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Li l Abner is a 1959 musical comedy film based on the comic strip of the same name created by Al Capp and the successful Broadway musical of the same name that opened in 1956. The film was produced by Norman Panama and directed by Melvin Frank (co-writers of the Broadway production). It was the second film to be based on the comic strip, the first being RKO s 1940 film, Li l Abner.
It s a typical day in Dogpatch, U. S. A., a hillbilly town where Abner Yokum lives with his parents. Mammy Yokum insists on giving Abner his daily dose of Yokumberry tonic , although he is fully-grown. He has a crush on Daisy Mae Scragg (although he resists marrying her) and she on him; Abner s rival for her affections is the World s Dirtiest Rassler, Earthquake McGoon.
Sadie Hawkins Day is approaching. On this day the girls chase the men and marries whomstever they catches, as Senator Jack S. Phogbound puts it. However, the citizens of Dogpatch find out that their town has been declared the most unnecessary place in the country—and will be the target of an atom bomb, since the nuclear testing site near Las Vegas is allegedly spoiling things for the wealthy gamblers there.
Dogpatch people at first are pleased about leaving. They change their minds when Mammy Yokum points out some of the horrible, awful customs they ll have to adapt to, like regular bathing and (worst of all) going to work for a living. Now anxious to remain, the Dogpatchers try to muster something necessary about their town to save it. The government scientist in charge of the bomb testing, Dr. Rasmussen T. Finsdale, rejects all of their suggestions. However, Mammy brings forth her Yokumberry Tonic , the substance that has made Abner the handsome, muscular, strapping specimen that he is. The only tree in the whole world that grows Yokumberries exists in the Yokums front yard. Thus, the town of Dogpatch will become indispensable to the outside world.
Meanwhile, a greedy business magnate named General Bullmoose covets the tonic as well, since he could market it (as Yoka-Cola, he tells Abner) and uses his wiles to get the tonic dishonestly. This involves Appassionata von Climax, the general s mistress. He cooks up a scheme to get Ms. von Climax to marry Li l Abner, after which Abner would be killed and von Climax would become owner of the tonic, by community property , and turn it over to Bullmoose.
He orders von Climax to enter the race on Sadie Hawkins Day. She catches Li l Abner (with help from Evil Eye Fleegle) and Daisy Mae ends up heartbroken. But then Daisy, Mammy, Pappy and Marryin Sam discover (through Mammy s Conjurin Power ) what General Bullmoose is up to; Daisy promises to marry McGoon if he helps them to save Abner s life. McGoon agrees, and rounds up practically everyone in Dogpatch to go to Washington on the rescue mission.
McGoon and the other Dogpatchers disrupt the society party at which Abner is supposed to drink a toast as a prelude to suffering the whammy—and the whammy-giver, Evil Eye Fleegle, says it won t work unless the subject has drunk liquor. So Bullmoose calls for a champagne toast. Fleegle strikes with his Truth Whammy but McGoon deflects the whammy with a silver platter—and the whammy hits Bullmoose, who confesses his scheme.
Yokumberry Tonic is a failure: although it made the subjects healthy and muscular, they don t care about romance…to their wives chagrin. (This also explains why Abner has resisted marrying Daisy for so long.) Back at Dogpatch — with the tonic rejected, the bombing is on again — the wedding of McGoon and Daisy Mae is on; Romeo Scragg and his kin are armed to keep Marryin Sam from stalling. Daisy Mae has a plan of her own—she shows McGoon the rest of her Scragg relatives (including Priceless and Liceless Scragg, and the Bar Harbor Scraggs, who ve been barred from every harbor in the country ) and he backs out.
Dr. Finsdale orders the wedding stopped in order to evacuate. Pappy Yokum and some of the other Dogpatchers start to pull down an equestrian statue of Jubilation T. Cornpone (the town s founder) from a tall pedestal, claiming they won t leave without it. A stone tablet falls, and it turns out to carry an inscription ordered by Abraham Lincoln, who has declared the city of Dogpatch a National Shrine because of Cornpone s incompetence as a Confederate General. Abner points out You can t bomb a national shrine and Finsdale relents, cancelling the bombing and leaving Abner and Daisy free to marry.
