Little Orphan Annie
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2014)|
|Little Orphan Annie|
Cupples & Leon collection (1933)
|Current status / schedule||Ended|
|Launch date||August 5, 1924|
|End date||June 13, 2010|
|Syndicate(s)||Tribune Media Services|
|Genre(s)||Humor, Action, Adventure|
Little Orphan Annie was a daily American comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894–1968) and syndicated by the Tribune Media Services. The strip took its name from the 1885 poem "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley, and made its debut on August 5, 1924 in the New York Daily News. It ranked number one in popularity in a Fortune poll in 1937.
The plot follows the wide-ranging adventures of Annie, her dog Sandy and her benefactor Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks. Secondary characters include Punjab, the Asp and Mr. Am. The strip attracted adult readers with political commentary that targeted (among other things) organized labor, the New Deal and communism.
Following Gray's death in 1968, several artists drew the strip and, for a time, "classic" strips were reruns. Little Orphan Annie inspired a radio show in 1930, film adaptations by RKO in 1932 and Paramount in 1938 and a Broadway musical Annie in 1977 (which was separately adapted as a trio of films of the same name, one in 1982, one in 1999 and another in 2014). The strip's popularity declined over the years; it was running in only 20 newspapers when it was cancelled on June 13, 2010.
- 1 Story
- 2 Characters
- 3 Background
- 4 Adaptations
- 5 Parodies, imitations and cultural citations
- 6 Archives
- 7 Episode guide
- 8 Reprints
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Little Orphan Annie displays literary kinship with the picaresque novel in its seemingly endless string of episodic and unrelated adventures in the life of a character who wanders like an innocent vagabond through a corrupt world. In Annie's first year, the picaresque pattern that characterizes her story is set, with the major players – Annie, Sandy and "Daddy" Warbucks – introduced within the strip's first several weeks.
The story opens in a dreary, Dickensian orphanage where Annie is routinely abused by the cold, sarcastic matron, named Miss Asthma. One day, the wealthy but mean-spirited Mrs. Warbucks takes Annie into her home "on trial." Her husband Oliver develops an instant paternal affection for Annie and instructs her to address him as "Daddy." Originally, the Warbucks had a dog named One-Lung, who liked Annie.
The entire staff of the household hates Mrs. Warbucks, the daughter of a nouveau riche plumber's assistant. Cold-hearted Mrs. Warbucks sends Annie back to "the Home" numerous times, and they hate her for that. "Daddy" (Oliver) keeps thinking of her as his "daughter".
After Mrs. Warbucks brings home another orphan, a snobby little boy named Selby Adelbert Piffleberry, she shows her favoritism by giving him Annie's old room and spiriting the girl to another part of the house. Annie, not fooled by Selby, and knowing full well the hatred that Mrs. Warbucks has for her, takes care of her enemy by thrashing him. Oliver later realizes that Selby (or SAP as Annie derisively calls him) is a flunky to the crooked Count De Tour, who has his eyes on the Warbucks' fortune. With Annie's help, they outwit the crooked duo and throw them out of the mansion.
The strip developed a series of formulas that ran over its course to facilitate a wide range of stories. The earlier strips relied on a formula by which Daddy Warbucks is called away on business and through a variety of contrivances, Annie is cast out of the Warbucks mansion, usually by her enemy, the nasty Mrs. Warbucks. Annie then wanders the countryside and has adventures meeting and helping new people in their daily struggles. Early stories dealt with political corruption, criminal gangs and corrupt institutions, which Annie would confront. Annie ultimately would encounter troubles with the villain, who would be vanquished by the returning Daddy Warbucks. Annie and Daddy would then be reunited, at which point, after several weeks, the formula would play out again. In the series, each strip represented a single day in the life of the characters. This device was dropped by the end of the '20s.
By the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the formula was tweaked: Daddy Warbucks lost his fortune due to a corrupt rival and ultimately died from despair at the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Annie remained an orphan, and for several years had adventures that involved more internationally based enemies. The contemporary events taking place in Europe were reflected in the strips during the 1940s and World War II. Daddy Warbucks was reunited with Annie, as his death was changed to coma, from which he woke in 1945.
By this time, the series enlarged its world with the addition of characters such as Asp and Punjab, bodyguards and servants to Annie and Daddy Warbucks. In globe-trotting adventures, the characters traveled around the world, with Annie having adventures on her own or with her adopted family.
The series ended with a cliffhanger due to the abrupt nature of the strip's cancellation. Annie is presumed dead at sea, but is found by a wanted war criminal from the Baltic, who was hiding in South America. The criminal announces his intention to raise Annie as his own flesh and blood; he is reluctant to kill her and does not want to release her, for fear of revealing to the world that he is alive. The final strip shows a heartbroken Daddy Warbucks, shocked with grief, looking out a window as authorities tell him that they are declaring Annie legally dead.
