Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fun Finds: Swedish Paper Dolls

As a youngster, I was farmed out to my grandparents' house every other weekend which was not the punishment it may initially sound like. I loved going there and, spoiled brat that I was, they would purchase some sort of treat for me each time on that Friday afternoon. One of my earliest memories (from about six or seven years of age) of selecting what I wanted is emblazoned on my memory because I can still recall my grandfather trying to explain away the reasons why he made the purchase to my bemused and befuddled grandmother. We had swung by the SuperX drugstore where I, out of all the possible choices, had settled on a Josie and the Pussycats paper doll book! That was my favorite cartoon show at the time and I was thrilled about the prospect of having my own collection of characters with exchangeable outfits. (Good God, was the writing on the wall or what?!) My favorite character was blonde Melody, but I also was heavily interested in Alan, for reasons I perhaps didn't fully understand at the time. I know that I loved having a version of him that was shucked down to his underthings and wasn't covered up like he was on the show! Beyond this one incident, I really wasn't a paper doll person, but now I occasionally find them interesting or amusing to glance at, usually due to the artwork or the clothing that is created for them to wear. I also had a brief interaction with a place called, which allows the visitor to click on a celebrity (usually current twits and twinks, but also some others) and click & drag various outfits and clothing pieces from a set of racks to their underwear-clad form. It can be a diverting way to pass a few minutes if you're bored.

While researching the recently-profiled Michael Landon, I stumbled onto a real curio, which in turn opened the door to more of the same. Unbeknownst to me, the country of Sweden apparently had a sigificant affinity for paper dolls over the years. Not only did I find Bonanza's Mr. Landon represented, but also his TV father Lorne Greene (don't you just stay up nights longing for a Lorne Greene paper doll?!?) and brother Pernell Roberts. Unlike other entries in the "Fun Finds" posts, I didn't actually buy these, but they were too kitschy to not share with you. Half the fun is just seeing what someone decided their underwear should look like. Lorne has rather modern, blue briefs for use under his western ensembles (one meant for riding and gunplay, the other more refined for hoe-downs, hootenannies and the odd cotillion.) Landon is depicted wearing almost army-issue cotton briefs and gets to wear a contemporary golf ensemble. (These dolls are from different companies. The artwork for the dolls in this post varies considerably, though after a while you can tell which dolls came from the same place.) Roberts has a pair of hooty '60s briefs (or perhaps it is a swimsuit), a zigzag of chest hair and, despite the fact that he wore a hairpiece for the show, has a serious five-head going. He's also sporting the stern expression that often sprang from his disgust at having to work on the show in the first place.

These television paper dolls are a long way from the old-time movie star ones I also came across. These are far more artistic, elegant and glamorous, though not nearly as practical for cutting out and playing with. They seem to be more for show, which is likely why they were never actually cut out and are still intact on their original paper. For whatever reason, these dolls also look almost nothing like their intended subjects! If the names hadn't been attached to the pages, I might have been hard-pressed to identify who the ladies even were. First is an overly-blonde (and overly statuesque) June Allyson. Only one “Peter Pan” collar in her wardrobe, though two of her get-ups have close-to-the-neck lace trim. Then comes Esther Williams. She looks pretty much on target and I can picture Ms. W. wearing some of the outfits they've drawn for her. I like that two-piece, one-shouldered bathing suit. A tad daring for back then, especially for someone who later espoused modesty in ladies swimwear. The artist for Lauren Bacall really made it a point to emphasize her lean figure and wasp waist. The one thing missing from all of ol' Betty's ensembles is a cigarette in hand! At least she has the distinction of possessing a purse with one of her suits. The last one was, for me, the biggest head-scratcher because I don't think it looks a thing like the actress in question! Joan Fontaine just simply didn't look the way this doll depicts. And I've studied and studied that blue hat and cannot figure out how it could possibly look good on her with or without the accompanying blue suit. Maybe if she were refereeing a croquet match at David O. Selznick's, it might be okay, but otherwise.... no.

To revisit some more TV stars who had the honor of being immortalized as a paper doll, we have Miss Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball's sidekick Ethel on I Love Lucy and as a different character on The Lucy Show. While the maker didn't shy away from her more substantial figure (that was rumored to have been dictated by Lucy to stay that way!), she's still been drawn in a pretty flattering manner. And check out the hat they gave her! If you believe the biographies on Viv, she was something of a maneater in her day!

An equally iconic TV star was Henry Winkler as The Fonz on Happy Days. I'm screaming over the shoes and socks and the attention to body hair on Henry. They've even pencilled in little hairs all over his shins/calves! Of course, he must be shown doing his famous thumbs up signal... “Heeeyyyy!”

