Monday, January 25, 2010

Harold Gray and Little Orphan Annie

Born on January 20th, 1894, this last Wednesday marked the 115th anniversary of the birth of Harold Gray, creator/writer/cartoonist of Little Orphan Annie.

I saw it come and go, but with hurricane force winds, biblical rainfall and what-not of last week I failed to comment on it. Shame on me!

Little Orphan Annie was one of those epic comic strips that could only belong to years past of room for it's creator to move and unfold. It was also such and extension of it's creator and his own philosophies and outlook on life and the world around him, that it was a true work of art!

Who's that little chatter box?
The one with pretty auburn locks?
Whom do you see?
It's Little Orphan Annie.
She and Sandy make a pair,
They never seem to have a care!
Cute little she,
It's Little Orphan Annie.

Bright eyes, cheeks a rosy glow,
There's a store of healthiness handy.
Mite-size, always on the go,
If you want to know - "Arf", says Sandy.

Always wears a sunny smile,
Now, wouldn't it be worth a while,
If you could be,
Like Little Orphan Annie?
That's the theme song to the radio adventure serial based on our heroine...and that's me dressed like her with Sandy. My apologies to her and to Harold, this is what happens when your at the drawing board too late at night.

The stories that were told in the LOA strip were dense and layered...and really took their time getting you in the right state of mind. Annie began as a humor strip in 1924 about a little girl in an orphanage that quickly evolved into a continuity as she was adopted by the Warbucks' in 1925.

As the strip and years crashed on, so did the stock market and America's economy. Gray's own views about honesty, hard-work, self-reliance and so on, began to be reflected more and more through his characters and morals to his stories.

Like I said, stories so dense and layered that it took a year or more to tell each adventure.

Can you imagine anyone doing that in a newspaper strip today? Or any medium?

And he did it really well.

Gray's more conservative views became more and more black and white as he grew older and by the 1960's. as America was beginning to see ironically in more shades of grey, and his strip fell under heavy criticism. By his death in 1968 he and his strip were looked on as an old dinosaur of the past.

So it goes and always for a reason.

But the strip that Gray worked on and his skill as a storyteller can't be denied and should always be remember and read. I've refrained from posting any samples of the strip this time around, because single strips can't do it justice. Those year long stories have to be read and digested in full.

I'm happy to see that there are some reprints being done of the strip, ambitiously titled "The Complete Little Orphan Annie" and you can find them here. If you're at all interested in reading a true American classic and a real work of art you should check it out.

Thanks Harold! You really told some great stories and told them well!

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