Li'l Abner1959

Director: Melvin Frank
Stars: Peter Palmér, Leslie Parrish, Stubby Kaye, Peter Palmer, Howard St. John
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Family
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 114 minutes

This is one movie musical that doesn't bother adapting its stage presentation for the big screen: Li'l Abner cheerfully uses brightly colored, patently fake backdrops and stage sets for its mythical setting. And why not? A movie musical based on a cartoon strip is about as far from reality as you can get. Al Capp's legendary comic about the hillbilly denizens of Dogpatch was brought to Broadway by the estimable comedy team Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, who also produced the movie. Along with sampling Capp's world (the pursuit of noncommittal Abner by Daisy Mae on Sadie Hawkins Day is a major plot device), the movie is a goofy record of 1950s attitudes and concerns--in fact, Dogpatch is threatened with destruction when the government wants to use it as an atomic test site. The actors' Broadway delivery has a deadening effect after a while, and some of the makeup is downright weird (think the Whos in the live-action Grinch). Gene de Paul's music is unmemorable, but Johnny Mercer's lyrics provide considerable fun, and the athletic dances are based on Michael Kidd's stage choreography. Plus, the movie honors Capp's eye for impossibly bodacious women by casting Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones and Stella Stevens (her first movie role) as Appassionata Von Climax. --Robert Horton

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