The roll call of TV star household names continues with Mr. Dick Van Dyke. I love his zany and colorfully-patterned shirts as well as that trim little table tennis outfit. The robe and ascot combo is interesting, too. No matter what Dick wears, he still has that wall-to-wall smile plastered on his face. I wish I could have grown up in Sweden just so I could have Dick and Vivian Vance existing in the same paper doll world. How fun would that be?

The next Dick in line is Darrin I from Bewitched, Mr. Dick York. Dick has an expression of austere concern. Perhaps it is because his chest definition consists solely of two small dots where his nipples are supposed to be. I have no trouble picturing him in the pale green business suit, but have no recollection of him ever going golfing in knickers!

When it comes to the far-out patterns, it's tough to beat the eldest child of The Partridge Family, David Cassidy. He has a rather festive pair of pink and white briefs on and possesses some eye-opening clothing. I was especially tickled by the blue jeans, rolled up (!) to show off a pair of embroidered cowboy boots.

Omnipresent '70s TV starlet Barbi Benton (misspelled on her sheet as Barbie and a staple of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island) is given a plethora of wardrobe selections that seem awfully chaste and covered up for a former Playboy model and girlfriend/protegee of Hugh Hefner. For that matter, she looks rather flat on top compared to the real deal. They did, at least, seem to capture her face in a so-so manner as well as her thick mane of hair.

Tony Curtis is primarily regarded as a movie actor, but he did appear in a couple of TV series, too. One was in a supporting capacity in Robert Urich's show Vega$. Prior to that, though, he costarred with Roger Moore in The Persuaders (1971-72.) Unlike most of the other cutouts shown here, I managed to score the page with his doll on it and a second page of clothing. The green shorts are a hoot as is the yellow cowboy-style hat. Despite a decent enough reception from viewers, the expensive, but trouble-plagued, show only went one season because Moore couldn't quite handle one more year with the then-fiery and drug-addled Curtis.

One of my favorite random, oddball TV star dolls was this one. Henry “Manolito” Darrow from the '60s western series The High Chaparrall. That show must have been pretty popular overseas to warrant enough interest in him. While it was a popular series in its day, it's quite little-known to most folks who are not into that genre of programming. I mean, honestly, would you ever expect to see a Henry Darrow paper doll?! (And what on Earth is that pink thing in his holster?)

Speaking of holsters, we next come to one time Little Rascal turned TV detective Baretta (and later murder trial defendant in real life!) Robert Blake. Like a few others shown here, Blake is given some colorful and creative underwear as well as some amusing footwear and hosiery. These are nothing compared to the clothes concocted for the doll. Welcome to the 1970s, folks! He's also given a more elongated physique than the diminutive and solid one he possessed in real life.

See if you can figure out who this doll is supposed to be. (Click to enlarge.) It's another TV star and, believe it or not, a male and not a topless Kristy McNichol! When I mentioned Dick York's two dots, little did I know that another poor guy would be depicted with rounded, effeminate moobs! He starred in a couple of various series and miniseries from a family western drama (which is likely the time this doll was printed) to a detective show in which he was paired with an unlikely female partner and eventually a sci-fi show. He also married a former child-star, who'd grown up before the world's eyes in an hour-long show.

Yes, it's supposed to be Bruce Boxleitner, star of How the West was Won, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Babylon 5, also the (estranged) husband of Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Gilbert. We close the TV chapter of our photo essay with Lee Curreri, the hairy star of the TV series Fame. Really, his entire career on camera was pretty much based around Fame. He was in the movie in 1980, did one ABC Afterschool Special the following year, then worked on the TV version of Fame from 1982 – 1987. There were a couple of other things during that, but he left the airwaves in 1988 to concentrate on his music career after one episode of something called T. and T. (starring, who else... Mr. T.!)

In the realm of music is Rod Stewart, then in close to the prime of his career. Look at the fun and colorful outfits someone dreamed up for him to wear. I especially love the knee-length tan coat with the rope button fasteners. (Someone even thought - in those skin-tight jeans days - to give him a little moose knuckle in the outfit to the right. Ha!)

Another popular music personage of the time, who is now but a distant memory to most folks, is Miss Rita Coolige. Her doll has on a tiny string bikini yet, typical of the times, her clothes are layered, long, body-covering conglomerations. Did she really ever wear blue eyelet socks under creamy character shoe-like wedges?! Incidentally, just how does one manage to have a purse that is underneath the tweed jacket on one side and outside the jacket on the other?! There's a fashion feat you don't run into every day...

