Friday, November 27, 2015

Little Orphan Annie

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.

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 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".

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