Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Li'l Abner in Dogpatch Today

There have been quite a few live action interpretations of Al Capp's classic LI'L ABNER comic strip but few besides the Broadway musical of the fifties could really be called successful. In the sixties there was a sitcom pilot that didn't sell. In the early seventies, there was a new TV musical (featuring Billie "Witchipoo" Hayes as the ideal Mammy Yokum!). In November of 1978, however, there was one that seems to have fallen through the cracks as I can't find it on IMDB at all.

LI'L ABNER IN DOGPATCH TODAY was a one hour NBC variety/musical TV special produced by LAUGH-IN's George Schlatter. As you can see from the ad, Stephen Burns starred as Abner. Burns was one of those under the radar character actors who did a number of things during that period and then faded away. Daisy Mae was played by Debra Feuer who had a slightly better career and would later be married to Mickey Rourke.

Capp had already stopped his strip by this point but the special stayed true to its ideals in satirizing women's lib in connection with the famous Sadie Hawkins day. Polly Bergen and Kaye Ballard appeared as thinly veiled parodies of the real-life Phyllis Schlafly and Bella Abzug. In this case, Phyllis Shoefly and Bella Asgood! Louie Bye seems odd casting for Capp's General Bullmoose. The oddest casting listed in the TV Guide, however, is Rhonda Bates as the strip's ultimate sex symbol, the temptress Apassionata Von Climax!

Bates was around quite a bit in late seventies TV. She was over 6 feet tall and had a great, toothy grin and an undisguisable Southern accent. She was funny but, no offense, not sexy. And yet here she was following in the steamy heels of Tina Louise in the Broadway version and Stella Stevens in the subsequent movie.

Sadly, I have no memory of who played Mammy and Pappy Yolum. TV GUIDE doesn't say and I can find no info online at all other than the barest hint that the show ever existed.

3 comments:

  1. Oh, so it DID exist!! I thought I was hallucinating this thing all these years!!

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  2. I have an old beta tape. It's one of the first things I ever recorded on video.

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  3. Li'l Abner in Dogpatch Today

    Produced by George Schlatter
    Directed by Jack Regas
    Written by Norman Panama with Tino Insana, Jim Staahl, Jim Fisher, and George Schlatter
    Additional Material by Digby Wolfe
    Special Musical Material by Billy Barnes
    Associate Producer -- Gary Necessary
    Cartoons Designed by Sergio Aragones
    Production Adviser -- Robert Kelly
    Art Director -- Steven R. Moore
    Music Arranged and Conducted by Tommy Oliver
    Choreographer -- Dee Dee Wood
    Music Coordinators -- Marvin Laird, D'Vaughn Pershing
    Costumes by Michael Travis
    Casting by Bob Manahan
    Assistant to the Producer -- June Scott
    Videotape Editor -- Ed Brennan
    Unit Manager -- Don Baer
    Technical Director -- O. Tamburri
    Lighting Director -- Carl Pitsch
    Audio -- Bill Cole
    Video -- Ed Huston
    Associate Director -- Rick Locke
    Stage Managers -- Jerry Romano, Sheila Stewart
    Makeup -- Harry Blake
    Hair Stylist -- Mari Loshin
    Creative Consultant -- Digby Wolfe

    Mammy Yokum -- Susan Tolsky
    Pappy Yokum -- Don Potter
    Daisy Mae -- Debra Feuer
    Li'l Abner -- Stephan Burns
    General Bullmoose -- Louis Nye
    Apassionata Von Climax -- Rhonda Bates
    Bella Asgood -- Kaye Ballard
    Phyllis Shoefly -- Polly Bergen
    The Scragg Family -- The Graduates
    Moonbeam McSwine -- Deborah Zon
    Lonesome Polecat -- Diki Lerner
    Hairless Joe -- Ben Davidson
    Stupefyin' Jones -- Charlene Ryan
    Dogpatch TV Anchorman Walter Crinkley -- Jack Harrell
    City Council:
    Worthless -- Jason Roberts
    Toothless -- Mindy Sterling
    Senseless -- Talmage Scott
    Sexless -- Prudence Wright Holmes
    Marryin' Sam -- Leonard Feiner

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