Annie is an 11-year-old orphan. Her distinguishing physical characteristics are a mop of red, curly hair, a red dress and vacant circles for eyes. Her catchphrases are "Gee whiskers" and "Leapin' lizards!" Annie attributes her lasting youthfulness to her birthday on February 29 in a leap year, and ages only one year in appearance for every four years that pass. Annie is a plucky, generous, compassionate, and optimistic youngster who can hold her own against bullies, and has a strong and intuitive sense of right and wrong.
Sandy enters the story in a January 1925 strip as a puppy of no particular breed which Annie rescues from a gang of abusive boys. The girl is working as a drudge in Mrs. Bottle's grocery store at the time and manages to keep the puppy briefly concealed. She finally gives him to Paddy Lynch, a gentle man who owns a "steak joint" and can give Sandy a good home. Sandy is a mature dog when he suddenly reappears in a May 1925 strip to rescue Annie from gypsy kidnappers. Annie and Sandy remain together thereafter.
Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks first appears in a September 1924 strip and reveals a month later he was formerly a small machine shop owner who acquired his enormous wealth producing munitions during World War I. He is a large, powerfully-built bald man, the idealized capitalist, who typically wears a tuxedo and diamond stickpin in his shirtfront. He likes Annie at once, instructing her to call him "Daddy", but his wife (a plumber's daughter) is a snobbish, gossiping nouveau riche who derides her husband's affection for Annie. When Warbucks is suddenly called to Siberia on business, his wife spitefully sends Annie back to the orphanage.
Other major characters include Warbucks' right-hand men, Punjab, an eight-foot native of India, introduced in 1935, and the Asp, an inscrutably generalized East Asian, who first appeared in 1937. There was also the mysterious Mister Am, a friend of Warbucks' who wore a Santa Claus–like beard and was of a jovial personality. He claimed to have lived for millions of years and even had supernatural powers. Some strips hinted that he may even be God.
After World War I, cartoonist Harold Gray joined the Chicago Tribune which, at that time, was being reworked by owner Joseph Medill Patterson into an important national journal. As part of his plan, Patterson wanted to publish comic strips that would lend themselves to nationwide syndication and to film and radio adaptations. Gray's strips were consistently rejected by Patterson, but Little Orphan Annie was finally accepted and debuted in a test run on August 5, 1924 in the New York Daily News, a Tribune owned tabloid. Reader response was positive, and Annie began appearing as a Sunday strip in the Tribune on November 2 and as a daily strip on November 10. It was soon offered for syndication and picked up by the Toronto Star and The Atlanta Constitution.
Gray reported in 1952 that Annie's origin lay in a chance meeting he had with a ragamuffin while wandering the streets of Chicago looking for cartooning ideas. "I talked to this little kid and liked her right away," Gray said, "She had common sense, knew how to take care of herself. She had to. Her name was Annie. At the time some 40 strips were using boys as the main characters; only three were using girls. I chose Annie for mine, and made her an orphan, so she'd have no family, no tangling alliances, but freedom to go where she pleased."
In designing the strip, Gray was influenced by his midwestern farm boyhood, Victorian poetry and novels such as Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Sidney Smith's wildly popular comic strip The Gumps, and the histrionics of the silent films and melodramas of the period. Initially, there was no continuity between the dailies and the Sunday strips, but by the early 1930s the two had become one. The strip (whose title was borrowed from James Whitcomb Riley's 1885 poem "Little Orphant Annie") was "conservative and topical", according to the editors of The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia, and "represents the personal vision" of Gray and Riley's "homespun philosophy of hard work, respect for elders, and a cheerful outlook on life". A Fortune popularity poll in 1937 indicated Little Orphan Annie ranked number one and ahead of Popeye, Dick Tracy, Bringing Up Father, The Gumps, Blondie, Moon Mullins, Joe Palooka, Li'l Abner and Tillie the Toiler.
1929 to World War II
Gray was little affected by the stock market crash of 1929. The strip was more popular than ever and brought him a good income, which was only enhanced when the strip became the basis for a radio program in 1930 and two films in 1932 and 1938. Predictably, Gray was reviled by some for preaching in the strip to the poor about hard work, initiative, and motivation while living well on his income.
In 1935 Punjab, a gigantic, sword-wielding, beturbaned Indian, was introduced to the strip and became one of its iconic characters. Whereas Annie's adventures up to the point of Punjab's appearance were realistic and believable, her adventures following his introduction touched upon the supernatural, the cosmic, and the fantastic.
In November 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President and proposed his New Deal. Many, including Gray, saw this and other programs as government interference in private enterprise. Gray railed against Roosevelt and his programs. (Gray even killed Daddy Warbucks off in 1945, believing that Warbucks could not coexist in the world with FDR. But following FDR's death, Gary resurrected Warbucks, who said to Annie, "Somehow I feel that the climate here has changed since I went away.") Annie's life was complicated not only by thugs and gangsters but also by New Deal do-gooders and bureaucrats. Organized labor was feared by businessmen and Gray took their side. Some writers and editors took issue with this strip's criticisms of FDR's New Deal and 1930s labor unionism. The New Republic described Annie as "Hooverism in the Funnies", arguing that Gray's strip was defending utility company bosses then being investigated by the government. The Herald Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia stopped running Little Orphan Annie, printing a front page editorial rebuking Gray's politics. A subsequent New Republic editorial praised the paper's move, and The Nation likewise voiced its support.
