Edward Karam
April 18, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Li'l Abner

Current Status
In Season
Peter Palmer, Leslie Parrish, Julie Newmar
Melvin Frank
Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Comedy, musical

We gave it a B

A satiric institution during the Cold War, the hillbilly comic strip Li’l Abner was one of the first funnies to make the leap to Broadway. The film is an unabashed reproduction of a Golden Age Broadway musical, complete with bosomy babes, grotesquely fake beards, and scads of Yokum hokum — like Hee Haw with an orchestra. Still, it has a lovely score by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer (whose lyrics include Abner’s sublimely silly ”Comes the day I no longer bachel/Natchully I’ll be true. . .”), vigorous dancing, and hayseed humor that’s more kin to grins than belly laughs. The bland romance between Abner and Daisy Mae (Palmer and Parrish) is boosted by antics from seemingly every character who was ever in the strip. The standouts are Howard St. John’s grasping General Bullmoose and Stubby Kaye’s Marryin’Sam, with his showstopping anthem to an incompetent Confederate general, ”Jubilation T. Cornpone.” Shoot, it’s all cornpone, but it’s good, solid family fun. EXTRAS None.

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