26 March 2001 | lugonian
Meet the Bumsteads
BLONDIE (Columbia, 1938), directed by Frank R. Strayer, introduces Chic Young's famous comic strip characters, the Bumsteads, to the silver screen in the persona of Penny Singleton as Blondie; Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead; Larry Simms as Baby Dumpling; and Jonathan Hale as Mr. J.C. Dithers.
In this series opener, Blondie, Dagwood and their four-year-old son they call Baby Dumpling, along with their dog, Daisy, live in a simple community going through their daily routines. Though simple enough, a chain of unfortunate events soon come one after the other at the time of Blondie and Dagwood's fifth wedding anniversary. Blondie starts the show by planning a surprise anniversary party and presenting Dagwood with the house of brand new furniture. While Dagwood is trying to impress his boss, Mr. Dithers, in trying to contact a very important client for the firm by waiting for him in the hotel lobby where he is staying, Dagwood befriends a middle-aged gentleman (Gene Lockhart) in trying to fix a broken down vacuum cleaner. Coming up to this man's room, Dagwood is introduced to the man he calls C.P., and his daughter, Elsie (Ann Doran), unaware that this is the man Dagwood must contact for the firm. Problems ensue when Blondie suspects Dagwood is having a secret rendezvous with an Elsie Watson, and mistakes CP's daughter to be that girl, considering Dagwood was seen with Elsie at the hotel by Blondie's former sweetheart, Chester Franey (Gordon Oliver). Chester shows up at the Bumsteads anniversary party, telling Blondie of the situation to Blondie at the gathering of guests consisting of Blondie's mother (Kathleen Lockhart), and sister, Dot (Dorothy Moore), leading to a World War battle. Poor Dagwood must get CP and his daughter to come to his house to straighten out everything, but more complications ensue. And yes, Dagwood gets fired for the first of many times on screen by Dithers.
Setting the pattern in future film installments is Blondie getting jealous when she believes Dagwood is tangled with another woman; Dagwood running out of the house and running over the postman in order to catch his morning bus for work; and Alvin Fuddow (Danny Mummert), Baby Dumpling's "genius" friend, getting his chance to show off his smartness, etc. Supporting the cast are Irving Bacon as Mr. Beasley, the postman, the surname later changed to Crum in future installments); Fay Helm as Alvin's mother; Ian Wolfe as the courtroom judge, along with several other character actors. And let's not forget Daisy, the Bumstead dog, who is always the scene stealer. Fortunately, American Movie Classics, which premiered BLONDIE October 8, 1995, has restored its original theatrical opening and closing titles, starting with the Columbia logo, doing away with the tag-on opening and ending with the King Features logo and 1960s-style sing along theme by unknown vocalists that accompanied the movie and its sequels when distributed to local television in 1970. Interestingly, when shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: May 1, 2018), the cable channel that airs restored movie prints, reverted to the King Features opening from the 1970s instead. BLONDIE is an enjoyable entry that produced 27 more movie episodes, ending with 1950s BEWARE OF BLONDIE. One particular thing about the BLONDIE series is that the central characters are played by the same actors throughout the entire series. And no one can play Blondie and Dagwood better than Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake. Sequel: BLONDIE MEETS THE BOSS (1939) (***)