In the late 1920s, the strip had taken on a more adult and adventurous feel with Annie encountering killers, gangsters, spies, and saboteurs. It was about this time that Gray, whose politics seem to have been broadly conservative and libertarian with a decided populist streak, introduced some of his more controversial storylines. He would look into the darker aspects of human nature, such as greed and treachery. The gap between rich and poor was an important theme. His hostility toward labor unions was dramatized in the 1935 story "Eonite". Other targets were the New Deal, communism, and corrupt businessmen.
Gray was especially critical of the justice system, which he saw as not doing enough to deal with criminals. Thus, some of his storylines featured people taking the law into their own hands. This happened as early as 1927 in an adventure named "The Haunted House". Annie is kidnapped by a gangster called Mister Mack. Warbucks rescues her and takes Mack and his gang into custody. He then contacts a local senator who owes him a favor. Warbucks persuades the politician to use his influence with the judge and make sure that the trial goes their way and that Mack and his men get their just deserts. Annie questions the use of such methods but concludes, "With all th' crooks usin' pull an' money to get off, I guess 'bout th' only way to get 'em punished is for honest police like Daddy to use pull an' money an' gun-men, too, an' beat them at their own game."
Warbucks became much more ruthless in later years. After catching yet another gang of Annie kidnappers he announced that he "wouldn't think of troubling the police with you boys", implying that while he and Annie celebrated their reunion, the Asp and his men took the kidnappers away to be lynched. In another Sunday strip, published during World War II, a war-profiteer expresses the hope that the conflict would last another 20 years. An outraged member of the public physically assaults the man for his opinion, claiming revenge for his two sons who have already been killed in the fighting. When a passing policeman is about to intervene, Annie talks him out of it, suggesting, "It's better some times to let folks settle some questions by what you might call democratic processes."
World War II and Annie's Junior Commandos
As war clouds gathered, both the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News advocated neutrality; "Daddy" Warbucks, however, was gleefully manufacturing tanks, planes, and munitions. Journalist James Edward Vlamos deplored the loss of fantasy, innocence, and humor in the "funnies", and took to task one of Gray's sequences about espionage, noting that the "fate of the nation" rested on "Annie's frail shoulders". Vlamos advised readers to "Stick to the saner world of war and horror on the front pages."
When the US entered World War II, Annie not only played her part by blowing up a German submarine but organized and led groups of children called the Junior Commandos in the collection of newspapers, scrap metal, and other recyclable materials for the war effort. Annie herself wore an armband emblazoned with "JC" and called herself "Colonel Annie". In real life, the idea caught on, and schools and parents were encouraged to organize similar groups. Twenty thousand Junior Commandos were reportedly registered in Boston.
Gray was praised far and wide for his war effort brainchild. Editor & Publisher wrote,
"Harold Gray, Little Orphan Annie creator, has done one of the biggest jobs to date for the scrap drive. His 'Junior Commando' project, which he inaugurated some months ago, has caught on all around the country, and tons of scrap have been collected and contributed to the campaign. The kids sell the scrap, and the proceeds are turned into stamps and bonds."
Not all was rosy for Gray however. He applied for extra gas coupons, reasoning that he would need them to drive about the countryside collecting plot material for the strip. But an Office of Price Administration clerk named Flack refused to give Gray the coupons, explaining that cartoons were not vital to the war effort. Gray requested a hearing and the original decision was upheld. Gray was furious and vented in the strip, with especial venom directed at Flack, government price controls, and other concerns. Gray had his supporters, but his neighbors defended Flack in the local newspaper and tongue-lashed Gray. Flack threatened to sue for libel, and some papers cancelled the strip. Gray showed no remorse, but did discontinue the sequence.
Gray was criticized by a Southern newspaper for including a black youngster among the white children in the Junior Commandos. Gray made it clear he was not a reformer, did not believe in breaking down the color line, and was no relation to Eleanor Roosevelt, an ardent supporter of civil rights. He pointed out that Annie was a friend to all, and that most cities in the North had "large dark towns". The inclusion of a black character in the Junior Commandos, he explained, was "merely a casual gesture toward a very large block of readers." African American readers wrote letters to Gray thanking him for the incorporation of a black child in the strip.
