Bringing Up Father, one of the most popular and longest-running comic strips of all time, was the brain-child of cartoonist George McManus, who had already made a name for himself on such early strips as Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland, The Merry Marcelene, Panhandle Pete, Cheerful Charley, Snoozer, The Ready Money Ladies, Let George Do It, and the wildly successful The Newlyweds and Their Baby during his relatively brief tenure at Joseph Pulitzer's New York World.
McManus was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 24, 1883, or perhaps in 1882. In "Jiggs and I," an article published in the January 19, 1952 issue of Collier's magazine, McManus said that he wasn't sure which year was correct. Since some references give his birth date as January 23, 1884, he may have been wrong altogether. At any rate, by the age of 16 he had taken a job as newspaper artist for the St. Louis Republic, where his first assignments were to draw hangings, murders, and suicides. Growing tired of drawing hangings soon after he had been assigned to draw the hanging of a man who had to be hung twice, McManus started drawing comic strips. His first strip, Elmer and Oliver (some sources report the title as Alma & Oliver), was described by McManus in 1952 as "mercifully forgotten."
After winning three thousand dollars on a long shot, Hamburg Belle in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park in 1904, McManus moved to New York to seek employment with one of the major newspaper publishers. Six months later, just as his winnings were nearly exhausted, McManus was offered a job with the New York World, and quickly proved himself to be a talented and prolific cartoonist.
In 1912, the popularity of McManus's The Newlyweds caught the attention of William Randolph Hearst, who lured McManus to his newspaper, the New York American, with the promise of a substantial raise in salary. Although The Newlyweds remained at the World under the hand of McManus's successor, an artist named A. Carmichael, McManus transferred the storyline and characters to Hearst's American and re-titled his strip Their Only Child.
After establishing himself at the American, McManus continued to try out new strip ideas, such as Rosie's Beau, The Whole Blooming Family, and Spare Ribs and Gravy. But despite the previous success that he had enjoyed with Their Only Child, it was with Bringing Up Father that McManus finally struck comic strip gold.
According to McManus, he began an intermittent daily strip in November 1911 (though it may have been later, McManus seems to have had a problem with dates) that included some characters who eventually became Jiggs and Maggie, but it wasn't until January 2, 1913 that the strip formally became known as Bringing Up Father. And it wasn't until 1916 that the strip began appearing as a daily on a regular basis, with Sunday strips following on April 14, 1918.
Bringing Up Father told the story of Irish-American Jiggs, a former bricklayer, and his wife Maggie, an ex-laundress, who achieved sudden wealth, supposedly by means of a lucky ticket in the Irish Sweepstakes (though McManus was a bit vague about their means of wealth in the strip, and the Irish Sweepstakes didn't come into being until 1930). While the snobbish Maggie and beautiful daughter Nora (referred to various times as Katy and Mamie in the strip's early days) constantly try to "bring up" Father to his new social position, Jiggs can think of nothing finer than sitting down at Dinty Moore's restaurant to finish off several dishes of corned beef and cabbage, followed by a night out with the boys from the old neighborhood. The clash of wills that ensued often resulted in flying rolling-pins, smashed crockery, and broken vases, all aimed in the general direction of Jiggs's skull.
In creating Bringing Up Father, McManus was heavily inspired by his recollections of a touring production of The Rising Generation that he had seen performed several times as a youth when it had played at the Grand Opera House in St. Louis, where his father served as manager. The Rising Generation, a musical comedy written by popular librettist William Gill, told the story of Martin McShayne (played by comedian Billy Barry in the production witnessed by the young McManus), an Irish-American bricklayer who becomes wealthy as a successful contractor. As McManus remembered the play, McShayne's socially ambitious wife and daughter were ashamed of his uninhibited naturalness and couldn't abide his old pals, which forced McShayne to sneak out whenever he wanted to meet the boys for a game of poker.
Although the (freely acknowledged) debt owed to Gill's play is apparent from the basic premise of Bringing Up Father, the responsibility for the strip's enormous popularity rested solely with McManus. McManus imbued his characters with recognizable human traits and human foibles, albeit in exaggerated form. Jiggs's nostalgia for the simplicity of his working-class roots and Maggie's often misguided attempts to gain acceptance among the social elite were situations that practically everyone could identify with, or at least understand, regardless of their own social position.
By the way, there is a common misconception that Jiggs's love for corned beef and cabbage is because it is an Irish dish. This misses the point of the joke, and confuses the Irish, since it is not a dish that is generally known in Ireland. McManus has said that the reason he decided to use the dish was because the poor Irish families always had it for Sunday dinner when he was a boy growing up in St. Louis. It was cheap and filling, but stunk up the place when it was cooking. The reason Jiggs is so fond of corned beef and cabbage, and the reason Maggie so thoroughly detests it, is because it's a reminder of what they were compelled to eat before their sudden wealth. A time that Maggie would rather forget.
As with many gag-a-day strips, Bringing Up Father was basically a one-joke strip: The conflict between Jiggs and Maggie. But within this framework McManus worked wonders. The strip would often spin off into months-long story arcs. There was the time Jiggs's half-wit, shiftless son, Sonny (known as Ethelbert in the earliest days of the strip), is forced to leave college and is put to work at Father's business, though he can't be bothered with going in to the office and spends more time with the pretty stenographer than with the firm's clients. And the time Jiggs buys a movie studio and surrounds himself with young starlets, much to Maggie's disgust, until the studio burns down, bankrupting them and temporarily forcing a move back to the old neighborhood, much to Jiggs's delight.
