Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Obscurity of the Day: Olly of the Movies
Julian Ollendorff had a real gift for pen-and-ink, and an eye for beauty. Sadly for us comic strip fans, though, for much of his career he seemed to view newspaper work as an undesirable fallback position. From 1902, the date of his first short-run newspaper strip, to his last series beginning on January 22 1934, Olly of the Movies, Ollendorff spent the lion's share of his time on just about anything but newspaper strips (more about that tomorrow in Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile).
By 1934, Ollendorff must have been hankering to settle down a bit, and he put a lot of effort into Olly of the Movies. The strip started out with sumptuous drawing (first two weeks shown above), though as time went on Ollendorff found it necessary to tone it down some for the sake of keeping on schedule. The writing, not generally Ollendorff's strong suit, was better than typical for him, and the subject was right in his wheelhouse, a story of a beautiful young Hollywood starlet.
Ollendorff knew Hollywood from the inside due to previous film projects, and the marketing for Olly of the Movies made the most of that. Readers were wooed with the idea that he would show how movies were made and how the Hollywood machine worked. Of course, as it came to be, Olly of the Movies was much more fanciful than factual, but I imagine the marketing gimmick did help to sign on a few newspapers.
Ollendorff's artwork gradually turned from superb to merely adequate over the run of the strip. Whether that explains the precipitous drop in newspaper clients is unknown, but by 1937, when the strip moved from McNaught Syndicate to the less prestigious Consolidated News Features, finding it in a newspaper became like looking for a needle in a haystack. Things really hit rock bottom a year later, when the strip was picked up by hole-in-the-wall outfit Associated Features.Though Ollendorf was now working for a syndicate that was far beneath his stature, he doggedly kept on, though his dedication to the work declined once again.
The New York Sun, which was no longer a major player in the New York press wars, was still subscribing to the strip, and was probably the only well-paying client. Against all odds, the Sun kept running the strip for years, finally tiring of it sometime in January or February of 1946 (the microfilm is incomplete). Presumably with the loss of the Sun, Ollendorff finally waved the white flag, and retired Olly of the Movies.
The Grand Comic Book Database says it began in issue six and ran through issue 65, then spottily to issue #131.
Saludos desde México.
The loss of newspapers has been pretty clear in trying to identify strips using the online newspaper databases. I've had some luck in identifying some of the dates of some of the strips for a couple of Olly's reprints in the Grand Comics Database, but some I have no clue on.
-Ray Bottorff Jr