In the summer of 1944 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated for a fourth term as President of the United States, and Gray (who had little love for Roosevelt) killed off Warbucks in a month-long sequence of sentimental pathos. Readers were generally unhappy with Gray's decision, but some liberals advocated the same fate for Annie and her "stale philosophy". By the following November however, Annie was working as a maid in a Mrs. Bleating-Hart's home and suffering all sorts of torments from her mistress. The public begged Gray to have mercy on Annie, and he had her framed for her mistress's murder. She was exonerated. Following Roosevelt's death in April 1945, Gray resurrected Warbucks (who was only playing dead to thwart his enemies) and once again the billionaire began expounding the joys of capitalism.
In the post-war years, Annie took on The Bomb, communism, teenage rebellion and a host of other social and political concerns, often provoking the enmity of clergymen, union leaders and others. For example, Gray believed children should be allowed to work. "A little work never hurt any kid," Gray affirmed, "One of the reasons we have so much juvenile delinquency is that kids are forced by law to loaf around on street corners and get into trouble." His belief brought upon him the wrath of the labor movement, which staunchly supported the child labor laws.
A London newspaper columnist thought some of Gray's sequences a threat to world peace, but a Detroit newspaper supported Gray on his "shoot first, ask questions later" foreign policy. Gray was criticized for the gruesome violence in the strips, particularly a sequence in which Annie and Sandy were run over by a car. Gray responded to the criticism by giving Annie a year-long bout with amnesia that allowed her to trip through several adventures without Daddy. In 1956, a sequence about juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, switchblades, prostitutes, crooked cops, and the ties between teens and adult gangsters unleashed a firestorm of criticism from unions, the clergy and intellectuals with 30 newspapers cancelling the strip. The syndicate ordered Gray to drop the sequence and develop another adventure.
Gray died in May 1968 of cancer, and the strip was continued under other cartoonists. Gray's cousin Robert Leffingwell was the first on the job but proved inadequate and the strip was handed over to Tribune staff artist Henry Arnold and general manager Henry Raduta as the search continued for a permanent replacement. Tex Blaisdell, an experienced comics artist, got the job with Elliot Caplin as writer. Caplin avoided political themes and concentrated instead on character stories. The two worked together six years on the strip, but subscriptions fell off and both left at the end of 1973. The strip was passed to others and during this time complaints were registered regarding Annie's appearance, her conservative politics, and her lack of spunk. Early in 1974, David Lettick took the strip, but he left after three months. In April 1974, the decision was made to reprint Gray's classic strips, beginning in 1936. Subscriptions increased.
Following the success of the Broadway musical Annie, the strip was resurrected in 1979 as Annie, written and drawn by Leonard Starr. Starr, the creator of Mary Perkins, On Stage, was the only one besides Gray to achieve notable success with the strip.
Upon Starr's retirement in 2000, he was succeeded by Daily News writer Jay Maeder and artist Andrew Pepoy, beginning Monday, June 5, 2000. Pepoy was eventually succeeded by Alan Kupperberg (2001–2004) and Ted Slampyak (2004–2010). The new creators updated the strip's settings and characters for a modern audience, giving Annie a new hairdo and jeans rather than her trademark dress. However, Maeder's new stories never managed to live up to the pathos and emotional engagement of the stories by Gray and Starr. Annie herself was often reduced to a supporting role and was a far less complex character than the girl readers had known for seven decades. Maeder's writing style tended to make the stories feel like tongue-in-cheek adventures compared to the serious, heartfelt tales Gray and Starr favored. Annie gradually lost subscribers during the 2000s, and by 2010, it was running in fewer than 20 U.S. newspapers.
On May 13, 2010, Tribune Media Services announced that the strip's final installment would appear on Sunday June 13, 2010, ending after 86 years. At the time of the cancellation announcement, it was running in fewer than 20 newspapers, some of which, such as the New York Daily News, had carried the strip for its entire life. The final cartoonist, Ted Slampyak, said, "It's kind of painful. It's almost like mourning the loss of a friend."
The last strip was the culmination of a story arc where Annie was kidnapped from her hotel by a wanted war criminal from eastern Europe who checked in under a phony name with a fake passport. Although Warbucks enlists the help of the FBI and Interpol to find her, by the end of the final strip he has begun to resign himself to the very strong possibility that Annie most likely will not be found alive. Unfortunately Warbucks is unaware that Annie is still alive and has made her way to Guatemala with her captor, known simply as the "Butcher of the Balkans". Although Annie wants to be let go, the Butcher tells her that he neither will let her go nor kill her — for fear of being captured and because he will not kill a child despite his many political killings — and adds that she has a new life now with him. The final panel of the strip reads "And this is where we leave our Annie. For Now—".
Since the cancellation, rerun strips have been running on the GoComics site.
Final resolution: Warbucks calls on Dick Tracy
The June 15 and 16, 2013 installments of Dick Tracy featured several Annie characters in extended cameos complete with dialogue, including Warbucks, the Asp and Punjab. During these notable appearances, Warbucks spoke on the phone with detective Tracy about a company Tracy thought might be tied to him. Warbucks' last line in the Sunday strip implies that Annie is still missing and that Warbucks might even enlist Tracy's help in finding her. Asp and Punjab appeared again in March 26, 2014. The caption says that these events will soon impact on the detective.
