1959's Li'l Abner was adapted from the hit 1956 Broadway musical--which, in turn, was inspired by the satirical comic strip by Al Capp. Peter Palmer recreates his Broadway role as Li'l Abner Yokum, the handsome, muscle-bound, muscle-brained leading hillbilly of Dogpatch, USA. The citizens of Dogpatch are in an uproar because their ramshackle ...
1959's Li'l Abner was adapted from the hit 1956 Broadway musical--which, in turn, was inspired by the satirical comic strip by Al Capp. Peter Palmer recreates his Broadway role as Li'l Abner Yokum, the handsome, muscle-bound, muscle-brained leading hillbilly of Dogpatch, USA. The citizens of Dogpatch are in an uproar because their ramshackle community has been designated the "most useless" town in America, and therefore a prime candidate for an atomic bomb testing site. At first, the Dogpatchers consider their least-desirable status a great honor, but then they despair upon realizing that they'll have to vacate the premise before the annual girl-chases-boy Sadie Hawkins Day race. Together with his Mammy (Billie Hayes) and Pappy (Joe E. Marks), Li'l Abner is dispatched to Washington DC, to argue that Dogpatch has some vital significance: after all, only in Dogpatch can one partake of the Yokumberry Tonic, the source of Abner's super strength. Shifty billionaire General Bullmoose (Howard St. John) wants that Yokumberry tonic for his own devices, and to that end dispatches his lady friend Appasionatta von Climax (Stella Stevens) to Dogpatch to catch Li'l Abner during the Sadie Hawkins race and thus secure the mountain boy's cooperation via marriage. Li'l Abner's erstwhile girl friend Daisy Mae Scragg (Leslie Parrish) would likewise like to snare Abner in the race, but Appasionata wins, thanks to the squirrelly Evil Eye Fleegle (Al Nesor), whose "triple whammy" paralyzes Abner just inches before the finish line. If you think all this is unbelievable, wait till you see how the story resolves itself. Featured in the cast is Stubby Kaye as Marryin' Sam, who leads the hillbilly chorus in the musical's best number, "Jubilation T. Corpone". Other Johnny Mercer-Gene de Paul tunes carried over from the Broadway version of Li'l Abner are "A Typical Day," "If I Had My Druthers," "Namely You," "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands," "Past My Prime," "Put 'Em Back (The Way They Wuz)" and "The Matrimonial Stomp."The film is staged in the same broad, caricatured manner as the play, which only adds to the fun. An earlier, unrelated movie adaptation of Li'l Abner, filmed in 1940, is best forgotten, as is a series of lukewarm Abner cartoons produced by Screen Gems in the late forties. Hal Erickson, Rovi
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TITLE: Li'l Abner (Musical)
GENRE: Comic Opera (based on the Braodway musical)
CAST: Peter Palmer, Leslie Parish, Stubby Kaye, Howard St. John, Julie Newmar, Stella Stevens, Billie Hayes, Joe E Marks, Bern Hoffman, Al Nesor, Robert Strauss, Carmen Alvarez, Diki Lerner and if that wasn't enough, uncredited appearances by Jerry Lewis, Donna Douglas, Valerie Harper (and I swear I saw Betty Hutton in the Chorus line)
PLOT: The US Government plans to keep the fall out from nuclear tests in Nevada from ruining Las Vegas by turning Dogpatch into its new testing site. The need to evacuate the town conflicts with the traditional Sadie Hawkins Day Celebration. All heck breaks loose as they try to save the town, Li'l Abner and all the rest from the greedy hands of an evil tycoon who wants to own Pansy Abner's miraculous concoction for building strong bodies. All the while, Marryin' Sam keeps busy quoting the costs of all his wedding options.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT: 9.3 of 10: They took the Broadway revisioning of the 1940 film onto the soundstages of Hollywood, hired the best available costumers, screenwriters and set designers then let Nelson Riddle re-score the music and made a new hit. I just cannot figure out why the leads of this effort did not become more famous and garner more important roles. They all are terrific in this musical on celluloid.
ADDED NOTES: Al Nesor, who's a ringer for Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H fame plays a character who professionally practices the "evil eye" and slithers across the stage like a weasel in a zoot suit. Comic Genius set to music.
Apr 24, 2009
A Remake that Saves the Whole Derned Town
This version had the benefit of experiences gained while pleasing Broadway Stage audiences.
Stubby Kaye steals the show.
(compare with the 1940 Version)