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Olive Oyl

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Described as tall, gangly, big-footed with black hair tied in a bun was my introduction to Olive Oyl, the long-time love interest of Popeye the sailor man. To think that a monochrome cartoon squashed onto a tiny T.V. screen could cause such excitement after a day at school seems amazing now but this was from the USA and we lapped it up.

Olive had reigned supreme for ten years as the only member of the original Thimble Theatre cast, created by cartoonist Elzie Segar in 1919, to survive, before it became a star laden vehicle for Popeye himself in 1929. Olive’s original boyfriend was Harold Hamgravy who was a dead loss being constantly attracted to wealthy women and craving an easy life. Hamgravy hired Popeye to man his ship and set out for treasure hunts. Popeye was a hit with audiences and eventually replaced Harold as Olive’s beau.Olive OylWe loved the way Popeye spoke: “ I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.” out of a gravelly mouth and calling his adopted baby an “infink”. He was always looking for a fight and does so constantly with his rival Bluto, a hulking, brute of a man. Then there was the ever ready can of spinach to hand which enabled Popeye to win. This was a mystery as we had never heard or seen this vegetable and the green sludge disappearing down a throat did nothing to attract us. It’s amazing how limited our diets were and our knowledge of foodstuffs in the 50’s and 60’s, spinach as easy to buy now as any vegetable.Olive’s relations had entertaining names which we may not have appreciated as children. Her brother was Castor Oyl and his estranged wife was Cylinda Oyl, Nana Oyl was Olive’s mum, father was Cole. The baby Sweet Pea was delivered to Popeye’s doorstep in a box and was a particular favorite with us kids.In a long running series of animated films produced by the Fleischer brothers in the 1930s, 40’s and 50’s Olive’s squeaky voice was created by Betty Boop voice actress Mae Questel. In the 1980’s live action film Olive was portrayed by Shelley Duval and Popeye by the brilliant Robin Williams.Lyric from the Cartoon:I’m Popeye the sailor man I yam what I yam so I am I’m strong to the ’finich’ Cos I eat me spinach I’m Popeye the sailor man. Thanks for reading, Cynthia.

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