The storyline resumed on June 8, 2014, with Warbucks asking for Tracy's assistance in finding Annie. In the course of the story, Tracy receives a letter from Annie and determines her location. Meanwhile, the name of the kidnapper is revealed as Henrik Wilemse, and he has been tracked to the city where he is found and made to disappear. Tracy and Warbucks rescued Annie, and the storyline wrapped up on October 12.
Annie again visited 'Dick Tracy', visiting his granddaughter Honeymoon Tracy, starting June 6, 2015.
Little Orphan Annie was adapted to a 15-minute radio show that debuted on WGN Chicago in 1930 and went national on NBC's Blue Network beginning April 6, 1931. The show was one of the first comic strips adapted to radio, attracted about 6 million fans, and left the air in 1942. Radio historian Jim Harmon attributes the show's popularity in The Great Radio Heroes to the fact that it was the only radio show to deal with and appeal to young children.
In 1931, when the show debuted, radio had yet to establish coast-to-coast networks so two separate casts performed—one in San Francisco starring Floy Margaret Hughes and the other in Chicago starring Shirley Bell as Annie, Stanley Andrews as "Daddy", and Allan Baruck (and later Mel Tormé) as Joe Corntassel. When coast to coast networking was established in 1933, the Chicago cast became the permanent one.
Announcer Pierre Andre provided Sandy's "Arf!" and sang the theme (as Uncle Andy):
- Who's that little chatter box?
- The one with pretty auburn locks?
- Whom do you see?
- It's Little Orphan Annie.
- She and Sandy make a pair,
- They never seem to have a care!
- Cute little she,
- It's Little Orphan Annie.
- Bright eyes, cheeks a rosy glow,
- There's a store of healthiness handy.
- Mite-size, always on the go,
- If you want to know - "Arf", says Sandy.
- Always wears a sunny smile,
- Now, wouldn't it be worth a while,
- If you could be,
- Like Little Orphan Annie?
Bobbe Dean briefly played the character in 1934–35 during a contract dispute between the studio and Bell, and Janice Gilbert portrayed Annie from 1940 to 1942. Leonard Salvo was the show's organist.
The show was initially sponsored by Ovaltine, a flavored milk supplement, and its scripts were written by Ovaltine's Chicago ad agency staff. They shunned the overt political themes of Gray's newspaper strips and concentrated instead on pitching Ovaltine, using almost seven minutes of each broadcast to do so. Fans could redeem Ovaltine proofs of purchase for a secret decoder badge that decoded brief messages airing in the last moments of the show. Contrary to an urban legend made popular by the film A Christmas Story, the messages were never advertisements for Ovaltine, but were usually related to the following episode. In 1940, Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies became the show's sponsor and brought fictional aviator Captain Sparks to the show. Sparks eventually became the star, relegating Annie to secondary player.
In 1995, Shirley Bell Cole was heard in a reenactment of Little Orphan Annie on Chuck Schaden's Those Were the Days radio show.
1930s films based on the comic strip
Two film adaptations were released at the height of Annie's popularity in the 1930s. Little Orphan Annie, the first adaptation, was produced by David O. Selznick for RKO in 1932 and starred Mitzi Green as Annie. The plot was simple: Warbucks leaves on business and Annie finds herself in the orphanage again. She pals around with a little boy named Mickey, and when he is adopted by a wealthy woman, she visits him in his new home. Warbucks returns and holds a Christmas party for all. The film opened on Christmas Eve 1932. Variety panned it, and the New York Daily News was "slightly disappointed" with the film, thinking Green too "big and buxom" for the role. Paramount brought Ann Gillis to the role of Annie in their 1938 film adaptation, but this version was panned as well. One reviewer thought it "stupid and thoroughly boresome" and was uncomfortable with the "sugar-coated Pollyanna characterization" given Annie.
Three years after the RKO release, Gray wrote a sequence for the strip that sent Annie to Hollywood. She is hired at low wages to play the stand-in and stunt double for the bratty child star Tootsie McSnoots. Young starlet Janey Spangles tips off Annie to the corrupt practices in Hollywood. Annie handles the information with maturity and has a good time with Janey while doing her job on the set. Annie doesn't become a star. As Bruce Smith remarks in The History of Little Orphan Annie, "Gray was smart enough never to let [Annie] get too successful."
In 1977, Little Orphan Annie was adapted to the Broadway stage as Annie. With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, the original production ran from April 21, 1977 to January 2, 1983. The work has been staged internationally. The musical took considerable liberties with the original comic strip plot.
