Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ella Cinders

Ella Cinders had been created by writer Bill Conselman and artist born Missourian Charlie Plumb. Plumb was a cartoonist on the Los Angeles Times when he teamed up with a reporter named Bill Conselman to produce Ella Cinders. The partners tried selling the strip for a year with no success; they offered it free to their home newspaper, the Times, and were rejected. The Cinderella tale was begun in a daily on 1 June 1925, syndicated by United Features, and added a Sunday page in 1927. The Ella Cinders comic strip closed, showing its age, on 2 December 1961, after 33 years of popularity.

Charlie Plumb, a vagabond who carried a cartoonist kit wherever he went, enjoyed the good life in Florida and Mexico. He left the property in the care of an “understudy” for six months while he toured Samoa, returning to Hollywood with the resulting book (“Tin Can Island”) in hand. Conselman worked in Hollywood as well writing for movies for the likes of Bing Crosby. Colleen Moore played the title role in the Ella Cinders movie, the first comic strip to be filmed.

Ella Cinders began as a poor girl, slave to a cruel stepmother and two domineering sisters, Prissy and Lotta Pill, just like in the fairy tale. Her young brother Blackie shared the home. Ella’s epic search for her Prince Charming was a soap opera and an adventure strip. She won a beauty contest which earned her free ticket to Hollywood where she worked as an extra for awhile until she met a big movie magnate who, it turns out, was her long-lost father Pa Cinders, on the lam from his harsh-tongued wife. Ella became a big movie star, made one fortune, lost it, almost married Tommy Harris, discovered a lost country where it was still the 1890’s…

The strip had gripping continuities and was beautifully drawn (until the feeble Fred Fox took over the strip) often approaching a dark surrealism. Ella herself, a freckle-faced gamin, had the wide eyed look of a silent movie star.

The color Sunday is borrowed from HERE, while the beginning dailies are HERE.

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