And the creators of the “must have” Anne Murray doll left no stone unturned in serving up evidence of Ms. Murray's utter and complete lack of style sense. LOL The pink running suit with size 13 tennis shoes is bad enough, but what in the hell is that mess with the yellow shaker knot sweater over a wedgewood blue prairie skirt, under which dwells a set of grey tights, topped off with a knotted lilac scarf?! Again, the shoe/sock combination boggles the mind.

Music and the movies are blended in our next couple of paper doll examples. First comes Oscar, Tony and Grammy-winning songstress Miss Liza Minnelli, apparently having survived a fall from a tree in which her arm was cruelly snapped and not set back in the correct position? I presume that her lavender evening gown was by Bob Mackie.

The King, himself, Mr. Elvis Presley, had a doll made, too. Dig those boxer shorts, which I don't believe Elvis sported in real life. I think he was a briefs type of guy. He gets the same torso treatment that Dick York got, only there are three dots, not two (an additional one to suggest the belly button!)

In a rather bizarre twist, there was also a Lisa Marie Presley doll, not from when she had struck out with her own music career or had married Michael Jackson, but rather when she was but a four year-old child! Incidentally, I've decided that I prefer this manufacturer of Swedish paper dolls, whoever they may be, because of the dark, black outlines. We like things distinct, clean and sharply delineated in The Underworld.

Songbird Olivia Newton-John was clearly in the midst of her Grease days when her doll came out. I'm sure she really appreciated the stumpy, tree-trunk legs, all the way down to the “cankles” that her doll was given, made all the worse by those tawdry, low-rise panties (in spicy mustard yellow!) Then there are the lovely lines they gave her around the tummy area! WTF? She must have pissed off some Swedish illustrators at some point (or maybe they disliked “Hopelessly Devoted to You?”)

Not faring too much better is her Grease costar John Travolta, also depicted with hair from that movie, despite some clothes that are not. He's given an amusing set of briefs and is drawn with his hands in THE gayest way possible (except maybe for having them drawn with limp wrists!) Still, some little girl probably had a field day cutting these out and re-enacting “You're the One That I Want” over and over on the floor of her bedroom.

I would be interested to know what inspired not only the hairdo on Miss Goldie Hawn, but also the selection of garish and hysterical outfits. I survived the '80s and know that they were bad, but good grief! The first two ensembles here made my eyes bleed. I hope that the third outfit was from a movie she did (unseen by me, apparently.)

And what is it that inspired the artist behind Miss Shirley MacLaine's paper doll to show her in this highly unusual pose? Was their a second page of outfits, one of which was from My Geisha, that justifies her being on her knees and arched back this way?? I smiled at the fact that she was given a two-piece bathing suit along with a very similar one-piece rendition, though I do love her Edith Head-like suit, blouse, scarf, gloves combination.

The creator of the Christopher Reeve doll (which looks nothing like him, by the way) didn't seem to be inspired past providing him with just the Superman suit as a clothing option. Even though I liked his Superman movies, I might have enjoyed them even more if he'd done them in just the hunter green undies. Check out the dorky red boots they gave the Man of Steel.

Another muscle man is Sylvester Stallone of Rocky and Rambo fame, though the artist decided to portray him in a decidedly puny way here. (He's also as pasty as all get out!) Has anyone ever seen Sly Stallone dress the way the clothes are presented here? I can't say that I ever have...

'70s superstar Robert Redford must have been on a major diet when his paper doll was introduced. Not that he was ever heavy, but wow! This seems to be in his The Great Gatsby time period (around 1974.) I love, love, love his li'l blue and white briefs with the pocket on the hip! I had completely forgotten it until I saw this, but wasn't there a line of men's undies sold in the free-wheeling 1970s that featured a pocket in them for carrying a condom around?!

Finally, and I'm sorry I don't have something truly bizarre to close with, I give you my beloved Faye Dunaway. I am loving the diagonally-zippered swimsuit her doll has as well as her pink baby doll dress and The Thomas Crown Affair-ish red suit with blue and white accoutrements. A perfect get-up for the still-recent Fourth of July festivities (as long as one stayed inside and was not baking out back by the grill!)

I hope you got a lift out of seeing these sort of rare (to me, anyway!) examples of an unmined resource, the Swedish paper doll. (By the way, I mean no harm in the slightest to my friends in Sweden. This just happened to be where these came from. Lord knows the U.S. and other countries have provided thousands upon thousands of examples of hilarious oddities over the decades.)


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