Little Orphan Annie
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Author: Harold Gray
Current status / schedule: Ended
Launch date: August 5, 1924
End date: June 13, 2010
Syndicate: Tribune Media Services
Genre(s): Humor, Action, Adventure
Little Orphan Annie is a daily American comic strip created by Harold Gray (1894 - 1968) and syndicated by Tribune Media Services. The strip took its name from the 1885 poem ''Little Orphant Annie'' by James Whitcomb Riley, and made its debut on August 5, 1924 in the New York Daily News. It ranked number one in popularity in a Fortune poll in 1937.
The plot follows the wide ranging adventures of Annie, her dog Sandy, and her benefactor Oliver ''Daddy'' Warbucks. Secondary characters include Punjab, the Asp and Mr. Am. The strip attracted adult readers with political commentary that targeted (among other things) organized labor, the New Deal and communism.
Following Gray's death in 1968, several artists drew the strip and, for a time, ''classic'' strips were rerun. Little Orphan Annie inspired a radio show in 1930, film adaptations by RKO in 1932 and Paramount in 1938 and a Broadway musical Annie in 1977 (which itself was released as a film in 1982). The strip's popularity declined over the years and was running in only 20 newspapers when it was cancelled on June 13, 2010.
Little Orphan Annie was adapted to a 15 minute radio show that debuted on WGN Chicago in 1930 and went national on NBC's Blue Network beginning April 6, 1931. The show was one of the first comic strips adapted to radio, attracted about 6 million fans, and left the air in 1942. Radio historian Jim Harmon attributes the show's popularity in The Great Radio Heroes to the fact that it was the only radio show to deal with and appeal to young children. In 1931, when the show debuted, radio had yet to establish coast to coast networks so two separate casts performed, one in San Francisco starring Floy Margaret Hughes and the other in Chicago starring Shirley Bell as Annie, Stanley Andrews as ''Daddy'', and Allan Baruck (and later Mel TormŽ) as Joe Corntassel. When coast to coast networking was established in 1933, the Chicago cast became the permanent one. Announcer Pierre Andre provided Sandy's ''Arf!'' and sang the theme (as Uncle Andy). Bobbe Dean briefly played the character in 1934 - 1935 during a contract dispute between the studio and Bell, and Janice Gilbert portrayed Annie from 1940 to 1942. Leonard Salvo was the show's organist.
The show was initially sponsored by Ovaltine, a flavored milk supplement, and its scripts were written by Ovaltine's Chicago ad agency staff. They shunned the overt political themes of Gray's newspaper strips and concentrated instead on pitching Ovaltine, using almost seven minutes of each broadcast to do so. Fans could redeem Ovaltine proofs of purchase for a secret decoder ring or badge that decoded brief messages airing in the last moments of the show. In 1940, Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies Cereal became the show's sponsor and brought fictional aviator Captain Sparks to the show. Sparks eventually became the star, relegating Annie to secondary player