The Broadway Annies were Andrea McArdle, Shelly Bruce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Allison Smith and Alyson Kirk. Actresses who portrayed Miss Hannigan are Dorothy Loudon, Alice Ghostley, Betty Hutton, Ruth Kobart, Marcia Lewis, June Havoc, Nell Carter and Sally Struthers. Songs from the musical include "Tomorrow" and "It's the Hard Knock Life". There is also a children's version of Annie called Annie Junior. Two sequels to the musical, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge (1989) and Annie Warbucks (1992-93), were written by the same creative team; neither show opened on Broadway.
Film adaptations of the Broadway musical
Annie has been adapted to film five times. The first two were released in 1932 and 1938, both titled Little Orphan Annie, and were based on the original comics. The three most recent—a feature film 1982, a made-for-television adaptation in 1999, and a modernized version released in 2014—are all based on the storyline found in the Broadway version of Annie.
The 1982 version was directed by John Huston and starred Aileen Quinn as Annie, Albert Finney as Warbucks, Ann Reinking as his secretary Grace Farrell, and Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan. The film departed from the Broadway production in several respects, most notably changing the climax of the story from Christmas to the Fourth of July. It also featured five new songs, "Dumb Dog", "Sandy", "Let's Go to the Movies", "Sign", and "We Got Annie", while cutting "We'd like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover", "N.Y.C", "You Won't Be an Orphan for Long", "Something Was Missing", "Annie", and "New Deal for Christmas". It received mixed critical reviews and, while becoming the 10th highest-grossing film of 1982, barely recouped its $50 million budget.
A direct-to-video film, Annie: A Royal Adventure! was released in 1996 as a sequel to the 1982 film. It features Ashley Johnson as Annie and focuses on the adventures of Annie and her friends Hannah and Molly. It is set in England during 1943, about 10 years after the first film, when Annie and her friends Hannah and Molly sail to England after Daddy Warbucks is invited to receive a knighthood. None of the original 1982 cast appear and the film features no musical numbers apart from a reprise of "Tomorrow".
The 1999 television film was produced for The Wonderful World of Disney. It starred Victor Garber, Alan Cumming, Audra McDonald and Kristin Chenoweth, with Oscar winner Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan and newcomer Alicia Morton as Annie. While its plot stuck closer to the original Broadway production, it also omitted "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover", "Annie", "New Deal for Christmas", and a reprise of "Tomorrow." Generally favorably received, the production earned two Emmy Awards and George Foster Peabody Award.
A remake of the Annie film was produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith. It stars Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role and Jamie Foxx in the role of Will Stacks (an update of Daddy Warbucks). It was released on December 19, 2014.
Parodies, imitations and cultural citations
Between 1936 and October 17, 1959, the comic strip Belinda Blue-Eyes (later shortened to Belinda) ran in the United Kingdom in the Daily Mirror. Writers Bill Connor and Don Freeman and artists Stephen Dowling and Tony Royle all worked on the strip over the years. In The Penguin Book of Comics Belinda is described as "a perpetual waif, a British counterpart to the transatlantic Little Orphan Annie."
In 1995, Little Orphan Annie was one of 20 American comic strips included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.
Little Orphan Annie lent itself easily to parody, which was taken up by both Walt Kelly in Pogo (as "Little Arf 'n Nonnie" and later "Lulu Arfin' Nanny") and by Al Capp in Li'l Abner, where Punjab became Punjbag, an oleaginous slob.
Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood satirized the strip in Mad #9 as "Little Orphan Melvin", and later Kurtzman produced a long-running series for Playboy, Little Annie Fanny, in which the lead character is a busty, voluptuous waif who continually loses her clothes and falls into strange sexual situations.
In The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Gilbert Shelton satirized the strip as "Little Orphan Amphetamine", who is a 1960s teenager who runs away from home, and after being scarred by a series of sexual experiences, returns only to tell "Daddy" that he is a "capitalist pig" who should "drop acid".
Children's television host Chuck McCann became well known in the New York/New Jersey market for his imitations of newspaper comic characters; McCann put blank white circles over his eyes during his over-the-top impression of Annie.
Little Orphan Annie was also parodied in an episode of the stop-motion television series Robot Chicken in which Little Orphan Annie fails to grasp the true meaning of a hard knock life when a fellow orphan shows that their lives are relatively decent compared to orphans around the world. Annie reappears in another episode as a vulgar, demanding, and spoiled teenager featured in a parodic documentary chronicling her preparations for her ostentatious upcoming sixteenth birthday celebration in a sketch lampooning reality programs based on the same concept. She quickly tires of her gift from Daddy Warbucks— the planet Mars— and soon winds up suffocating to death after losing her helmet while exploring the planet.
The 1980s children's television program You Can't Do That on Television in its later banned "Adoption" episode, parodied the character as "Little Orphan Andrea". Andrea, like Annie, sported curly red hair and a red dress but unlike her, was a very naughty orphan who had a habit of beating up other kids. A less well-known (or rather, notorious) example was the 'Daddy Fleshbucks' side-story from American Flagg!. The title was parodied in The Simpsons' episode Little Orphan Millie. In the early 1970s, a flavored ice treat for children called Otter Pops (with cartoon otters as flavored mascots such as "Alexander the Grape") featured a character dubbed "Little Orphan Orange."
