Based on the newspaper comic strip by Al Capp, the stage musical production of Li’l Abner opened on Broadway in November 1956 and ran for 693 performances before touring the US for six months and playing in Las Vegas for two.
Peter Palmer, Howard St. John, Joe E. Marks, Stanley Simmonds, Carmen Alvarez, Bern Hoffman, Al Nessor, Ted Thurston, Stubby Kaye, Julie Newmar, Robert Karl and Hope Holiday all re-created their stage roles for this Paramount film.
As Sadie Hawkins Day approaches, “supoibly stacked” Daisy Mae (Leslie Parrish) hopes to win the hand of Li’l Abner (Peter Palmer) – big, brawny, but alas, not too brainy – by catching him in the traditional race.
Meanwhile, Senator Jack S. Phogbound (Ted Thurston) arrives to visit to tell the residents of Dogpatch that their town has been identified as the most dispensable place in the entire USA and is to be used as an atomic bomb testing ground – unless they can find *something* necessary about the town. Could Mammy Yokum’s Yokumberry tonic be the key?
Stella Stevens is enchanting as red-haired Apassionata Von Climax, Billie Hayes as Mammy Yokum and Joe E Marks as Pappy seem to be the comic strip’s characters brought to life, and rotund Stubby Kaye is delightful as Marryin’ Sam.
Splendid performances are also forthcoming from Al Nesor as the green-suited “whammy” expert Evile Eye Fleagle, and the pneumatic Julie Newmar as Stupefyin’ Jones, whose appearances in the film are all too brief. While she doesn’t utter a single word, her short appearances are certainly memorable.
The brilliantly vivid and stylised sets (which occupied three huge sound stages and cost more than $100,000), splendid photography, lavish Technicolor, and exuberant dance numbers provide a kaleidoscopic feast for the eyes, while the action does not let up for a moment.
Musically, the best numbers are Namely You and Jubilation T. Cornpone, which is dedicated to the founder of Dogpatch, known for his performance during the Civil War in such battles as “Cornpone’s Humiliation”, “Cornpone’s Misjudgement” and “Cornpone’s Disaster”.
Jerry Lewis’s cameo (as Itchy McRabbit) was shot with the provision that Paramount would not use his name when marketing the film.
Li’l Abner Yokum
Daisy Mae Scragg
Howard St. John
Appassionata Von Climax
Pansy (‘Mammy’) Yokum
Joe E. Marks
Evil Eye Fleagle
Senator Jack S. Phogbound
Mayor Daniel D. Dogmeat
Rasmussen T. Finsdale