And then there was the time Jiggs ran for mayor against the beautiful but vapid Miss Lotta Votes, raising Maggie's hopes that they'd finally get the social recognition that they so rightfully deserved. And the time Sonny showed up with an outrageously beautiful wife and new baby in tow, resulting in a nationwide contest to name the young tyke, the winner coming up with the name "Jiggie," after which Sonny and family disappeared once more into obscurity. Not to be outdone, daughter Nora then eloped with Duke Nevere Worthnotten, resulting in one of the most popular episodes in the history of Bringing Up Father, as Jiggs and Maggie take the young newlyweds on a grand tour of the United States for the better part of a year.
Another attraction of the strip was McManus's intricate artwork and inventive playfulness with the readers. Sweeping staircases, Art Deco design, objects d'art and assorted bric-a-brac competed for the reader's attention against animated wall hangings and running sight gags. Goofy-faced imbeciles in boiled shirts and fashionably dressed ingénues mixed with buxom cooks and slow-witted laborers. At its high point, Bringing Up Father was one of the most finely drawn and better-written strips in the newspapers.
George McManus continued to draw Bringing Up Father on his own until taking on Zeke Zekley as an assistant in the mid-1930s. According to McManus, Zekley had been a cartoonist in Detroit before he came to Beverly Hills, California, where he was noticed by McManus's brother, Charlie, who saw him drawing cartoons in McManus's style on the tablecloth of a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Charlie McManus introduced the unemployed cartoonist to his brother, and George McManus hired him as an assistant to do the inking and lettering on the strip. In time, Zekley became more of a collaborator than assistant, doing nearly an equal share of the artwork and coming up with many of the gags himself.
After twenty years of working with McManus, Zekley would have been the natural choice to take over the strip when McManus died in 1954, but instead King Features Syndicate chose Vernon Greene to carry on the strip. In starting out, Greene obtained a large sampling of McManus's original art and made liberal use of a light board in familiarizing himself with McManus's style. Despite his initial tracings, Greene was a capable artist, having drawn The Shadow prior to World War II, drawing strips for the Army during the war, and ghosting on several other strips up to the time he was hired to replace McManus. While Greene wasn't able to completely capture McManus's charm, and many fans would have preferred Zekley as the replacement artist, it wasn't long before Greene was using the McManus originals more as a visual reference than for purposes of outright tracing.
Greene continued drawing the strip until his death in 1965, with Frank Fletcher doing the Sunday pages and with the writing handled by Bill Kavanagh. After Greene's death, Hal Campagna, signing himself as "Camp," took over the art duties on the daily strips until 1980, when the strip was passed on to Frank Johnson. The history of Bringing Up Father since McManus's death has been a sad one of steady decline, partially owing to the inability of his successors to recapture the magic instilled in the strip by McManus, partially as a result of the changing times, and partially due to the continual shrinking of the size of the strips printed in the paper, which made it impossible to carry on McManus's tradition of filling nearly every panel with delightful details. In any event, sales continued to slip and the strip was finally dropped from syndication, with the last strip appearing on May 28, 2000.
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1918. It appeared in the newspapers on November 19, 1918.
This strip gives a good indication of Maggie's opinion of Jiggs's friends, and Jiggs's opinion of Maggie's friends. Note that McManus has used blue pencil to indicate portions of the art that are to have texture added later in the printing process. Blue pencil was used because it doesn't show up when the strip is photographed for reproduction.
The original strip is approximately 5 by 19 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (243K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1923. It appeared in the newspapers on July 2, 1923.
This strip gives a good example of a continuing source of tension between Maggie and Jiggs. Jiggs takes extreme measures to avoid Maggie's planned evening of culturally enriching musical entertainment. Note the intricate detail of daughter Nora's dress and hairstyle in the last panel.
The original strip is approximately 4 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (238K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1927. It appeared in the newspapers on August 10, 1927.
This strip is from a sequence involving a foreign excursion taken by Jiggs, Maggie, and Nora, accompanied by Dinty Moore. While in Turkey, Dinty complains to Jiggs about the native costume he's wearing, and is determined to abandon the tour upon learning what's awaiting him in Greece. Jiggs was apparently convinced by Dinty's argument, as the next stop visited by the travelers was Venice.
The original strip is approximately 6 3/4 by 23 1/4 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (209K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1928. It appeared in the newspapers on May 1, 1928.
Here we see Jiggs enjoying his favorite dish. As usual, Jiggs has had to sneak out of the house without any money, which he expects will lead to a source of conflict between him and the waiter.
The original strip is approximately 4 1/4 by 17 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (229K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1932. It appeared in the newspapers on August 1, 1932.
This strip is from the sequence where Jiggs ran for mayor against the lovely Miss Lotta Votes. As mentioned above, Maggie saw the mayoral race as an opportunity to gain the social recognition that she craved. Jiggs, on the other hand, spent much of his campaign promising city jobs to his old buddies, though he had to reconsider his pick for the police commissioner's job when his first choice had to skip town because the police were looking for him. Towards the end of the campaign, Miss Lotta Votes missed a key debate when one of the local department stores had a sale going on during the time scheduled for the debate, and Jiggs beat her handily in the election with 12,200 votes to her 2,000 votes. Unfortunately, Jiggs had forgotten that the former mayor was also in the running, and was disappointed in his political aspirations when he learned that the former mayor had been re-elected with 400,000 votes.
The original strip is approximately 4 1/4 by 20 1/4 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (304K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1939. It appeared in the newspapers on May 15, 1939.
In this strip, Maggie and Jiggs meet Sonny and his wife and baby at the train station. It's from the beginning of the sequence that culminated in a contest where readers were invited to submit names for Sonny's baby. As mentioned above, the winning name was "Jiggie," a combination of the names "Jiggs" and "Maggie." Here, Sonny's wife meets Jiggs and Maggie for the first time, and seems somewhat taken aback, perhaps worried about the future appearance of her offspring now that she's seen the genetic contributions of her in-laws (though she should have had fair warning after the first glimpse of her goofy-looking husband). Maggie is her obtrusively effusive self, and Jiggs anticipates bestowing the traditional, albeit late, kiss for the pretty bride.
