Thursday, March 15, 2012


Guess what! I didn't buy this 'un for my own personal use but as a birthday present for none other than famed somethingorother Don Fellman ("Who's Don Fellman?"). Happy birthday Don, but you're gonna hafta wait until I'm done with these twenty episodes from the old (1957) BLONDIE tee-vee show before you dabble your greasy paws on 'em. After all, you're gettin' these disques for FREE and hey, like I gotta get some enjoyment payback on my end considerin' how you don't even get anything for me for my birthday, y'know? So be patient a bit and lemme settle back 'n enjoy these programs that are so obscure that I don't think they've been broadcast anywhere since 1963, and that's a pretty long time especially when we're referring to classoid fifties programming such as this!

Having only been familiar (albeit briefly) with the late-sixties series which really wowed the "children" at school but turned my mother off faster'n the tee-vee pilot for THE BOYS IN THE BAND, I pretty much went into this cold. And not having seen any of the BLONDIE features from the thirties and forties I had no idea what to expect from perennial Dagwood actor Arthur Lake*, who by this time was starting to gain a middle-aged paunch perhaps due to all of those stacked sandwiches he was downing! But the guy does a really good job at bringing the famed comic strip character to the screen (both visually and with that crack-y voice that fits perfectly!) even if you can tell age is catching up with the by-now 52-year-old actor. While I'm at it Pamela Britton as Blondie's pretty hotcha herself even if those fifties dresses kinda hide the attributes every red-blooded boy was looking for. Maybe there's a revealing swimsuit episode we can look forward to out there, but otherwise it's all guess as far as juggin configuration goes just like ya hadda do with Mary Tyler Moore, and that ain't fun!

As for the kids Alexander and Cookie this point in the strip they were still pre-pubes so if you have the hots for the now-nubile daughter yer gonna be quite disappointed since the one on the show's still a good five years away from sprouting the significant mammary matter that you most desire. Former Great Guildersleeve Harold Peary as next door neighbor Herb Woodley was a brilliant stroke of genius even if the guy hardly looked like the character in the comic strip! (I've always imagined Dabney Coleman in the role though he certainly would have been way too young.) But still, Peary's natural slimy abilities made him a pretty good second banana in a program that was filled w/'em (perennial tee-vee player Hollis Irving as wife "Harriet" ["Tootsie" inna strip] does it hotcha even if she's nothing next to the hubba hubba brunette we've lusted after for ages). And although I was kinda hopin' that famed character actor Charles Lane would have gotten the Mr. Dithers role I will admit that the puny albeit irritable Florenz Ames did perhaps even a crankier job as Dagwood's boss than even a typecast curmudgeon like Lane coulda! Maybe it's a combination of his short stature and natural crotchetiness that makes his character so real life, and hey I remember back when it seemed as if EVERYBODY I knew over the age of sixty had at least a li'l Mr. Dithers in 'im!

Overall effect is typical fifties Hal Roach Jr. sitcom style with that nice if antiquated ambience you used to see in his other productions from AMOS 'N ANDY on down. It's a real relaxing feeling, a homey heart-cockling warm one if you ask me especially when those great sitcom plots are once again trotted out and made to look boffo long before the Now Generation jettisoned 'em all in favor of social significance up the wazoo. All yer old favorite storylines are used to peak perfection (Dagwood thinks Blondie's a klepto only she's collecting for the rummage sale, Dithers thinks Dagwood's betting on fixed horse races with pilfered money when all that happened was he got Cookie's porcelain pony glued up...) and the bevy of famous guest stars from the infamous George Givot to Alan "Fred Flintstone" Reed to JACK BENNY antagonist Frank Nelson and even Mr. Wilson himself Joseph Kearns really have ya keeping your eyes wide open just to see what long-gone player'll turn up next! Hey, BLONDIE really was one of those programs you could enjoy even if you weren't recovering from a bender the previous night and you needed something to help settle your head in a little...

Probably PD for longer'n anyone can imagine, there are DVD's of this flying around the underground old timey tee-vee circuit which operates on the same level as professional child molesters and terrorists. Most of 'em probably utilize worn out syndication prints and the one I latched onto was obviously taken from a thirtysome-year-old VCR considering the occasional scan lines and that at-times annoying zig-zag which appears across the bottom of the screen (not to mention the choppy editing which leaves a lotta crucial dialogue out). I guess we're lucky that we got these to view since it would be futile to petition NBC to release this properly using the original prints...I mean, this is the exact kind of programming those aforementioned hippoids in spirit don't want us to enjoy anymore, and if they haven't burned all of the negatives by this time I would be surprised!

One more thing before I vamoose...I thought I should let you know that the crafty compilers who slapped together these twenty episodes might have been smart guys, but they clearly didn't put any snaps of Britton on the plastic shell! Yes, the pic of Blondie seen above and on the reverse of the shell is not the future MY FAVORITE MARTIAN co-star (Mrs. Brown) but the original moom pitcher Blondie and future voice of Jane Jetson Penny Singleton herself! Either the snaps from the show are extremely rare or the mysterious burners were just too lazy to search for 'em so they stuck the easier to find movie shots on thinking that most people would be too stoopid to notice! Well, I caught ya bubs, and you're just lucky there's not Bureau of Fraudulent Dee-Vee-Dee Shell Squad to report you to or else you'd be stamping license plates 'stead of aluminum disques for the next ten-to-fifteen!
*Lake being a guy who should earn some sorta comic strip award for not only portraying Dagwood from the thirties through the fifties but also starring as the proto-ARCHIE comic strip character HAROLD TEEN during the silent era!

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