In the 1983 film A Christmas Story, the main character Ralph is a fan of the Little Orphan Annie radio drama, listening to the show religiously while waiting for his Ovaltine decoder pin. Once he receives the pin, he anxiously copies the show's secret code, but is frustrated upon decoding it to Ovaltine's slogan "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine".
In the film Bad Teacher, Elizabeth (Cameron Diaz) wears a "Little Orphan Annie's wig" when, pretending she is a journalist, she meets the state professor who is in charge of creating and distributing the exams forms, to seduce and put him to sleep. Her short tousled girlish hair-cut, along with the strict tailor-suit she dons, enhances her air of hidden perversion and makes it easy for her (with the help of a big glass of chardonnay mixed with two roofies) to put the professor on his knees. The wig is afterward missing from the school props box, and was much sought, before being retrieved in Elizabeth's drawer.
Harold Gray's work is in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. The Gray collection includes artwork, printed material, correspondence, manuscripts and photographs. Gray’s original pen and ink drawings for Little Orphan Annie daily strips date from 1924 to 1968. The Sunday strips date from 1924 to 1964. Printed material in the collection includes numerous proofs of Little Orphan Annie daily and Sunday strips (1925–68). Most of these are in bound volumes. There are proofsheets of Little Orphan Annie daily strips from the Chicago Tribune-New York Times Syndicate, Inc. for the dates 1943, 1959–61 and 1965–68, as well as originals and photocopies of the printed versions of Little Orphan Annie, both daily and Sunday strips.
- 1924: From Rags to Riches (and Back Again); Just a Couple of Hurried Bites
- 1925: The Silos; Count De Tour
- 1926: School of Hard Knocks; Under the Big Top; Will Tomorrow Never Come?
- 1927: The Blue Bell of Happiness; Haunted House; Other People's Troubles
- 1928: Sherlock, Jr.; Mush and Milk; Just Before the Dawn
- 1929: Farm Relief; Girl Next Door; One Blunder After Another
- 1930: Seven Year Itch; The Frame, the Farm & the Flood; Shipwrecked
- 1931: Busted!; Good Neighbor Policy; Down, But Not Out; And a Blind Man Shall Lead Them; Distant Relations; A Hundred to One
- 1932: Don't Mess with Cupid; They Call Her Big Mama; A House Divided; Cosmic City
- 1933: Pinching Pennies; Retribution; Who'd Chizzle a Blind Man?
- 1934: Bleek House; Phil O. Blustered; The One-Way Road to Justice; Dust Yourself Off
- 1935: Punjab the Wizard; Beware the Hate Mongers; Annie in Hollywood
- 1936: Inkey; On the Lam; The Sole of the Matter; The Gila Story; Those Who are About to Die
- 1937: The Million-Dollar Voice; The Omnipotent Mr. Am; Into the Fourth Dimension; Easy Money
- 1938: A Rose, per Chance; The Last Port of Call; Men in Black
- 1939: At Home on the Range; Assault on the Hacienda; Three Face East; Justice at Play
- 1940: In the Nick of Time; Billy the Kid; Peg O' their Hearts
- 1941: The Happy Warrior; Saints and Cynics; Never Trouble Trouble; On Needles and Pins
- 1942: The Junior Commandos; Out on a Limb
- 1943: The Rat Trap, Next Stop—Gooneyville
- 1944: In a Den of Thieves, Death be Thy Name, Mrs. Bleating-Heart
- Between 1926–34, Cupples & Leon published nine collections of Annie strips:
- Little Orphan Annie (1925 strips, reprinted by Dover and Pacific Comics Club)
- In the Circus (1926 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club)
- Haunted House (1927 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club)
- Bucks the World (1928 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club and in Nemo # 8)
- Never Say Die (1929 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club)
- Shipwrecked (1930 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club)
- A Willing Helper (1931 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club)
- In Cosmic City (1932 strips, reprinted by Dover)
- Uncle Dan (1933 strips, reprinted by Pacific Comics Club)
- Arf: The Life and Hard Times of Little Orphan Annie (1970): reprints approximately half the daily strips from 1935-1945. However, many of the storylines are edited and shortened, with gaps of several months between some strips.
- Dover Publications reprinted two of the Cupples & Leon books and an original collection Little Orphan Annie in the Great Depression which contains all the daily strips from January to September, 1931.
- Pacific Comics Club has reprinted eight of the Cupples & Leon books. They have also published a new series of reprints, with complete runs of daily strip, in the same format at the C&L books, covering some of the daily strips from 1925 to 29:
- The Sentence, 1925 strips
- The Dreamer, strips from January 22, 1926 to April 30, 1926
- Daddy, strips from September 6, 1926 to December 4, 1926.
- The Hobo, strips from December 6, 1926 to March 5, 1927.
