5/26/2008

Popculture woman of the week - Judy Abbott

Name: Judy (really Jerusha) Abbott
Appearance: Daddy-long-legs (1912) and Dear Enemy
Creator: Jean Webster
Weapon/ability: Her pen
Race: American
Age: College-girl
Judy is an orphan girl that has lived all her life in an orphanage. She has no idea of who her parents were, or even what her real name is - the caretaker of the orphanage chose her name, taking Jerusha from a tomb-stone (and Judy later confesses she really hates it) and Abbott from the phone-book ('you can find it on the first page'). But she is in luck, she is unusually talented when it comes to writing and one of the trustees of the orphanage wants to sponsor her going to college so she can become a real writer. In return she has to write to him regularly - but she must not know his true identity, or even his real name. And off she goes.

She has seen the man once, or the back of him, and him looking like a giant daddy-long-legs - which induces her to give him that nickname and in her letters starting to call him by that name. The story then follows her four years at college, the ordinary life of female colleges students, and also her own personal struggle to fit in and never reveal her background. She finds some true friends there and works hard to reach her goals - but there is also some time for romance. And everything is reported back to Daddy-long-legs (or Mr. Smith as she is supposed to call him, but can't. As she puts it herself in her first letter to him: "...how can you be respectful to a person who wishes to be called John Smith? Why couldn't you have picked out a name with a little personality? I might as well write letters to Dear Hitching-Post or Dear Clothes-Prop.")

The story has been filmed several times, the earliest (from 1919) has Mary Pickford as Judy, and there are two others, one from 1931 and one from 1955 with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron in the lead roles (but they do a great job at ripping the original story to shreds, including changing her name to Julie Andre and having her live in France!). Lately there has been two Asian productions: the Korean Kidari ajeossi from 2005 and the Japanese anime series Watashi no ashinaga ojisan from 1990, the later following the original story perhaps a tad bit more closely than the former

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