The Comic Strip Blondie was created in 1930 by Chic Young. When Chic died in 1973, his son Dean took over the writing while several different artists handled the drawing. In fact, both father and son have often only handled creative control while gag writers and artists actually worked on the strip.
Originally the story was about a flapper named Blondie Boopadoop who dated Dagwood Bumstead, the son of a millionaire.
Dagwood’s parents didn’t think Blondie was good enough for their son, so they did everything they could to prevent the two from getting married.
After three years of this story-line, Young had Dagwood go on a hunger strike until his parents consented to the marriage. They finally did, but only after writing Dagwood out of their will. Blondie and Dagwood were married and set forth on a middle-class life—the theme that has continued until today. In the early strips, Blondie was a ditz and Dagwood was her straight man. After the marriage, Blondie’s character became more sensible and Dagwood became the bumbling fool Along the way, the couple had two children, Alexander (originally called “Baby Dumpling”) and Cookie, who grew up in the strip until they reached their teenage years where they apparently stalled out. At a time when comics and movies insisted on showing married couples in separate beds, Young insisted on showing Blondie and Dagwood sleeping together in the same bed.
The strip was so popular that it spawned a series of 28 movies, beginning with Blondie in 1938. There was also a TV show and a radio program.
When we had the Chicago Tribune delivered, I would scan through the comics page and read the scrips I enjoyed. Blondie wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed it enough to read it every day.
For the purposes of this look, I read:
- Blondie: The Bumstead Family History, by Dean Young. It was an overview of the strip, with commentary on each of the main characters. Most of the sample strips were from the Dean Young years, but there was a section on the pre-marriage strips.
- Blondie: Book Number 1, a collection of strips from 1984 and 1985.
- Blondie: The Courtship and Wedding — Complete Daily Comics 1930-1933, all the strips from the beginning through the wedding. I enjoyed this more than I expected to—probably because it was fun seeing 1930’s humor. I decided to order the next volume.
I also watched two of the movies.
- Blondie (1938) — It’s Blondie (Penny Singleton) and Dagwood’s ( Arthur Lake) fifth wedding anniversary, but Dagwood’s in trouble. He owes $500 to a credit agency because he co-signed a loan for a woman named Elsie and she skipped. The agency is coming to his house to repossess all his furniture. Meanwhile. Blondie decides to trade in all the Bumstead furniture for new stuff. Dagwood’s one chance to escape his problems is to negotiate a deal with C.P. Hazlip for his boss, Mr. Dithers. He’s waiting for Hazlip in his hotel lobby when he begins to help a man try to fix a vacuum cleaner. He doesn’t realize the man is Hazlip (who has a daughter also named Elsie). Before long, Blondie thinks Dagwood is having a fling with Elsie Hazlip. Dagwood borrows his mother’s car and hits a police car. Hazlip is arrested for stealing the hotel vacuum cleaner. Everyone ends up in court and things don’t look good. But then Blondie steps forward and saves the day by explaining things to the judge as only she can. Hazlip signs the deal with Dagwood, but Blondie won’t let Dithers in on it until he gives Dagwood a huge raise. The movie managed to be stupid, sweet, and funny at the same time. I gave it a 7.
- Blondie on a Budget (1940) — Blondie (Penny Singleton) wants a fur coat. Dagwood (Arthur Lake) want to join a fishing club. They can’t afford both and can’t easily afford either. Dagwood’s ex-girlfriend Joan (Rita Hayworth) shows up to give Dagwood a contract (she works for a company Dagwood’s company does business with). Joan volunteers to give Dagwood a ride and the two end up stranded in the country. Their car is towed into town and they go see a movie while waiting for it to be repaired. Dagwood enters a lottery at the theater. When she finds out Dagwood spent the day with his ex, Blondie is jealous. Dagwood tells her the truth about his day and promises not to see Joan again. But then he wins the theater lottery and has to pick up his money. He has to take Joan along because it’s her signature on the card. Dagwood decides to use the money he won to buy Blondie her fur. He takes Joan along to make sure it fits. Blondie sees Dagwood and Joan together at the store buying a fur coat and decides to get a divorce, but a wise lawyer talks her into going home. After a bunch more muddle, they finally get their stories straight and all is well. It was interesting seeing the pre-stardom Rita Hayworth. Her character seemed to be along just to give Blondie and Dagwood something to misunderstand each other about. There wasn’t much of a story to the first movie, but by this one (number 5 in the series), it’s obvious that the producers had already settled into a formula that didn’t require logic or creativity. I gave it a 5. I can’t imagine how people managed to watch another 23 of these.
I listened to one episode of the radio program, entitled, “Dagwood’s New Suit” which aired on October 30, 1939. Dagwood has been chosen to be a model in a fashion show put on by Mrs. Dither’s. He goes to a clothing store and gets talked into buying a horrid suit. He’s about to embarrass Mrs. Dithers, which will put his job with Mr. Dithers in jeopardy. But then Blondie has words with the clerk at the store and gets everything worked out. It was just silly.