This section does not cite any sources. (July 2014)
|Peter Palmer||Li l Abner Yokum|
|Leslie Parrish||Daisy Mae|
|Stubby Kaye||Marryin Sam|
|Howard St. John||General Bullmoose|
|Stella Stevens||Appassionata von Climax|
|Julie Newmar||Stupefyin Jones|
|Billie Hayes||Mammy Yokum|
|Joe E. Marks||Pappy Yokum|
|Bern Hoffman||Earthquake McGoon|
|Al Nesor||Evil Eye Fleagle|
|Robert Strauss||Romeo Scragg|
|William Lanteau||Available Jones|
|Ted Thurston||Senator Jack S. Phogbound|
|Carmen Alvarez||Moonbeam McSwine|
|Alan Carney||Mayor Dawgmeat|
|Stanley Simmonds||Dr. Rasmussen T. Finsdale|
|Diki Lerner||Lonesome Polecat|
|Joe Ploski||Hairless Joe|
|Jerry Lewis||Itchy McRabbit|
|Lesley-Marie Colburn||Young Dogpatch Girl|
|Valerie Harper||Luke s Wife|
|Beth Howland||Clem s Wife|
|Brad Harris||Muscleman Luke|
|Gordon Mitchell||Muscleman Rufe|
Almost every major character in the movie was portrayed by the same performer who appeared in the role on Broadway. Significant exceptions are Daisy Mae (played by Edie Adams on Broadway), Appassionata von Climax (played on stage by Tina Louise) and Mammy Yokum (played on stage by Charlotte Rae). Jerry Lewis appears in a brief cameo as Itchy McRabbit.
Several songs, with music by Gene De Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, were adapted directly from the Broadway production, but the original portions of the motion picture score were written and conducted by Nelson Riddle and Joseph J. Lilley, which earned them an Oscar nomination for Best Score in 1960 and earned Riddle a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album. The movie was released on December 11, 1959 by Paramount Pictures.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, Unless you are thoroughly allergic to bad grammar and cartoon repartee, you should have a good time at Li l Abner, especially if you re a kid. Variety stated, The musical is lively, colorful and tuneful, done with smart showmanship in every department. John L. Scott of the Los Angeles Times described the film as delightful nonsense with dance numbers that are explosions of energy that set one s feet to twitching. Harrison s Reports wrote that the film slows down appreciably when it dips into complicated plot, but the tunes by Johnny Mercer are sprightly if not memorable and the dances staged by Dee Dee Wood are pure delight. Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post declared, Li l Abner is broad, colorful fun and I should think even Al Capp would be pleased with it. The Monthly Film Bulletin said, The dancing is fresh and energetic but, like the whole film, is unhappily served by the flat, hamfisted direction. Panama and Frank attempt no more than a straight VistaVision record of their Broadway musical, and show a complete indifference to the possibilities of staging such an attractive number as If I Had My Druthers. John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote, On Broadway the show was primitive; in the movies it is Neanderthal.
The film was released on DVD on April 19, 2005, by Paramount Home Entertainment.
|Plot||As Sadie Hawkins Day approaches, Daisy Mae hopes to win the hand of Li’l Abner by catching him in the traditional race.|
|Awards||Nominated for 1 Oscar, 5 nominations total|
|Writers||Melvin Frank, Al Capp, Norman Panama|
|Stars||Leslie Parrish, Stubby Kaye, Peter Palmer|
|Produced by||Norman Panama|
|Music by||Joseph J. Lilley,Nelson Riddle|
|Cinematography by||Daniel L. Fapp|
|Film Editing by||Arthur P. Schmidt|
|Casting By||Edward R. Morse|
|Art Direction by||J. McMillan Johnson,Hal Pereira|
|Set Decoration by||Sam Comer,Grace Gregory|
|Costume Design by||Alvin Colt|
|Makeup Department||Sue Kirkpatrick,Nellie Manley,Frank Westmore,Wally Westmore|
|Production Management||Frank Caffey,C. Kenneth Deland,Curtis Mick|
|Second Unit Director or Assistant Director||Charles C. Coleman,Dale Coleman,Donald Roberts,James A. Rosenberger|
|Art Department||Wayne Buttress,Carl Coleman,Jean Eckart,William Eckart,Gene Lauritzen|
|Sound Department||Howard Beals,Nick Gerolimates,Charles Grenzbach,Harold Lewis,Jim Miller,John Nostri,Bud Parman|
|Visual Effects by||John P. Fulton|
|Camera and Electrical Department||James Grant,James Knott,Loren Nutten,Glen E. Richardson,Herb Welts,Stanley Williams|
|Costume and Wardrobe Department||Alvin Colt,Bill Edwards,Ruth Stella,Yvonne Wood|
|Music Department||Gene de Paul,Lehman Engel,Michael Kidd,Philip J. Lang,Joseph J. Lilley,Johnny Mercer,Genevieve Pitot,Nelson Riddle,Dee Dee Wood,George Parrish,Van Cleave|
|Additional Crew||Marc Breaux,Hal C. Kern,Terence Little,Richard Mueller,Art Sarno,Dee Dee Wood|
|Genres||Comedy, Musical, Family|
|Keywords||dogpatch kentucky,sadie hawkins day race,traveling preacher,song,singer|