This strip was reprinted in Bringing Up Father, starring Maggie and Jiggs, a collection of strips published by Charles Scribner's Son's in 1973. The original artwork displayed here was also used as an illustration in The Comic Art Price Guide, second edition, by Jerry Weist, Arcturian Books, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2000.
The original strip is approximately 4 1/2 by 18 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (272K image file).
This strip also serves as an example of a problem often encountered with original comic strip art from the 1930s and 1940s, which is excessive glue staining. In earlier strips, McManus had used blue pencil to indicate where texture, patterns, and shading were to be added later in the printing process. But beginning with strips drawn in the 1930s, he made use of a material called "Zip-A-Tone." Zip-A-Tone is a clear plastic film that contains various patterns. The artist cuts the film to fit an area that he wants to have shading or texture, splashes on plenty of glue to hold it in place, and then trims the excess film with a knife. In time, the glue can become discolored, leaving stains on the artwork. In this example, the Zip-A-Tone film has been removed, but the glue stains remain.
Reproduced here is a detail from the original artwork, compared with a detail from the published version of the strip:
Note the patterns on Maggie's dress, the piece of luggage on the floor, and the trousers on the gentleman in the background as they appear in the published version of the strip. They correspond to the glue stains on the original artwork that mark the positioning of the now-missing Zip-A-Tone film.
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1940. It appeared in the newspapers on February 17, 1940.
This strip is from the tail end of the famous "U.S. Tour" sequence, described above. Here, Jiggs makes the unwarranted assumption that Maggie will be pleased that he has packed their bags in preparation for the journey to the next stop on their tour. Note that the Zip-A-Tone film is missing from the first two panels, but is still in position in the remaining panels.
The original strip is approximately 5 3/8 by 19 1/2 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (224K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by George McManus in 1941. It appeared in the newspapers on June 21, 1941.
Although McManus had previously used the gag of having Jiggs carted off by the authorities under suspicion of being mentally unbalanced, this is still a fine example from the early 1940s. This strip also features two of McManus's favorite running gags from this time period. The first being the animated pictures hanging on the wall, seen here in the second panel where the man in the picture appears to be as taken aback by Jiggs's behavior as are the servants. The second being the odd little man in the third panel who continually remarked to every good-looking woman that he met that she reminded him of Margie.
The original strip is approximately 5 1/2 by 20 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (128K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by Vern Greene in 1960. It appeared in the newspapers on April 18, 1960.This strip illustrates two recurring themes carried on by Greene: Maggie's refusal to believe that Jiggs is ever up to anything other than no good, and the strip's frequent use of slapstick violence. Note that Greene has also made considerable use of Zip-A-Tone, but the glue hasn't yet caused any staining of the piece.
The original strip is approximately 6 1/2 by 20 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (118K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by Vern Greene in 1960. It appeared in the newspapers on November 11, 1960.
This strip includes a nice example of Greene's "modern" version of daughter Nora in the third panel. Although Nora had been married to Lord Worthnotten prior to the "U.S. Tour" sequence in 1939, she later returned to the strip without any mention ever being made of her husband. Presumably the titled twit had lost himself somewhere, or had met with some unfortunate accident.
The original strip is approximately 6 1/2 by 20 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (112K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by Vern Greene in 1960. It appeared in the newspapers on December 1, 1960.
In this strip, Greene plays around a little bit in the third panel with McManus's tradition of showing characters in partial silhouette. Note that part of the dialogue in the balloon in the second panel has been cut out and replaced, and there is glue staining under the Zip-A-Tone.
The original strip is approximately 6 1/2 by 20 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (166K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by Hal Campagna in 1968. It appeared in the newspapers on October 23, 1968.In this strip, Kavanagh and Campagna have played a little twist on McManus's recurring gag concerning Maggie's horrible piano playing. Here, Jiggs thinks he's giving out a little defensive flattery, and ends up with a black eye. The coloring in the strip is from the use of colored Zip-A-Tone film.
The original strip is approximately 6 1/4 by 19 1/2 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (164K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original Sunday strip drawn by Frank Fletcher in 1973. It appeared in the newspapers on April 1, 1973.
Although the quality of the daily strips continued to decline during this period, this example of a Sunday strip by Frank Fletcher is quite pleasing. The discolored first panel is a paste-on "stat" showing the strip's logo, which was repeated every Sunday. Fletcher has also added another paste-over covering an unwanted "ding-dong" in the upper left corner of the third panel. Instructions to the colorist have been whited over on the lower left margin (it reads: "COLOR NOTE: BLONDE, YELLORANGE COAT, RED DRESS - THANKEW —"), and the former owner has apparently scratched his or her name out of the dedication and covered it with white-out.
The original strip is approximately 15 1/4 by 22 3/4 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (294K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by Hal Campagna in 1978. It appeared in the newspapers on September 26, 1978.Just ten years after the previous daily strip by Campagna, notice how the quality of the strip has declined. The drawings are more simplistic, and there's little detail in the panels.
The original strip is approximately 5 by 17 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (165K image file).
Click on image for pop-up enlargement.
This is a scan of an original strip drawn by Frank Johnson in 1991. It appeared in the newspapers on December 3, 1991.
Note the vast change from the high point of the McManus strips drawn in the 30s and 40s. Strip size has shrunk so much in the newspapers that there's little point in drawing detailed panels. Instead of Zip-A-Tone, the checks on Jiggs's vest are drawn in using a straightedge. Jiggs is a mere shadow of his former self, as is the strip.
The original strip is approximately 5 by 14 inches. Click on the link for a pop-up enlargement (130K image file).
The overwhelming popularity of Bringing Up Father led to numerous reprint volumes and countless adaptations and licensed properties. While no means exhaustive, this section details some of the more noteworthy spin-offs of George McManus's entertaining strip.
Musical Comedy Theatre: Perhaps not too surprisingly, given the theatrical inspiration for Bringing Up Father, one of the first and most popular adaptations of McManus's strip was on the musical comedy stage.
As early as 1914, Gus Hill's first production of Bringing Up Father opened on Broadway. The composer was Frank H. Grey, the lyricist was Elven E. Hedges, the libretto was by John P. Mulgrew and Thomas Swift, the choreographer was Edward Hutchinson, and the show was directed by Frank Tannehill, jr. Songs included Adam and Eve; All the Girls are Lovely at the Seaside; Beautiful Girl; I'm Proud to Be a Yankee; The Irish Suffragette; Love is a Gift; Love, Love, Love; Moving Picture Mary; The Tango Moon; Way Back in Old Dubuque; When I Was Twenty-One; and Wild Irish Rose. The cast included John E. Cain, Grace Hanson, Lyda Kane, Tom Meade, Blanche Newcombe, and Harry Truax.
After the show closed on Broadway, Gus Hill produced a number of Bringing Up Father shows that toured the country. They included Bringing Up Father in Florida, Bringing Up Father on Broadway, Bringing Up Father in Ireland, Bringing Up Father Abroad, Bringing Up Father in Wall Street, and Bringing Up Father at the Seashore. On April 21, 1921, Bringing Up Father at the Seashore opened on Broadway at the Manhattan Opera House, but ran for only eighteen shows.
Another of Gus Hill's versions of Bringing Up Father opened on Broadway at the Lyric Theatre on March 30, 1925. Reportedly, this version had Maggie following a fleeing Jiggs from Ireland to a yacht headed for Spain, but the story was halted frequently for various vaudeville acts. The show closed after twenty-four performances. But this wasn't the last version of Father to show up on Broadway, as a revised version of Bringing Up Father at the Seashore opened at the Manhattan Opera House in 1928. Although Father never quite hit it big on Broadway, the various touring productions were extremely popular with the local audiences
Motion Pictures: Although they never quite reached the popularity of some of the other comic strip characters that made it into the movies, Jiggs and Maggie have been portrayed on the screen a number of times since the early days of cinema.
Silent Cartoons (1916-1918)
The earliest films were a series of short black and white silent cartoons produced by William Randolph Hearst's International Film Service for release with Hearst's movie newsreels. This series was directed by Gregory La Cava and animated by Frank Moser, Bert Green, and Edward Grinham. The films were released through Pathé Film Exchange. Titles and release dates of these films are:
Two-reel shorts (1920-1921)
The next series of Bringing Up Father films were two-reel live-action shorts, also produced by International Film Service and released through Pathé Film Exchange. These short films starred comedian Johnny Ray as Jiggs, and also starred Laura La Plante. The films were directed by Reggie Morris. Confusingly enough, a couple of the titles in this series were duplicated from the earlier cartoon series. This series of shorts included:
European Advertising Films
Before moving on to the next American film starring Jiggs and Maggie, brief mention should probably be made of a couple of European advertising films that made use of the characters.
The first was a cut-out cartoon made in Denmark for the weekly magazine Hjemmet in 1924. This film featured comic strip characters that appeared regularly in the magazine, including the Katzenjammer Kids and Jiggs and Maggie.
The second cut-out cartoon, Fiinbeck har rømt (Jiggs has Escaped) was made in Norway for Tiedemann’s tobacco in 1927, and has Maggie bringing Jiggs back home and keeping him there by providing him with Tiedemann's Gul Mixture tobacco for his pipe.
Bringing Up Father (1928)
In 1928, MGM released the full-length silent feature, Bringing Up Father. Reportedly, publisher William Randolph Hearst, George McManus's employer, had a personal interest in having Bringing Up Father adapted as a major motion picture, and had tried to interest grade-Z vaudevillians Joe and Myra Keaton, and their soon to be famous son, Buster, in the project in 1916. Unfortunately, Joe Keaton, having an aversion to films at the time, turned the offer down.
When finally released on March 17, 1928, Bringing Up Father, directed by Jack Conway, starred rubber-faced J. Farrell MacDonald as Jiggs, Polly Moran as Maggie, Gertrude Omstead as daughter "Ellen," Jules Cowles as Dinty Moore, and the great silent film comedienne Marie Dressler as Jiggs's sister, Annie Moore (Dinty's wife!).
In the film, the Duke of Mantell, who prefers to be known as Dennis, meets and is smitten with daughter Ellen at a society swimming party. This inflames Maggie's social pretensions, so when Dennis sends Ellen flowers with a note saying that he and his society friends will visit the next day for tea, Maggie complains to Jiggs about the shabby apartment they're living in. To impress the visitors, Maggie rents expensive furniture and convinces Dinty and Annie Moore to pose as servants. While out walking Maggie's dog, Fifi, Jiggs gets dirty helping a man who has fallen into an open manhole (only to throw the guy back in upon learning that he is a rolling pin manufacturer).
Jiggs returns to the apartment while the tea party is underway. Maggie and Ellen are embarrassed by his dishevelled appearance, and dismiss him as another servant. As Dennis is leaving, Ellen denies his good-natured guess that Jiggs is really her father, and Jiggs overhears. Dennis sees through Ellen's denial, but Jiggs backs up her story. To save Maggie and Ellen from future embarrassment, Jiggs buys a Long Island mansion.
In their new home, Maggie receives etiquette lessons from her effeminate social secretary, Oswald. While Maggie, Ellen and Oswald entertain Dennis at dinner, Jiggs, Dinty, and Annie enjoy an evening watching showgirls at the Blackbird Cafe. That night, Jiggs dreams of one of the showgirls, but is horrified that he may have committed an indiscretion when he awakens in his room the next morning to find Oswald in the bed next to his.
Later, Jiggs hopes to throw a party for Ellen's birthday, but is disappointed when Ellen, fearing embarrassment, asks him not to attend. At the party, Annie Moore shows up and scandalizes Maggie with her coarse ways, and Oswald convinces her to do something about it. Maggie storms up to Jiggs's room and tells him that she's had enough, they'll have to separate. Jiggs is despondent, and contemplates suicide. Meanwhile, Ellen confesses to Dennis that Jiggs is really her father, and Dennis, pleased that she has overcome her pretensions, places an engagement ring on her finger.
Kicked out of the party by Maggie, Annie comes upon Jiggs preparing to shoot himself. She convinces him to fake his death and teach Maggie a lesson. Notified by the maid that Jiggs is going to kill himself, Maggie rushes to his prostrate body, overcome with despair. When Jiggs reveals that he is still alive, Maggie beans him with a hammer.
Although the film is a pleasant enough adaptation of McManus's comic strip, and has some hilarious comedy set-pieces, it wasn't particularly successful at the box office, and was dismissed by Photoplay magazine's reviewer as "rolling-pin humor." Prints of the film still exist, but it is not currently available on video.
Vihtori and Klaara
Oddly enough, the first sound versions of Bringing Up Father were productions made in Finland. Bringing Up Father had been exported to Finland in 1929, when Jiggs and Maggie first appeared in the pages of Uusi Suomi as Vihtori and Klaara. The strip was an immediate success, and the name Vihtori quickly became a synonym for a henpecked husband.
The first film based on the strip, though apparently an unauthorized and somewhat loose adaptation, was Kun isä tahtoo..., released on September 8, 1935. This full-length feature was directed by Valentin Vaala, and starred Eino Jurkka, who also appeared in a number of stage performances as Vihtori, as August Lampaanpää (Jiggs), Hulda Keskinen as Mrs. Lampaanpää (Maggie), and the attractive Regina Linnanheimo as Vappu Lampaanpää.
The next film derived from Bringing Up Father was Kaksi Vihtoria (Two Victors), based on a play by Tatu Pekkarinen, and released on February 5, 1939. The film was directed by Nyrki Tapiovaara, and again starred Eino Jurkka as Vihtori Rantamo (Jiggs), Annie Mörk as Klaara Rantamo (Maggie), and Arvi Tuomi as the second Vihtori. According to a synopsis available at http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/nyrki.htm, the film has the domineering Klaara heading off to the country, leaving Vihtori to start out on a bender and ending up at a restaurant with his friend, also named Vihtori. Apparently the restaurant sequence gave the film a good excuse to highlight some popular entertainment from the time, such as music, dancing, and pig imitations.
Vihtori ja Klaara, apparently the first Finnish film that could be called an “official” adaptation of the comic strip, was released on August 20, 1939, and was directed by the highly respected Finnish filmmaker, Teuvo Tulio. Tulio had started his filmmaking career in partnership with Valentin Vaala, and Vihtori ja Klaara was closely based on Vaala’s earlier Kun isä tahtoo... Tulio’s film also starred Eino Jurkka as Vihtori Vuorenkaiku (Jiggs), with Verna Piponius as Klaara Vuorenkaiku (Maggie), Nora Mäkinen as Vappu (Nora), and Turo Kartto as the shiftless Nisse (Sonny).
Although perhaps not one of Tulio’s best films, and made on a rather modest budget, Vihtori ja Klaara is nonetheless a very amusing take on McManus’s comic creation. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Vihtori’s clandestine involvement with an attractive and rather worldly young woman named Ritva, who is planning to marry boxing champion and garage owner Klasu Tullari, son of Vihtori’s friend Tomi, and their interactions with daughter Vappu and her fiancé, Peter von Schaslick, a mechanic in Klasu’s garage, under the nose of the threatening and suspicious Klaara, with lazy son Nisse acting as a rather sardonic Greek chorus.
The film makes hilarious use of a number of situations and set-ups taken directly from McManus’s comic strips, opening with the sound of crashing crockery as Klaara attempts to coerce a reluctant Vihtori into accompanying her to the opera. Vihtori’s carousing and late nights out with the boys, Klaara’s penchant for wielding an oversized rolling pin, Vihtori’s hair-raising descent down knotted bed sheets from an upper-story apartment, Klaara’s piano playing and atrocious singing, and Vihtori’s humiliation by the neighborhood kids while walking Klaara’s minuscule dog, Pipi, are all faithfully recreated from gags first portrayed in McManus’s strip.
Vihtori ja Klaara has just been released on DVD in Finland, and has English subtitles, but you’ll probably need a DVD player that can play European discs if you plan on adding it to your collection.
Eino Jurkka’s last appearance as Finland’s version of Jiggs was in 1940’s Herra johtajan 'harha-askel', a film that also served as his directorial debut. Although some sources give his character name in this film as Vihtori, the The Internet Movie Database lists him as playing Aukusti Rantamo, with Eine Laine as Amalia Rantamo. But whatever his character’s name, the film serves as a final tribute to Finland’s remarkable fascination with the enduring characters from Bringing Up Father.
Monogram Series (1946-1950)
Perhaps hoping to emulate the success of the Blondie series produced by rival Columbia Pictures, poverty row studio Monogram Pictures initiated a series of films based upon Bringing Up Father in late 1946. In fact, the tagline of the first film in the series, "RIGHT OUT OF THE FUNNIES Onto Your Funnybone!" sounds suspiciously similar to Blondie's "Out of the 'funnies' Straight into Your Heart!"
