Jun 24, 2015
Beefcake and bonding in "Bringing Up Father"
It starred Jiggs, no first name, an elderly, pudgy person, and his wife Maggie. They both had pug-dog noses and scary, pupil-less eyes and used dashes instead of periods to end their sentences -- see how bizarre that looks -- it's just wrong --
Jiggs and Maggie were noveau-riche. Jiggs longed to return to the old neighborhood, to have working-class corned beef and cabbage at Dinty Moore's diner. But Maggie doted on her newfound status. She kept going to teas, receptions, operas, and dinners with people whose names were horrible puns.
Obviously a critique of the myth of the heterosexual nuclear family as most evolved, most stable, most normal of all family types.
For some crazy reason, toy producers in the 1920s thought that kids loved the stories about Jiggs trying to sneak out of the house to drink with Dinty Moore. They produced toys of all types, including dolls, cutouts, and Big Little Books.
There were dozens of movie adaptions and comedy shorts, beginning in 1915. In 1928, Daughter (named Ellen) got a boyfriend played by Grant Withers (top photo). The last film appearance of Maggie and Jiggs was in the The Man Who Hated Laughter, a 1972 installment of the Saturday Superstar Movie, based on yet another ludicrous belief that the ancient strip attracted child readers.
Anachronisms that merely added to the discomfort.
Recently I bought From Sea to Shining Sea, a compendium of strips from 1939-1940 written primarily by McManus's assistant, Zeke Zekley. It featured a continuity in which Daughter marries a British nobleman, Lord Worthnotting. The family celebrates by taking them an extended cross-country honeymoon.
Wherever they visit, Maggie and Daughter go shopping, leaving Jiggs and Lord Worthnotting to go skiing, hiking, camping, and sightseeing on their own.
Before the continuity is over (and Lord Worthnotting vanishes from the strip), the two have buddy-bonded so extensively that one could almost mistake them for the newlywed couple.
Apparently Zeke Zekley knew something that McManus didn't.
When McManus died in 1954, Zekley was in line to take over the strip, but the syndicate gave the job to Vernon Green instead, who returned to the nuclear-family-foibles.
Zekley went on to draw his own strips, including those used in The Tab Hunter Show (1960-1961), with the gay beefcake actor playing a horny "bachelor cartoonist."
He died in 2005.
See also: The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie