Comics: Censoring Orphan Annie

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Daddy Warbucks is in serious trouble. The egg-bald guardian of that ageless comic-strip carrot top, Little Orphan Annie, has been railroaded into a private insane asylum run by one Dr. Le Quaque. "Worse'n a real prison," says Annie, after casing the place and discovering that patients, as another strip character puts it, "as sane as anybody but labeled crazy are stuck here in this snake pit with no chance o' gettin' out."

With Annie's ingenious aid, Daddy will soon break out of stir—but the ca per went on without the endorsement of the Hartford, Conn., Courant. Offended by the comic strip's pejorative attitude toward mental institutions and mental health, Courant Publisher John R. Reitemeyer suspended Annie for two weeks—"until she stopped preaching." After all, said Reitemeyer, nothing like that could happen in Connecticut, where "you just can't be railroaded" into a mental institution. Reitemeyer was also concerned about the effect on readers: "It would disturb people with relations in mental institutions, and it might even deter some who need treatment from going into an institution."

In Dallas, the Times Herald reached much the same conclusion. "It is the conviction of the Times Herald that irresponsible propaganda is being placed in the mouth of one of America's best known fictional characters," said that paper in a Page One editorial. "This newspaper, recipient of medical writing honors for its carefully researched series on emotionally disturbed persons, does not agree with Orphan Annie." But the Times Herald let Annie have her say: "In the belief that even misguided Orphan Annies are entitled to a viewpoint without censorship, this newspaper will reluctantly continue the objectionable episode."

Orphan Annie's creator, Harold Gray, was unbothered: "I'm not crusading. I'm doing a script. I know some editors are writing editorials saying it couldn't happen in their states. But it can be done. The main thing is that I had to get Daddy Warbucks into a jam. This is a believable jam."