Li'l Abner (1959)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Fantasy, Satire  |   Release Date - Dec 11, 1959 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner was phenomenally popular in its prime, roughly the equivalent of Doonesbury in the 1970s and 1980s -- and, like that later strip, frequently taking on a wide variety of political issues. While the film version includes some political commentary -- particularly in "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands" and in the use of atom bomb testing as a plot device -- the real emphasis is on creating a "live" version of the strip's cartoon world, which it does remarkably well. Garishly colorful and sprightly, Melvin Frank's Dogpatch seems to have leapt right off the four-color funnies page. The script is silly but endearingly so, and the fine Johnny Mercer-Gene de Paul songs perfectly capture Capp's worldview. Peter Palmer apparently was born to play Li'l Abner, having been blessed with a physiognomy which perfectly matches the strip's character. As a bonus, he has an easy, agreeable way with a song and is comfortable with the iffy Dogpatch lingo. Leslie Parrish is a charming Daisy Mae, and Bille Hayes a perfect Mammy Yokum. Stubby Kaye is especially good as Marryin' Sam, creating quite a commotion when his distinctive belt rips into "Jubilation T. Cornpone." Abner is too slight to be a classic, but it has a goofily endearing quality all its own.