- Rich Man, Poor Man, strips from March 7, 1927 to May 7, 1927.
- The Little Worker, strips from October 8, 1927 to December 21, 1927.
- The Business of Giving, strips from November 23, 1928 to March 2, 1929.
- This Surprising World, strips from March 4, 1929 to June 11, 1929.
- The Pro and the Con, strips from June 12, 1929 to September 19, 1929.
- The Man of Mystery, strips from September 20, 1929 to December 31, 1929.
Considering both Cupples & Leon and Pacific Comics Club, the biggest gap is in 1928.
- All of the daily and Sunday strips from 1931–1935 were reprinted by Fantagraphics in the 1990s, in five volumes, each covering a year, from 1931 to 1935.
- Picking up where Fantagraphics left off, Comics Revue magazine reprinted both daily and Sunday strips from 1936 to 1941, starting in Comics Revue #167 and ending in #288.
- Pacific Comics Club reprinted approximately the first six months of the strips from Comics Revue, under the title Home at Last, December 29, 1935 to April 5, 1936.
- Dragon Lady Press reprinted daily and Sunday strips from September 3, 1945 to February 9, 1946.
- In 2008, IDW Publishing started a reprint series The Complete Little Orphan Annie, under its Library of American Comics imprint.
- Will Tomorrow Ever Come? (daily strips, August 1924 – October 1927)
- Darkest Hour is Just before the Dawn (daily strips, October 1927 – December 1929; Sundays 1928)
- And a Blind Man Shall Lead Them (daily strips, December 1929 – December 1931; Sundays April, 1930 – December 1931)
- A House Divided (or Does Fate Trick Trixie?) (dailies and Sundays, January 1932 – July 1933)
- The One-way Road to Justice (dailies and Sundays, July 1933 – February 1935)
- Punjab the Wizard (dailies and Sundays, February 1935 – September 1936)
- The Omnipotent Mr. Am (dailies and Sundays, October 1936 – June 1938)
- The Last Port of Call (dailies and Sundays, June 1938 – February 1940)
- Saints and Cynics (dailies and Sundays, March 1940 – November 1941)
- Junior Commandos (dailies and Sundays, November 1941 - August 1943)
- Death Be Thy Name (dailies and Sundays, August 1943 - April 1945)
- TBA (dailies and Sundays, April 1945 - January 1947)
- Gray Harold (2008). The Complete Little Orphan Annie Volume One: Will Tomorrow Ever Come? Daily Comics 1924–1927. IDW Publishing. pp. 23–7. ISBN 978-1-60010-140-3.
- Young, William H. and Nancy K. (2007). The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Greenwood. pp. 107, 297–8.
- Gray, Harold; Heer, Jeet (2010). Punjab and Politics. The complete Little Orphan Annie Volume Six: Punjab the Wizard Daily and Sunday Comics 1935–1936 (IDW Publishing). pp. 5–13. ISBN 978-1-60010-792-4.
- "Big Deals: Comics’ Highest-Profile Moments," Hogan's Alley #7, 1999
- Neuberger, Richard L. (July 11, 1934). The New Republic: 23. Missing or empty
- Clendenin, James. Herald Dispatch: 1. Missing or empty
- "Fascism in the Funnies". The New Republic: 147. September 18, 1935.
- "Little Orphan Annie". The Nation. October 23, 1935.
- Cagle, Daryl. "The New Deal Kills Daddy Warbucks".
- Smith, Bruce (1982). The History of Little Orphan Annie. Ballantine Books. pp. 43–63. ISBN 0-345-30546-9.
- Monchak, S. J. (September 19, 1942). "War Work of the Cartoonists: Cartoonists Important Factor In Keeping Nation's Morale". Editor & Publisher.
- Rosenthal, Phil (May 13, 2010). "Annie left a homeless orphan in newspaper world". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- McShane, Larry (May 13, 2010). "'Little Orphan Annie' comic canceled by Tribune Media Services". Daily News. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- Harmon, Jim (2001). The Great Radio Heroes. McFarland. pp. 82–5. ISBN 978-0-7864-0850-4.
- Mitchell, Claudia A., and Jacqueline Reid-Walsh (Eds.) (2007). Girl Culture: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood. p. 402.
- Salomonson, Terry. "Juvenile Radio Programs". Retrieved February 7, 2011.
- Perry, George; Aldridge, Alan (1967). The Penguin Book of Comics. Penguin.
- "Brooklyn (Go Hard)"
- "Dirt off Your Shoulder"
- "Boston University: Howard Gotlieb Archive Research Center: Harold Gray Collection".
- "IDW's The Complete Little Orphan Annie Begins in February", IDW Publishing press release via Newsarama.com, June 25, 2007
- Cole, Shirley Bell. Acting Her Age: My Ten Years as a Ten-Year-Old: My Memories as Radio’s Little Orphan Annie. Lunenburg, Vermont: Stinehour Press, 2005.
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