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The Bild Lilli doll was a German fashion doll launched on August 12, 1955 and produced until 1964. Its design was based on the comic-strip character Lilli, created by Reinhard Beuthien for the German tabloid newspaper Bild. The doll was made of polystyrene, came in two sizes, and had an available wardrobe of 1950s fashion. The Lilli doll was an inspiration for Mattel's Barbie; production ceased after Mattel bought the copyright.

BILD-Lilli doll
Type Dolls/Action Figures
Inventor Max Weisbrodt
Company Greiner & Hausser Gmbh
Country Germany
Availability August 12, 1955–1964

Contents

HistoryEdit

Lilli was a German cartoon character created by Reinhard Beuthien for the German tabloid Bild. In 1953 the newspaper decided to market a Lilli doll and contacted Max Weissbrodt of the toy company O&M Hausser in Neustadt bei Coburg. Weissbrot designed a prototype doll based on Beuthien's cartoons, which was sold from 1955 to 1964; that year Mattel acquired the rights to the doll and German production stopped.[1][2][3] Approximately 130,000 were produced. Today Lilli is a collector's piece and commands prices up to several thousand euros, depending on condition, packaging, and clothes.[citation needed]

CartoonEdit

Ordered to draw a "filler" cartoon for the June 24, 1952, inaugural issue of Bild, Reinhard Beuthien drew an unruly baby; his editor disliked it, so he adapted the drawing into a sexy pony-tailed blonde sitting in a fortune-teller's tent. She was asking, "Can't you give me the name and address of this tall, handsome, rich man?" The cartoon was an immediate success and became a daily feature.[3][4]

Lilli was post-war, sassy and ambitious, "a golddigger, exhibitionist, and floozy".[4] The cartoon always consisted of a picture of Lilli talking, while dressed or undressed in a manner that showed her figure, usually to girlfriends, boyfriends, or her boss. To a policeman who told her that two-piece swimsuits are banned in the street: "Oh, and in your opinion, what part should I take off?"[2][3][4][5] The last Lilli cartoon appeared on January 5, 1961.

DollEdit

Bild Lilli was available in two sizes: 30 cm (12 in) and 19 cm (7.5 in). She held three patents absolutely new in doll-making: The head and neck were not one form connected with a seam at the shoulders, but rather the seam was mid-neck, behind the chin; the hair was not rooted, but a cut-out scalp that was attached by a hidden metal screw; the legs did not sprawl open when she was sitting. The doll was made of plastic and had molded eyelashes, pale skin and a painted face with side glancing eyes, high narrow eyebrows and red lips. Her fingernails were painted red, too. She wore her hair in a ponytail with one curl kissing the forehead. Her shoes and earrings were molded on. Her limbs were attached inside by coated rubber bands. The cartoon Lilli was blonde, but a few of the dolls had other hair colours. Each Lilli doll carried a miniature copy of Bild and was sold in a clear plastic tube, with the doll's feet fitted into the base of a stand labelled "Bild-Lilli" that formed the bottom of the tube; the packaging was designed by E. Martha Maar, the mother-in-law of the Hausser company owner.[1][6]

Originally the tall dolls cost DM 12, the small DM 7.50, by no means cheap.[3] She was marketed to men as a joke or gag gift.[4][7] Ariel Levy refers to her as a "sex doll" in Female Chauvinist Pigs and in interviews on the Lilli-inspired Barbie doll, Eve Ensler refers to Lilli (without elaboration) as a "sex toy".[8] A German brochure from the 1950s states that Lilli was "always discreet", and that her wardrobe made her "the star of every bar".[2] A total of 130,000 were made.[3] The doll eventually became popular with children, too. Dollhouses, room settings, furniture, and other toy accessories to scale with the small Lilli were produced by German toy factories to cash in on her popularity amongst children and parents.

