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MEET

Cartoonist Chic Young

THE

S D A E T S M B U cker’s Comic Strip Family Knickerbo

hough she turns 80 this year, Blondie still doesn’t look a day over 30. Blondie made her debut in cartoonist Chic Young’s classic comic strip in September 1930. But, like other successful comic characters, she didn’t become a real doll until after she found movie stardom. Eight years later, Hollywood produced the first Blondie film, and not long after that box office success, the Knickerbocker Toy and Doll Co. added the Bumstead family to its line of licensed movie character dolls. Blondie’s story, though, begins in the twilight of the Flapper Era. Young’s original concept portrayed her as something of a floozy, a golden-haired gold digger with a collection of wealthy boyfriends. Among this parade of playboys was a particularly dimwitted fellow named Dagwood. Originally, Blondie (she dropped her maiden name, Boopadoop, when she became Mrs. Dagwood Bumstead) was just another flapper comic strip. And without Young’s flash of inspiration, she might soon have disappeared from newspaper pages, as did the then better-known Betty Boop, after the Roarin’ 20s plunged into the Great Depression. The cartoonist realized that to survive, Blondie had to find a new life. It was time for her to get married and settle down with a baby son and a comical hubby, a comic relief that ordinary Americans could relate to in the hard-times ‘30s. As Young re-scripted the Blondie storyline, Dagwood’s father, railroad tycoon J. Bolling Bumstead, disapproved of his son’s marriage and cut him off without a penny. That set the stage for the Bumsteads’ middle class lifestyle. By 1935, Blondie and Dagwood were comic strip stars. And they are still going strong today, at least with many older readers. The strip appears in more than 2,300 newspapers in 55 countries around the world. Its success caught Hollywood’s attention and, in 1938, Columbia Pictures released its first Blondie comedy. In the title role, Columbia cast a good looking blonde starlet, Penny 24

By Don Jensen

Singleton. As Dagwood, the studio chose Arthur Lake, a comic actor who had been born into a circus family. Child actor Larry Simms, now 75 and retired in Thailand, played Baby Dumpling in all the films. For all three, their roles dominated their entire “B” movie careers, which lasted through a dozen years and 28 films, finishing with “Beware of Blondie” in 1950. From Shirley Temple and Jane Withers to Skippy and Snow White, screen success seemed a sure ticket to dolldom. Manufacturers such as Ideal, Effanbee, Madame Alexander and a number of smaller doll making competitors were quick to spot a popular film character and jump in with a doll to match. The Knickerbocker Toy and Doll Co., founded in Brooklyn in 1922 and previously known mostly for teddy bears and stuffed animals, had started to make composition dolls based on popular Hollywood animated characters. Knickerbocker president Leo L. Weiss – later he would change his name to White – moved quickly and cut a licensing deal with Young’s comic strip syndicator, King Features. Soon the company had a Dagwood doll on the market. Knickerbocker never revealed the artist who sculpted the spoton prototype, but stylistically, and because he created three of every four American dolls in the 1930s, a good guess would be the recognized doll master, Bernard Lipfert. Lipfert, or whoever the artist was, truly captured Young’s Dagwood. Knickerbocker’s Brooklyn factory made him as a 14-inch doll with composition hands and a flange head, with molded, painted hair and painted eyes. He has a cloth body, arms and legs, and his brown oil cloth shoes are sewn onto his feet. Dagwood is dressed in black pants and jacket with white shirt and red bow tie. Knickerbocker also produced 9-1/2-inch Baby Dumpling, the Bumstead’s first born, who bears a strong comic resemblance to his “father.” Baby Dumpling got an infant “sister,” Cookie, who first appeared in the comic strip in April 1941. Thereafter, he insisted

Profile for Antique Doll Collector Magazine

September 2010  

Special Chase Dolls • All Bisques • Meet the Bumsteads • Dolls’ Houses from the Old Salem Toy Museum • UFDC Salesroom • Antique Blue Ribbon...

September 2010  

Special Chase Dolls • All Bisques • Meet the Bumsteads • Dolls’ Houses from the Old Salem Toy Museum • UFDC Salesroom • Antique Blue Ribbon...