Although the movies were typical Monogram comedy programmers and suffered from chronically low budgets, the casting of the leads was nearly inspired. Scottish-born ex-vaudevillian Joe Yule (the father of Mickey Rooney) had, as a character actor, already made appearances in fifty-odd movies by the time he was selected to play Jiggs, and he fit the role to perfection. Watching him put away plate after plate of corned beef and cabbage while dressed in his finest "soup-and-fish" was like watching McManus's comic strip creation brought to life. And character actress Renie Riano, daughter of stage actress Irene Riano, was (not to be unkind) born to play the role of Maggie. Rounding out the cast of regulars was the attractive June Harrison as daughter Nora, Tim Ryan as a tight-fisted and belligerent Dinty Moore, and the humorous Pat Goldin as the eternally silent Dugan.
Although by no means great films, the Jiggs and Maggie movies were amusing little "B" pictures that deserve better than their current almost total obscurity. As of this writing, none of the films have been released on tape or DVD, and even the cable stations that specialize in old movies have completely neglected them. The movies in this series were:
Bringing Up Father (1946), directed and co-written by Edward F. Cline. In the series' inaugural effort, Jiggs is tricked by Maggie and her unscrupulous high society friends, the Kremishaws, into getting the gang down at Dinty Moore's tavern to sign a petition to close the joint down and, what's worse, to take the pledge against drinking alcohol. Meanwhile, the Kremishaw's oily son, Junior, attempts to woo daughter Nora, much to Maggie's delight, though Nora prefers the company of Dinty's nephew, Danny, an aspiring architect. The plot is paper-thin, but serves admirably in allowing the actors to play out some of George McManus's favorite gags from the strip. Jiggs sings a chorus of "Corned Beef and Cabbage," and George McManus has a recurring cameo that lets him deliver the film's closing line.
Jiggs and Maggie in Society (1947), directed and co-written by Edward F. Cline. Maggie continues her forever-ever efforts to crash Manhattan's top society, while Jiggs still mingles with his old construction cronies at the bar of Dinty Moore on 10th Avenue. Van De Graft notifies Maggie that his company has found the Jiggs family tree and coat of arms, and that he will be able to get the Jiggs family in the social Who's Who Bluebook. Van De Graft suggests that Maggie arrange a party for important socialites with his intention being to stage a robbery of the gathering. Maggie engages Dale Carnegie to tutor Jiggs while she takes dancing lessons from Arthur Murray and is interviewed on the radio by Sheila Graham. [Synopsis written by Les Adams, used with permission.]
Jiggs and Maggie in Court (1948), directed by Edward F. Cline and William Beaudine. This was Cline's last shot at the directing duties, though he continued on as a co-writer for the remainder of the series. Bill "One-Shot" Beaudine, so called because of his penchant for being satisfied with the first shot of a scene, regardless of any flubs that may have occurred during the filming, takes over the direction of the series with this film. In this entry, Maggie gets into a fight with comic strip artist George McManus because everyone says she resembles Maggie in the strip. Maggie gets 30 days in the jug, and Jiggs goes on a spree. Includes a cameo appearance by George McManus.
Jiggs and Maggie in Jackpot Jitters (1949), directed by William Beaudine. Jiggs and Maggie get involved with a radio quiz show and its many rich prizes, including a race horse. Includes Willie Best in the regrettably stereotypical role of "Willie." George McManus makes another cameo appearance.
Jiggs and Maggie Out West (1950), directed by William Beaudine. Jiggs, Maggie, and daughter Nora head west to the town of Gower Gulch after Maggie inherits a gold mine from Grandpa MacGillacuddy. Maggie's search for her grandfather's gold (assisted somewhat ineffectually by the old man's ghost), is opposed by outlaw Snake Bite Carter, who is acting under the direction of the Big Boss. Meanwhile, Jiggs sends a telegram to Dinty Moore that results in something of a gold rush by the old gang, and Dinty tags along to take possession of Gower Gulch's abandoned saloon. Nora is wooed by Snake Bite's kid brother, Bob Carter, who also turns out to be working for the Big Boss. The film takes a surprise turn when George McManus shows up at the end as the Big Boss. Sadly, this film marked the end of the Monogram series, as Joe Yule died of a heart attack shortly after shooting was completed.
The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie (1972)
Given that Jiggs and Maggie first began their film career in animated cartoons, it is perhaps fitting that their final film appearance was in a 1972 TV cartoon show called Popeye and the Man Who Hated Laughter, an episode of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie.
Here, Jiggs and Maggie are but two of the many comic strip characters featured in the show. The story involves a plot by the evil Professor Morbid Grimsby to rid the world of laughter by kidnapping all of the comic strip comedic characters and hiding them away on an island. In desperation, the President of the United States calls upon the comic strip adventure heroes to rescue the comedic characters.
In addition to Jiggs and Maggie, the comic strip characters that appeared in this film were Popeye, Brutus, Olive, Wimpy, Swee'pea, Blondie and Dagwood, the Katzenjammer Kids, Hi & Lois, The Little King, Steve Canyon, the Phantom, Snuffy Smith, Mandrake the Magician, Tim Tyler, Beetle Bailey, and Flash Gordon. As may be imagined, the screen time devoted to Jiggs and Maggie was quite limited. A sad decline following their glory days in the first half of the 20th Century.
Radio: In addition to films, Bringing Up Father had a brief run as a radio series in the summer of 1941. Broadcast over the Blue Network, the series was heard on Tuesday nights at 9:00 pm from July 1st until September 30th. Jiggs was played by Mark Smith, and also by Neil O'Malley, and Maggie was played by Agnes Moorehead. Helen Shields and Joan Banks played Nora, and Craig McDonnell was heard as Dinty Moore. The program was produced at Cameo Broadcasting and Recording Studios in New York, and was supervised by William Morris.
