Thursday, April 23, 2015

Female Comic Strip Character Movie No. 10: ANNIE

This is the one I've been dreading. It is a musical with one of the sappiest songs ever written. It is based on a comic strip that had an extreme right-wing, bigoted slant and some of the worst artwork ever. Come on, I've been drawing people since I was five and I HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN HOW TO DRAW PUPILS IN EYES! Yes, this is Annie, based on Little Orphan Annie.

Little Orphan Annie was created by Harold Gray in 1924. In the original story, Annie is adopted by millionaire industrialist Oliver Warbucks and his wife from an orphanage run by cranky Miss Asthma. The wife, who was the daughter of a union plumber, hated Annie. When Daddy Warbucks would leave on business, Mrs. Warbucks would send Annie back to the orphanage, which was later ran by another cranky woman name Ma Liscious.

Annie would escape and get into an adventure with spies, gangsters, labor unions, Democrats and Hollywood studio executives. Luckily, Annie would be saved by Daddy Warbucks and his two bodyguards, the Indian mystic Punjab and the ninja-like Asp. At one point, Daddy Warbucks died because the American people re-elected FDR. Daddy Warbucks magically came back to life after FDR died (I am not making this up).

In 1977, a musical based on Annie began on Broadway and was a huge success. In 1982, Annie became a movie. The movie was directed by legendary director John Huston. It stared Aileen Quinn as Annie and Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks. Quinn is great at saying "Leaping Lizards!" at the right time.

The musical removed the characters of Mrs. Warbucks, Punjab and the Asp. It also removed the right-wing propaganda and, ironically, made FDR a character. The movie brings back Punjab (Geoffrey Holder) and the Asp (Roger Minami), as well as adding Daddy Warbucks' gyro-copter from the comics, which he uses to take Annie to visit the White House. It is shown that there is a contentious relationship between Daddy Warbucks and President Roosevelt (Edward Hermann). It is at this point in the film that Annie sings the aforementioned sappiest song ever written, "Tomorrow," which FDR likes so much that he makes Daddy Warbucks and Elenore sing along.

In both the musical and movie, Miss Asthma/Ma Liscious are replaced by Miss Hannigan, an abusive, drunken floozy played by Carol Burnett. Certain things in television history have been comedy goldmines, such as Ernie Kovacs camera tricks, Benny Hill chasing women, David Letterman breaking stuff and Carol Burnett acting sexy. She does it here in a musical number with Albert Finney.

The first part of this movie is kind of sweet and corny, however the climax, where Annie is rescued by the Asp and Punjab, in the gyro-copter, from a railroad bridge is exciting.

I should mention there were two other movies from the comic strips heyday, but neither of those are available.

An entire generation of kids have grown up watching Annie, not knowing about its early beginnings in the comics. Hard to believe but Aileen Quinn is grown up too (photo above). The music has become part of our culture as "Hard Knock Life" was used by rapper Jay-Z and David Letterman used "Tomorrow" as background music for a film clip of an owl eating a mouse. The movie removed some of the darker eliminates and replaced it with a good dose of sunshine and hope. So watching it wasn't a bad thing after all.


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