CineSavant Column

Saturday August 12, 2023



The theme at CineSavant today is Two Faces Has Barbie. I thought our trip to the attic to dig up some 70 year-old toys would be the end of the subject here, but I was wrong …

College friend Clark Dugger filmed my UCLA Project 2 and was also my Best Man; he filmed ‘Kirlian’ phenomena for Thelma Moss and worked for designers Charles and Ray Eames for a spell — and then spent a rewarding career doing glamour photography and audiovisual tech development for Mattel Toys. I never asked Clark for details of his personal ‘life with ,’ but he recently posted a clip from a documentary he produced on the company, which included the official story of its creation:

Barbie Clip from Mattel Toys Documentary


Then there’s the alternate explanation for the source of Mattel’s astoundingly popular toy line. It’s been around for a while, but our favorite commentator David J. Schow resurrected it a week or so back. A different set of toy historians are convinced that Barbie’s origin came from a German cartoon character with a less wholesome backstory:

Meet Lilli, the German Call Girl Who Became Barbie

Writer ‘messynessy’ describes the German comic strip character known as ‘Bild Lilli’ as ‘a postwar gold-digging buxom broad who got by in life seducing wealthy male suitors.’  It wasn’t just a cartoon image — a doll was manufactured as well.


Speaking of outdated, politically invalid images of women, we’re still surprised that nobody found a way to market new dolls, cartoons, movies, whatnot, of Hugh Hefner’s naughty Femlin, the LeRoy Neiman creation seen in vintage Playboy magazines. Obvious PC explanations aside.


. . . And finally, there were distinct possibilities with the 1957 French science fiction comedy Un amour de poche (“A Girl in His Pocket”) directed by Pierre Kast, a Cahiers du cinéma critic not celebrated as part of the New Wave. A dubbed version showed on TV a few times in the 1960s and since then has made itself scarce. 


Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson