Fritzi Ritz, by Larry Whittington

Larry Whittington was an early 20th-century U.S. comic artist, best remembered today as the original creator of 'Fritzi Ritz' (1922-1925), a series which rose to bigger fame when he was succeeded by Ernie Bushmiller. While most of Whittington's other comics series, like 'Mazie the Model' (1925-1928) and 'Daisy Daily and Dotty Dawn' (1937-1938), were short-lived, he had quite a colourful and tragic private life, which brought him in contact with the strong arm of the law twice.

Early life and career
Carl Lawrence "Larry" Whittington was born in 1903 in West Virginia as the son of a carpenter. In the early 1920s he joined the syndicate Press Publishing Company and drew for the paper The New York Evening World, owned by Joseph Pulitzer. He continued Gene Carr's comic 'Kitty Kildare' in October 1922. Carr had launched this newspaper comic in 1921, but by the time Whittington was allowed to take over the pencil 'Kitty Kildare' only lasted about a week before it was cancelled. 

Fritzi Ritz
On 9 October 1922 Whittington created the gag-a-day comic 'Fritzi Ritz' for The New York Evening World. The series centers around a young Hollywood actress, Fritzi. Many gags are set in film studios or among her glamorous high society friends. The series featured some sly satire of the "flapper girl" youth subculture that was so prominent during the 1920s. Fritzi is very materialistic and only yearns for money, fashion, cosmetics and rich, attractive men. Whittington's sister, Marjorie, was a member of the Ziegfeld Follies at the time and may very well have been an inspiration for the character. Fritzi on her turn inspired similar fictional flapper characters like Ethel Hays' and Gladys Parker's 'Flapper Fanny Says' (1924), Chic Young's 'Dumb Dora' (1924) and 'Blondie' (1930), Faith Burrows' 'Flapper Filosofy' (1925), Earl Hurd's 'Susie Sunshine' (1927-1929) and Max Fleischer's 'Betty Boop' (1930).

On 14 May 1925 Whittington left the paper and passed 'Fritzi Ritz'' on to Ernie Bushmiller. Bushmiller would turn 'Fritzi Ritz' into a far more succesful comic strip. By 1929 it received a Sunday comic. A year later Press Publishing Company went out of business, but 'Fritzi Ritz' was picked up by another syndicate, United Features. Bushmiller launched two 'Fritzi Ritz' spin-offs, 'Phil Fumble' and 'Nancy'. The latter would eventually take over 'Fritzi Ritz', making Fritzi a mere side character in Nancy's adventures. 

Fritzi Ritz, by Larry Whittington

Mazie the Model 
In 1925 Whittington joined The New York Mirror, owned by William Randolph Hearst. Between 25 May 1925 and 14 April 1928, he created another gag-a-day comic: 'Mazie the Model'. Syndicated by King Features, it was basically 'Fritzi Ritz' all over again, since Hearst often bought out newspaper cartoonists from rival papers just to have them create a similar hit series in his own papers. The only difference was that Fritzi aspired to become an actress, while Mazie wanted to be a fashion model. As always, a copy is rarely as popular as the original and 'Mazie the Model' never caught on. After being cancelled in 1928, it was briefly reprinted and syndicated in 1930-1931 by the Columbia Newspaper Service.

Other comics
In 1932 Whittington illustrated Assen Jordanoff's manual 'Flying and How to Do It'. For the weekly New York magazine Hastings News he drew 'Daisy Daily and Dotty Dawn' (19 March 1937- 11 March 1938), a comic about two young adult girlfriends.

Scandals
Later in life, Whittington frequently made headlines by being involved in scandals. In 1928 he, his sister Marjorie and manager Hendrick C. Nelson went out for a night swim. Nelson unfortunately got struck by swimmers' cramp and drowned. According to the police report Whittington had tried to save him, but eventually had to choose between him and his sister, who was also in grave danger and was in huge shock over their friends' death. In 1930 Whittington had a car accident in which he broke his right arm. This prevented him from drawing for a long while. In 1932 he had another run-in with the law when he and his sister were arrested for public disturbance. During a party in Lake Archer Whittington reportedly got drunk and became very angry when he noticed a guest kicking his sister. He stabbed the man with a knife. He survived, but Whittington and his sister were forced to pay a fine of 25 dollars each to the victim.

Death
On 26 November 1942 Whittington was hit by a car while crossing a street in Long Island, New York City. He died half an hour later in St. John's hospital, only 39 years old. 

Mazie the Model by Larry Whittington

Larry Whittington's Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Larry Whittington in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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