Arnold Ziffel

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Arnold Ziffel, 1967

Arnold Ziffel is a pig featured in Green Acres, an American situation comedy that originally aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971 and was produced by Filmways, Inc.. The show is premised on rural American humor and features Oliver Douglas and his wife Lisa as city-dwellers who move to the unfamiliar environment of Hooterville, a fictional farming community. Arnold is a pig of the Chester White breed, but he is treated as the "son" of Fred and Doris Ziffel, who don't have any human children. Everyone in Hooterville (besides Oliver Douglas) accepts this without question. Arnold was usually played by a female pig, even though he is a male character. [1]

Situations[edit]

The humor that surrounds the character of Arnold comes from his human-like abilities and lifestyle, and from the way the people of Hooterville insist on thinking of him as a fellow human. They invite him to town meetings, they play checkers with him (and lose), and they speak English to him and can understand him when he speaks with pig squeals and grunts. New resident Oliver Douglas is the lone hold out. He tries to explain to people that Arnold is just a pig, but no one will listen to him. [2] On the contrary, they are suspicious of Oliver, because of his inability to communicate with Arnold. [3] This dynamic is part of a larger theme of Green Acres, that Oliver's sense of logic is meaningless in the Hooterville universe. [4]

Arnold can do pretty much anything a human can. He can write his name and change channels on the television. He watches the CBS News with Walter Cronkite to keep up with the issues. [5] He signs checks and can adjust the TV antenna, and he is the smartest student at the local grade school. [6] He carries his lunchbox in his mouth, and often plays practical jokes on the other students. [7] Arnold is also artistically talented: he is working on a novel, he plays the piano, and he is an accomplished abstract painter, dubbed "Porky Picasso", whose piece titled "Nude at a Filling Station" wins first prize out of two thousand entries in a student art contest. [8] [9] He even works as a "paper pig" delivering newspapers, although he has a bad habit of throwing copies so hard and so badly aimed that he sometimes breaks windows.

Arnold is very lucky. He wins a trip to Hawaii in one episode, and a trip to Hollywood in another. After a Hollywood screen test, he is cast in a role originally intended for a horse, but after the horse explains to Arnold that he needs to job to send his son to Stanford, Arnold's deliberate bad behavior leads to him being fired and the horse getting his job back. He also wins a prize at the Pixley Bijou movie theater for having the most original costume... the theater manager says that Arnold has the best looking pig costume he has ever seen. [10]

At one point, Arnold falls in love with Mr. Haney's prized Basset Hound "Cynthia", but in a scene full of pig grunts and dog barks, subtitles explain that they realize their love can never be. Mr. Haney threatens to sue Arnold's "father" Fred Ziffel, claiming that Arnold has ruined Cynthia for dog shows since she has begun to grunt like a pig, too.

One storyline has Arnold inheriting millions of dollars as the sole descendant of the favorite pig of a pork-packing magnate, distinguished by his ability to predict the weather with his tail. Some doubt exists as to the Arnold's weather prediction skills when, during the claims process for the money, his tail predicts snow in the middle of warm weather. This prediction is disbelieved and Oliver finds himself in a difficult situation checking out of an expensive hotel, because he has to deal with Arnold's expensive bill. However, during this difficulty, Arnold's seemingly impossible prediction proves accurate when a freak snowstorm buries the city. So the hotel welcomes Arnold back with open arms.

Behind the scenes[edit]

Arnold's trainer was Frank Inn, who trained virtually all of the animals seen in the rural television comedies of the time period, including Petticoat Junction and Beverly Hillbillies. Frank said that he had to use delicate psychology to train his pigs. Unlike other animals, he explained, a trainer can never force a pig to do anything or reprimand them, or else they will come to dislike the trainer and will not perform for them or even take food from them. [11] Arnold won three Patsy Awards for Inn during the 1960s.

Arnold was actually played by a piglet, and, since piglets quickly grow into adult pigs, at least one piglet per year had to be trained for the role of Arnold during the six years that the show was in production. [12] In most episodes, Arnold was played by a female piglet. The piglet was paid $250 per day and had a union contract. [13]

Arnold received a great deal of fan mail from children as well as adults. A class of sixth-graders from Ohio wrote with a pledge to stop eating pork chops. [14]

Influence on popular culture[edit]

A popular urban legend circulated during the era of the show's greatest popularity to the effect that the cast and crew of Green Acres ate Arnold. The story is false;[15][16] however, it persisted long after Green Acres went off the air; moreover, as noted above, more than one Arnold was used.

In the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, the character Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) refers to Arnold, saying a pig would have to be "ten times more charming" than Arnold for him to cease considering it a filthy animal.

The 1995 theatrical film Gordy was originally conceived in the early 1970s by Green Acres creator Jay Sommers and writer Dick Chevillat as a vehicle for the Arnold Ziffel character. Both are given writing credit for the film, although Sommers had died some 10 years before the release of Gordy.

The band Anthrax dedicated their cover of Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" to Arnold Ziffel on their I'm the Man EP.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=14282158
  2. ^ St. John Allen "RIP Frank Cady, aka Green Acres' Fred Drucker: In Praise of Hooterville, Hotcakes, and Arnold the Pig" June 14, 2012 Forbes retrieved October 22, 2015
  3. ^ Bauman, John; Biles, Roger; Szylvian Kristin M. (2011) The Ever-Changing American City: 1945-Present Rowman & Littlefield Publishers p. 8
  4. ^ Greene, Doyle "Politics and the American Television Comedy: A Critical Survey from I Love Lucy Through South Park" McFarland (2007) pp. 108-9
  5. ^ Greene, Doyle Politics and the American Television Comedy: A Critical Survey from I Love Lucy Through South Park p. 108 (2007) McFarland
  6. ^ St. John Allen "RIP Frank Cady, aka Green Acres' Fred Drucker: In Praise of Hooterville, Hotcakes, and Arnold the Pig" June 14, 2012 Forbes retrieved October 22, 2015
  7. ^ Johnson, Billy "Hooterville, Nev.: It’s time" June 12, 2012 Las Vegas Sun retrieved November 6, 2015
  8. ^ Johnson, Billy "Hooterville, Nev.: It’s time" June 12, 2012 Las Vegas Sun retrieved October 22, 2015
  9. ^ Greene, Doyle Politics and the American Television Comedy: A Critical Survey from I Love Lucy Through South Park p.108 (2007) McFarland
  10. ^ Bloom, Ken; Vlastnick, Frank (2007) Sitcoms: The 101 Greatest TV Comedies of All Time p. 145 Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
  11. ^ Hedgepeth, William The Hog Book p. 110
  12. ^ Hehman-Smith, Margaret "Remembering Arnold: This Pig Was a Trouper Long Before 'Babe'" April 29, 1996 Los Angeles Times retrieved October 13, 2015
  13. ^ Hedgepeth, William The Hog Book p. 111
  14. ^ Hedgepeth, William The Hog Book p. 111
  15. ^ Cox, Stephen (1993). The Hooterville handbook : a viewer's guide to Green acres (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 116, 119. ISBN 0312088116. 
  16. ^ "Arnold Ziffel Eaten at Cast Party". Snopes.com. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 

External links[edit]