The 29th film in the Fabulous Forties box set is a “comedy” from 1940, called Li’l Abner.
Li’l Abner takes place in rural America, which this film portrays as being the type of place where cousins get married and have children that end up raising pigs and marrying each other. Everyone in the small town of Dogpatch is kind of an idiot but they appear to mean well. There’s a huge amount of single, young women in town but apparently, there’s only one single, young man. His name is Abner (Jeff York) and he’s called Little Abner because the people in town have a taste for irony and he’s not little at all. In fact, he’s really tall and he’s also handsome and likable in a dumb sort of way. Every woman in town wants to marry Abner but Abner has no desire to ever get married. As Abner sees it, getting married means getting old and eventually dying. He wants to have adventures in the real world as opposed to just staying in Dogpatch and doing nothing…
But then Clarence is sent down to Earth and shows Abner what life would be like if he had never been born … oh wait, sorry. Wrong 1940s film.
Instead of being visited by guardian angel, Abner is misdiagnosed with a fake illness and he becomes convinced that he only has 24 hours to live. How does he become convinced of this? Do you really want to know? Even more importantly, do I really want to tell you? Seriously, this is really stupid. Okay, Abner goes to see a barber but he thinks the barber is a doctor and the barber, as a joke, tells Abner that he’s going to die of a fake disease. When Abner tells his parents that he’s going to die, his parents immediately realize what has happened but they decided to let Abner believe that he’s going to die because they really want him to get married and, if Abner’s on the verge of death, he’s more likely to propose to one of the many local girls who is pursuing him.
(Ladies, the lesson here is simple: If you want your commitment-phobic man to pop the big question, convince him that he’s got less than a day to live.)
Anyway, two different girls ask Abner to marry them and, since Abner thinks he’s going to be dead by morning, he says yes to both of them. However, Abner then wakes up the next morning and, for a few brief moments, is convinced that he is dead and the heaven looks just like the Ozarks. But then he realizes that no, he’s still alive. And he’s engaged to two women!
AGCK! Bigamy much?
Luckily, all of this happens on Sadie Hawkins Day. On Sadie Hawkins Day, any single woman can marry any single man that she chooses. So, Abner figures that he just has to wait around see which one of his two fiancées finds him first…
Or something like that.
To be honest, the plot of this one made absolutely no sense to me and I wasn’t shocked to discover that it was based on a comic strip. Li’l Abner is only 72 minutes long but it still has more plot than the last few seasons of The Walking Dead. (BAM! Take that, quality television!) Anyway, this movie was light-hearted and good intentioned but way too stupid for its own good. Jeff York was likable in the role of Abner and silent film fans might want to watch it just because Buster Keaton shows up in a small role, playing a moonshine drinking Native American named Lonesome Polecat.
Otherwise, Li’l Abner is one of the more forgettable films in the Fabulous Forties box set.