Lilli came as a dressed doll—additional fashions were sold separately.[7] Her fashions, mostly also designed by Maar,[6] mirror the lifestyle of the 1950s: She had outfits for parties, the beach and tennis, as well as cotton dresses, pajamas and poplin suits. In her last years, her wardrobe consisted mainly of "dirndl" dresses. Lilli's dresses always have patent fasteners marked "PRYM".[6]

Lilli and her fashions were sold as children's toys in several European countries, including Italy and Scandinavian countries; outside Germany she is usually remembered as a children's doll. In the United States, she was just called "Lilli". Some Lillis have been seen in original 1950s packaging for an English-speaking market labelled "Lili Marleen", after the song.[citation needed]

FilmEdit

A film about Lilli was released in Germany in 1958: Lilli – ein Mädchen aus der Großstadt (de) (Lilli, a Girl From the Big City), a comedy-mystery directed by Hermann Leitner.[9][10] A contest was held to choose the star; the winner was the Danish actress Ann Smyrner.

Imitations and BarbieEdit

Several toy companies (mainly in Hong Kong) produced dolls resembling Bild Lilli, some from purchased original moulds.[1] Also in Spain, Muñecas FEJ (Guillen y Vicedo) copied the moulds and made a very similar doll, but with darker skin, white earrings and articulated waist. However, Spanish society was extremely conservative then and was not ready for such "sexy" dolls. Mothers were not buying them for their daughters and the manufacturer had to retire them from the market.[citation needed]

Mattel's Barbie doll, which appeared in March 1959, was based on Bild Lilli dolls that co-founder Ruth Handler had acquired in Hamburg.[1][2][3][5][11][12] Barbie was made of softer plastic, wore less makeup, had paler skin, and the doll had rooted hair and non-moulded shoes and earrings—apart from that she was a lookalike of Lilli.[5][7]

Louis Marx and Company acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll from Hausser and sold Miss Seventeen and smaller Miss Marlene dolls.[1] Mattel had bought all patents and copyrights to the Bild Lilli doll, so that using that name as a book title or product name would infringe copyright laws. Marx unsuccessfully attempted to sue Mattel for patent infringement.[13]

Lalka is a modern Bild Lilli reproduction doll, made to cash in on the Bild Lilli doll craze and sold under names including Lola, Pretty Penny, and Saucy Miss.[citation needed] The word lalka is Polish for doll.

Related charactersEdit

In 1962 Beuthien created another cartoon character called "Schwabinchen" for a Bavarian newspaper, but it was not as successful as Lilli and the dolls inspired by her were of poor quality. Later he started "Gigi", who had even less success and never became a doll.[citation needed]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Bild Lilli Vintage Dolls Identified 1955-1964 German". Dollreference.com. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Meet Lilli, the High-end German Call Girl who became America's Iconic Barbie Doll". Messy Nessy Chic. 2016-01-29. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Klee, Ralf; Trede, Broder-Jürgen (2009-03-04). "Die erste Barbie: Blondine entführt!". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 2017-07-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d Lord, M. G. (1995). Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. Avon. pp. 25–28. ISBN 0-8027-7694-9. 
  5. ^ a b c Latson, Jennifer (2015-03-09). "The Barbie Doll's Not-for-Kids Origins". Time. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  6. ^ a b c "Bild-Lilli - the first "Barbie doll"". Bild-Lilli.com. Retrieved 2017-07-20. 
  7. ^ a b c Gerber, Robin (2009). Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman who Created Her. New York: Collins Business. pp. 10–13. ISBN 9780061341311. 
  8. ^ V-Day Founder Eve Ensler on "I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World" — Democracy Now (radio/TV program), February 26, 2010
  9. ^ "Lilli - Ein Mädchen aus der Großstadt (1958)". cinema.de (in German). Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  10. ^ "Lilli - ein Mädchen aus der Großstadt". Filmlexikon (in German). Zweitausendeins. Retrieved 2017-07-18. 
  11. ^ Lord, pp. 29–30.
  12. ^ "Barbie: The Early History". Plosin.com. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  13. ^ Clark, Eric (2007). The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for America's Youngest Consumers. New York: Free Press. p. 123. ISBN 9780743247658. 

Further readingEdit

  • Knaak, Silke. Deutsche Modepuppen der 50er und 60er Jahre (German fashion dolls of the Fifties and Sixties); 2005; available at Barbies.de. German and English.
  • Warnecke, Dieter. Barbie im Wandel der Jahrzehnte; Heyne 1995. ISBN 3-453-08738-0. German.
  • Metzger, Wolfram (Ed.): 40 Jahre Barbie-World; Info Verlag 1998. ISBN 3-88190-229-5. German.
  • "Rolf Hausser's Story" (Interview in the magazine Barbie Bazaar, February 2000).