Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dumb Dora

Dumb Dora's wasn't so dumb. Matter of fact, she was one of the most successful comic strip girls of her day.

Dumb Dora

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A dumb Dora is 1920s American slang for a foolish woman.[1][2]
The epithet arose from the vaudeville act of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen,[3] It was eventually turned into a classic comic strip produced by King Features Syndicate.[3] Although this strip was discontinued in 1935, a popular 1960s and 1970s CBS game show, Match Game, occasionally alluded to the strip by asking those watching in the studio to shout in unison, "How dumb is she?" (borrowing from a routine from The Tonight Show).[3] Flappers of the 1920s were also sometimes likened to dumb Doras.[4]

Chick Young's DUMB DORA ( March 7, 1929 )


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There, in a nutshell, is the history of Dumb Dora. Actually the comic strip was originated by Chic Young, whose later "Blondie" is much the same as his version of Dumb Dora. The syndicate then turned the strip over to Paul Fung and later to Bill Dwyer, who produced the strip with the aid of Milt Caniff.

Milt Caniff discussed this period of his life in an interview by Will Eisner that was originally published in WILL EISNER'S SPIRIT MAGAZINE issues number 34 and 35:

Caniff: …[in 1932] when I reached New York I called Bil Dwyer who had also worked on the Columbus Dispatch.

Eisner: Oh—he did Dumb Dora, that was it.

Caniff: Well, it's pertinent here. I called him just socially and told him I was in town to say hello. I didn't know where he lived, on Christopher Street. I didn't even know where Christopher Street was. So he said, "My God, I'm glad you called! I've got a problem here. Come on down!" This was like the first night I was in town and he had been submitting things to King Features and selling gags, by the way, to the magazines, Colliers and the New Yorker. Anyway, he had submitted a gag-type strip to King Features and he got a call back saying that Paul Fung was being pulled off Dumb Dora and Dwyer had the assignment. Here he was suddenly with six strips and a Sunday page to do and he'd never done anything except single panels.

Eisner: Oh boy!

Caniff: And he was in trouble. Frank Engli was helping him.

Eisner: Frank Engli...He was a sports cartoonist, right?

Caniff: No, he did lettering. He later on did a strip called Looking Back, about stone age characters—

Eisner: Oh, I see.

Caniff: —very well done cartooning. But his lettering was especially good. So I went down to see them and they were laboring away at the first release. Bil was a good gag writer, but he'd never had this kind of assignment before. So he said to me, "Will you sit in on this thing and especially draw the girls?" So I laid out the first batch of stuff and again, it was not hard for me to do because I had those eleven o'clock deadlines every morning. And so then I inked the girls and he inked the other characters; very simple drawing.

Eisner: Who wrote the stuff?

Caniff: Dwyer. He was a very good gag man. Chic Young had originated the character and then Paul finally took over from Chic when Chic started Blondie. Paul was drawing it before Dwyer. I never did find out, by the way, why he withdrew.

Eisner: Dumb Dora was a very successful strip in its day.

Caniff: Maybe Fung had a fight with King Features. I don't know and I never did ask. So we made the deadline, which was the thing that was bothering Dwyer, but in the mean time I had to go to work the next morning at eight o'clock....

Play money printed with the Sunday comic strip.

Paper doll printed with the Sunday comic strip.

Paper doll of Dumb Dora herself.

Cover Of A Big Little Book

And here for your perusing pleasure is none other than Gracie Allen herself.

She wasn't so dumb, either.

One other thing: there's also a "Dumb Dora" reference in the 1935 Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly comedy HOT MONEY.

Dumb Dora:

Dumb Dora "Type":

HOT MONEY ( Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly movie with a Dumb Dora reference in it ):


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