Only the first episode of this program is known to still exist, and I've made it available in MP3 format on my Old Time Radio page. Click on the link and follow the directions to gain access. Although the first episode, perhaps the pilot, would fit within a fifteen-minute time slot, the show was regularly scheduled for thirty minutes during its short, summer-replacement run. If the surviving episode is any guide, the series was quite faithful to McManus's strip. The overall plot of the first episode is adapted from a four-panel daily that was published on January 26, 1919, and many incidents on the show are taken straight from the funny pages, such as Jiggs's confusion over the proper utensil to use when having a Filipino delegate for dinner, a gag that was lifted almost verbatim from another strip published in 1919.
Reprints: Bringing Up Father has been reprinted in a number of editions and different formats over the years. Although almost all of these volumes are out of print, some of the later volumes may still show up in used book and comic book specialty stores, and nearly all may occasionally be found for sale online at auction sites, such as eBay. In this section, we'll take a look at the reprint volumes that have been printed in America.
Star Company (1917)
The earliest reprint volume was Bringing Up Father, published by the Star Company, New York, in 1917. Printed on pulp paper with cardboard covers, this volume measures 16 1/4 by 5 1/2 inches, and has about 100 pages, one strip per page. Reproduction quality of the strips is excellent, but since the book was printed on pulp paper, the pages of many copies are quite brittle.
Cupples and Leon Company (1919-1934)
Bringing Up Father was next reprinted in a series of softcover books published by the Cupples & Leon Company, New York, a publisher of popular children's books, beginning in 1919.
From 1919 until 1934, twenty-six volumes were published, with an additional two volumes of "Big Books" that collected three of the regular volumes each, rebound in hardcover. The regular issues were printed on pulp paper with cardboard covers, measured 9 7/8 by 9 7/8 inches, about 48 pages each, with one strip per page (except for the title page and an introductory page), with one half of the strip printed above the second half on each page.
The strips in each book are usually just a sampling of daily strips from the time period, and are not complete runs. Reproduction quality of the strips is excellent, but there are the usual problems with aging pulp paper—and it isn't unusual to find the covers separated.
Embee Publishing Company (1921)
The Trouble of Bringing Up Father is an exceedingly rare reprint by the Embee Publishing Company, published in 1921. The book measures 9 by 15 inches, and reprints Sunday pages in color.
Big Little Book (1936)
Somewhere between a reprint and an adaptation is the 1936 Bringing Up Father Big Little Book, published by Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. Big Little Books and their various imitators, all generically known as BLBs, were children's books, about 3 3/4 by 4 1/2 inches is size, and generally about 1 1/2 inch thick, printed on pulp paper with stiff cardboard covers. Many were based on popular comic strips of the era, in which case the story was usually a "novelization" of a storyline taken from a particular comic strip, with a full-page illustration taken from a panel of the strip appearing on alternating pages of the book.
BLBs based on some strips, such as Blondie, The Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Tailspin Tommy, and Dick Tracy were quite popular, with a number of BLBs from these strips appearing in the series. Bringing Up Father, unfortunately, was not one of the more successful of the BLBs, and only one was produced. Perhaps the failure of the Bringing Up Father BLB to generate more interest can be attributed to the lack of a unifying storyline to the strips selected for novelization.
As mentioned above, McManus often introduced storylines into his gag-a-day strip that presumably could have been adapted into the BLB format. Jiggs's Hollywood adventure, for example, or Jiggs's mayoral campaign, would have provided a unifying theme that could have provided substance for a successful novelization. Instead, the Bringing Up Father BLB is made up of thirty "chapters" that are nothing more than a narrative description of thirty individual comic strips that bear no relationship to each other. In addition, McManus relied heavily on visual "punchlines," or sight gags, to provide the humor in his strip, and even with the presence of an illustration on every other page, describing a sight gag in narrative detracts from much of the strip's humor. But for whatever reason, the Bringing Up Father BLB was not a great success, and no additional Bringing Up Father BLBs appeared in the series.
Also falling somewhere between adaptations and outright reprints were the various comic books based on Bringing Up Father. Other than a few one-shots, such as Large Feature Comics No. 9, and 4-Color Nos. 18 and 37, and anthology books, such as King Comics, which reprinted one or two Bringing Up Father Sunday pages per issue, along with other King Features comic strips, the primary line of Bringing Up Father comic books was Jiggs & Maggie, originally published by Standard Comics.
The first issue in this series, Jiggs & Maggie No. 11 (presumably numbered "11" to account for the earlier one-shots, or perhaps to give the impression that the series was continued from the earlier one-shots), was published in August of 1949. The series ran until issue No. 27, published in 1954, taking on the Harvey Publications imprint with issue No. 22. Issue No. 26 included a four-page story that was partially in 3-D. Although advertised as "all new" stories, the majority of the contents were either straight reprints from McManus's Sunday pages, or were adaptations from various panels taken from McManus's Sunday pages, blended into a new story continuity. A few of the later issues, however, contained stories that appear to have been specially drawn for the comic book series.
Charles Scribner's Son's (1973)
A treasury of strips that belongs in every fan's library is Bringing Up Father, starring Maggie and Jiggs, edited by Herb Galewitz, Charles Scribner's Son's, New York, 1973. Beginning with the first daily strip published on January 2, 1913, and continuing with a selection of daily strips that provide a nice representative of some of McManus's storylines and themes up to December 9, 1944 (with a few black and white Sunday pages in the back ranging from 1929 until 1954), this 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inch, 179-page hardcover serves as a splendid introduction to McManus's work.
The book starts off with an informative introduction by Galewitz (though most of the material, including the photographs, is cribbed from McManus's three-part article, "Jiggs and I," published by Collier's magazine in 1952), and includes a few examples of McManus's earlier strips, Spare Ribs and Gravy and The Newlyweds. Many of the early Bringing Up Father strips are reprinted from the Cupples & Leon books, including a few full-page examples of title-page art and art taken from the back covers of a few of the volumes of that earlier series.
