. The beginning sequence is about Dagwood trying to do his taxes and that goes on a bit too long. There’s even a dream sequence, if that tells you anything. If I didn’t want to see this thing through, I would’ve stopped watching this one. Even with grading these movies on a curve, this is really not good.

(Seriously, that dream sequence just doesn’t end.)

The early ones were genuine adaptations of the strip — with all its charm and inherent sweetness. I’m not surprised they fizzled out, though. It had been 12 years and 28 movies and that’s enough for anyone.

(Well, except for Arthur Lake who went onto play Dagwood in a sitcom version of Blondie in 1957.)

Blondie on TV

It’s true the Blondie movies were basically sitcom episodes so it’s not surprising that it would make the leap to TV in 1957.

The first Blondie sitcom ran for one season on NBC (there was a second one in 1968 on CBS that ran for 13 episodes before being canceled). Arthur Lake reprises his role as Dagwood, playing opposite Pamela Britton’s Blondie. Lake was in his 50s at this point and he’s a bit old for Dagwood’s boyish naivete. Blondie was always the more level-headed of the two, but Britton definitely plays that up even more here.

The movies weren’t breaking any ground when it came to gender roles or anything but especially early on, Blondie and Dagwood were well-suited to each other and affectionately accepted each other’s flaws. Here, Dagwood is much more the typical hapless sitcom husband and father and Blondie is the tolerant wife.

It’s fine, but it’s a ’50s sitcom. Lake definitely hams it up more here. I enjoyed the broadness of his performances in the movies, but he’s pretty hard to take here. The show seems to focus a bit too much on him, too, and that goes against what makes the Blondie property work — it needs to be about her.

I only made it through five of the 26 episodes before deciding I had other things to do with my time.

The ’68 version, starring Will Hutchins as Dagwood and Patricia Harty as Blondie, mostly seems to be lost to time. There are a few clips available online, such as this promo video for it, but that’s basically about it. Having watched the promo video, it’s clear they weren’t really trying to do anything new with this property — the clothes are updated but that’s about it.

Poster for Blondie & Dagwood: A Second Wedding Workout

Blondie’s final TV appearances (at least for now) were in two animated specials — Blondie & Dagwood (1987) and Blondie & Dagwood: Second Wedding Workout (1989), airing on CBS. Loni Anderson provides the voice of Blondie and Frank Welker is Dagwood. Each is about 22-23 minutes to fit into a 30-minute block of TV.

Both the children are now teenagers. Son Alexander (formerly known as Baby Dumpling) is a teenage science nerd and Cookie is a popular cheerleader.

The first is about Dagwood losing his job so Blondie has to find work outside the home and the second is Blondie and Dagwood planning on having a second wedding to celebrate their 20th anniversary. And you know, the ensuing shenanigans and hijinks.

While the art style is very true to Chic Young’s work, there are clearly a lot of updates here (which I assume is pretty consistent with where the comic was at the time). For me, having spent so long with Blondie being in the past, it’s a bit jarring to have it feel this contemporary. It still feels extremely familiar though, and if you know the comic, the beats and conflicts are going to be incredibly recognizable. It’s very much still Blondie.

Since these were two years apart, I don’t think it was an attempt to make it into an animated sitcom, but they’re pretty cute and animation and voice acting is good. Young’s artwork translates well to animation. While animation itself is fairly simple, it works well enough for the comic strip style. They’re not masterpieces but I was more charmed by these than I expected.

I still think there’s a lot of room for Blondie on TV and I’m ready for its revival.

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