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FILM

December 10, 2014

ORPHAN ANNIE ON FILM

From the 1932 RKO version. Mitzi Green looks on sympathetically as Matt Moore administers a tonic to Buster Phelps. You can catch this seldom-seen film on TCM from time to time. (c) RKO
From the 1932 RKO version. Mitzi Green looks on sympathetically as Matt Moore administers a tonic to Buster Phelps. You can catch this seldom-seen film on TCM from time to time. (c) RKO

From the 1932 RKO version. Mitzi Green looks on sympathetically as Matt Moore administers a tonic to Buster Phelps. You can catch this seldom-seen film on TCM from time to time. (c) RKO

 

With all the comic-strip characters that were put on film in the 1930s and 1940s, you would have thought that Harold Gray’s precocious moppet would have been a huge deal. Actually, there were a couple of Little Orphan Annie epics put to celluloid, but they were minor successes and rarely screened today.

RKO Pictures produced the first Annie film way back in 1932. The opus starred child star Mitzi Green¬†and was a maudlin, sentimental tale that delighted Depression-weary audiences. Green was a famous child star who was quite popular in the early 1930s and later starred on the Broadway stage after leaving films. Green only made a handful of ‘modern’ films. Perhaps her most familiar one is Lost in Alaska with Abbott and Costello. She was married to director Joe Pevney, who helmed some of the earliest classic Star Trek episodes. An interesting side-note: in an inspired bit of casting, no less than comedian Edgar Kennedy was cast as Daddy Warbucks!

 

RKO Pictures produced an early-talkie version of 'Little Orphan Annie' starring child star Mitzi Green (r).  This 1932 opus was the first effort at putting Harold Gray's comic-strip heroin to film. (c) RKO

RKO Pictures produced an early-talkie version of ‘Little Orphan Annie’ starring child star Mitzi Green (r). This 1932 opus was the first effort at putting Harold Gray’s comic-strip heroin to film. (c) RKO

 

In 1938, Paramount Pictures took a stab at putting Annie on film with their own production. Another child star, Ann Gillis, took on the role as the Red-Haired One. Interestingly, the character is never referred to directly as ‘Little Orphan Annie’ during the whole picture. Gillis matured into an attractive ingenue and made several films. She, too, was another A&C foil in their comedy, In Society.

 

Ann Gillis stared as the Red-Haired Wonder in a 1938 version of the hugely popular comic-strip. Has anyone out there seen this? (c) Paramount

Ann Gillis stared as the Red-Haired Wonder in a 1938 version of the hugely popular comic-strip. Has anyone out there seen this? (c) Paramount

 

It took the Broadway stage to make Annie a true success. The hit stage play and movie made the character a cultural mainstay, and has no indication of leaving us soon. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave for you to decide!

 

Performer Andrea McArdle brought Little Orphan Annie to musical theater success in the 1970s. To many, she was the best of the many that followed her! (c) NBC

Performer Andrea McArdle brought Little Orphan Annie to musical theater success in the 1970s. To many, she was the best of the many that followed her! (c) NBC

 






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