Overall, the strip reproduction is excellent, though a few of the early examples appear to be reprinted from partially faded originals. Although out of print, copies of this book can often be found in used book stores, or on-line at such places as BookFinder.com.
Hyperion Press (1977)
Another collection of strip reprints highly recommended for fans is Bringing Up Father: A Complete Compilation: 1913-1914, Hyperion Press, Inc., Westport, Connecticut, 1977. As indicated by the title, this volume reprints an entire run of dailies, beginning with the first Bringing Up Father strip published on January 2, 1913. Also included are reprints of the alternating daily strips that McManus produced during this time period, up until January 17, 1914, after which Bringing Up Father became McManus's only daily strip. The alternate strips are Outside the Asylum; Ah, Yes! That Happy Home (AKA Ah, Yes! Our Happy Home, Oh! It's Great to Be Married, Oh! It's Great to Have a Home, and All Members of This Club); All's Fair in Love; and the especially annoying Little Willie Gettit.
Other than watching Bringing Up Father quickly maturing into the reliable, laugh-provoking concept that McManus continued to mine successfully until the time of his death, the most remarkable thing about this collection is to note how uninspired and stale his one-note alternate strips appear by comparison. Although it may have taken more than a year for McManus to settle on Bringing Up Father as his sole remaining daily strip, it's apparent from the beginning that the continuing conflict between Jiggs and Maggie provided McManus with an almost never-ending source of inspiration for creative humor. One wonders why it took McManus so long to realize this for himself.
This 166-page book measures about 10 3/4 by 8 1/2 inches, was printed in both hardcover and softcover versions, and includes an informative introduction by Bill Blackbeard. There are two strips per page, and the reproduction quality is generally very good, though the strips are reprinted from versions published in newspapers, and a few strips appear to have been reprinted from faded originals—to the point that a couple of the panels are illegible. At the time of this writing (2002), the hardcover version is available by special order from Amazon.com.
Celtic Book Company (1986)
The latest volume of Bringing Up Father reprints, though no longer in print, is Jiggs is Back, Celtic Book Company, Berkeley, California, 1986. This 9 x 12 inch, 65-page, softcover book reprints color Sunday pages covering three of McManus's major storylines or themes. The first sequence is a selection of Sunday strips from 1923 that tell the story of Maggie and Jiggs's return to poverty following the movie studio fiasco. The next selection is from the U.S. tour sequence from 1939 and 1940. The final selection is a number of examples from the 30s and 40s that have the common theme of Jiggs reminiscing about the good old days.
The collection includes a few examples of Sunday strips that don't fit within the three major storylines, and many strips include the "topper," Rosie's Beau. There is an interesting introduction by William Kennedy, and an insightful analysis by Bill Blackbeard, though both Kennedy and Blackbeard appear to mistakenly believe that Bringing Up Father had ceased production sometime in the 1950s. The reproduction quality is excellent, with one Sunday strip per page, and the only possible complaint that one might have about the volume is that there is too little of it.
Conclusion: As mentioned above, this is hardly an exhaustive list of Bringing Up Father adaptations and reprints (though by now some readers may consider it exhausting). Omitted are a number of foreign reprint editions, many in English, a vast variety of toys and figures, salt and pepper shakers, postcards, folk art, "Tijuana Bibles" (also known generically as "Jiggs-and-Maggie Books"), buttons, board games, canned goods, and so forth.
Although the strip now belongs to history, perhaps one of the most significant tributes to Bringing Up Father is that it was one of twenty comic strips chosen for commemoration by the United States Postal Service in 1995. Truly an indication of the enduring appeal of McManus's delightfully humorous creation.
Special thanks to Les Adams, John DeBartolo, David Folkman, Petri Liukkonen, Bruce Rudesill, and Robert Richard for their invaluable assistance in gathering material for this site.Picture Credits (from the top, left to right)
Background: A selection of strips, greatly reduced, from Bringing Up Father, starring Maggie and Jiggs, Edited by Herb Galewitz, Charles Scribner's Son's, New York, 1973.
Jiggs splash from the cover of Bringing Up Father: Series Number 17, Cupples & Leon, New York, 1930.
George McManus as Jiggs, from "Jiggs and I," George McManus with Henry La Cossitt, Collier's magazine, January 19, 1952.
McManus and chef Lewitt from David Kohrman's Forgotten Detroit site
Jiggs for Mayor, from the August 1, 1932 Bringing Up Father strip.
Zeke Zekley, from a photograph by David Folkman.
Original strip art from a private collection.
Maggie and Jiggs, from the musical Bringing Up Father, from an old postcard.
Ad art for Jiggs and the Social Lion, 1921, courtesy of The Nostalgia Factory
Still from Bringing Up Father, MGM, 1928.
Still from Vihtori ja Klaara, 1939, from the cover of the European DVD release (2006).
Still from Vihtori ja Klaara, 1939, from the back cover of the European DVD release (2006). From lobby card #5, Jiggs and Maggie in Society, Monogram Pictures, 1947.
From lobby card #3, Bringing Up Father, Monogram Pictures, 1946.
From lobby card (unnumbered), Jiggs and Maggie Out West, Monogram Pictures, 1950.
Cover of Bringing Up Father: First Series, Cupples & Leon, New York, 1919.
Cover of Bringing Up Father BLB, Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, 1936.
Cover of Jiggs & Maggie No. 11, Standard Comics, August 1949.
Cover of Bringing Up Father, starring Maggie and Jiggs, Edited by Herb Galewitz, Charles Scribner's Son's, New York, 1973.
First day cover, 1995.
Bringing Up Father © King Features Syndicate, Inc.