Orphans on the Silver Screen

small__4030260103The idea was birthed when he was walking the streets of Chicago looking for new cartooning ideas. A chance meeting with a tattered girl on the street named “Annie”, inspired Harold Gray to launch “Little Orphan Annie.” The comic strip debuted in 1924 and after Gray’s death, was picked up by other writers, until its’ final episode appeared in 2010. The story lines varied over the years, often reflecting the cultural, political and social satire of America at the time. Annie is full of optimism, hope for tomorrow, and a will to persevere. Like most orphans in story and film, they have a faithful advocate and friend on their journey. Annie had her dog Sandy and of course her benefactor, Daddy Warbucks. Everyone needs a journey-mate.

Allow me a moment to muse over a few other “famous orphans” that many of us have been familiar with over the years.

Homely and homeless, the main character of the Hans Christian Andersen story was the “poster duck” for everyone who ever felt rejected or unwanted. The Ugly Duckling endures verbal and physical abuse his whole life and is convinced of his utter lack of value to anyone. Finally taken in by a community of swans, one day he sees his true reflection in the water, and the rest is history. I can remember feeling compassion for this character; must have been in my DNA, a foreshadowing of my pastoral calling! I mean, how can you NOT feel for this guy?

Cinderella was the victim of an extremely dysfunctional family. Her widowed father married a woman with two daughters. Obviously a poor judge of character, the father’s actions proved disastrous for his lovely daughter. She was forced into servitude by the others, spending all day doing menial chores. Her room was cold and so she curled up near the fire to sleep, only to awaken covered with cinders; hence her nickname. Cinderella endured persecution, unable to be consoled by her father, who was under the control of the unjust stepmother. I love the ending, as the orphan girl is vindicated and justice is served.

One of my favorite comic book characters was Superman. It wasn’t until I was grown up that I emotionally connected with his wider story, that of being an orphan. His parents bid him farewell as their planet was being destroyed, and so he was orphaned from both family and home surroundings. He grows up a seemingly normal boy with his kind earthly foster parents, eventually blossoming into his destiny as global crime fighter.

The famous author J.R.R. Tolkien was orphaned as a young boy, as was one of his main fictional characters – Frodo Baggins. He is a tender young boy, caught up in an epic storyline, and accompanied by his most faithful friend Sam. There is divine-like intervention and training from elder mentors amidst ongoing pursuit by the enemy. The Lord of the Rings series is an exciting action adventure rich in allegory and inspiration. We hardly stop to think that it’s an orphan boy who is one of the heroes.

It’s a little known fact that super spy James Bond was orphaned as a young boy. This is the back story found in the Bond books penned by author Ian Fleming. He becomes a strong, resourceful young man, devoting himself to his country. Hyped up Hollywood glamour aside, Bond is a bona-fide member of the Justice League. Whatever his past may have been his masculine strength is now devoted to fighting evil.

Alfred the butler was one of the best in terms of sticking with this next main character on his trek. He endures the ups and downs of Bruce Wayne’s life as the orphaned boy channels his inner turmoil, first into revenge, then into protecting the population of Gotham.

Peter Parker was also orphaned on two occasions in his life; from his parents and then his uncle Ben. He is a rather solitary figure like Bond, except for his faithful girlfriends lending support and encouragement in his fight against evil.

To be continued…