On an Oyl that Isn’t Oil

Olive Oyl is most commonly known as Popeye’s girlfriend

Appeared in nearly 25,000 comic strips, 750 cartoons, and countless comic books

Created by Elzie Crisler Segar in 1919 for Thimble Theater, and Olive was a main character for 10 years before Popeye’s 1929 appearance (yes, Popeye chased an older woman)

Before Popeye’s appearance in Thimble Theater, Harold Hamgravy was her man

Comic strip family: Cole (father), Nana (mother), Castor (brother), Diesel and Violet (nieces)

Appeared in Fleischer Studio’s first Technicolor short, Somewhere in Dreamland (1936), but without Popeye

Most commonly voiced by character actress Mae Questel

Description: Very tall and very skinny with hair in a tight bun with a red bow, commonly wears short-sleeved solid-colored blouse and a black skirt with a line on the bottom that matches the blouse, and enormous feet, which aren’t big when she wears heels

Popeye’s comment about her measurements is, She is a perfect 57… 19-19-19.

She is, in a word – fickle

In Spain and Sweden she is known as Oliva, but as Olga in Finland

Common storyline: Bluto kidnaps her, and Popeye rescues her

In Robin-Hood Winked, her sex appeal exempted her from taxes

Quotes by Olive Oyl

  • Oh, Popeye!
  • Help! Popeye, save me!
  • Goochy goo.
  • Oh, woe is me! Oh, help! Saveth me! Saveth me!
  • Keep away from me, you, you, you wolf in ship’s clothing!
  • You, you sea monster! What have you done to my Popeye?
  • Now, now, you let me outta here, you, you stone-age baboon!
  • You wolf in cheap clothing!
  • Oh, Popeye, you are the most, the absolute highest, the farthest out, the utmost, the kookiest. And besides that, you’re hip. Crazy and cool, real cool!

… and Olive Oyl paved the way for female politicians

… and enjoy the one from the black and white days

81 thoughts on “On an Oyl that Isn’t Oil

  1. I’m getting nostalgic (and old!) Now where did I put that spinach?
    ps. until my computer is fixed am still stuggling with this mini that won’t let me see media – sorry!


  2. I’ve learnt something new today, Olive is older than Popeye, I’ll store that with all me other hard earned quiz knowledge.
    Next question did the character Wimpey appear before the Burger joint?
    Great post.


  3. Started my Saturday morning off right. Tanx for the memories.
    I had not idea how many appearances she had – girl sure did get around.


  4. The black and white Popeye cartoons were the best. I remember watching them on TV back in the 1950’s while munching my Wheaties Breakfast of Champions cereal. The key was the fluid and detailed animation which unfortunately was simplified during the Hanna Barbera era to save money.


    • Tim,
      I loved Popeye cartoons back in the day, and when I see them today on YouTube, I most frequently say “I remember this one.” … and yes … very true about how some animations were simplified in order to save money. Glad you enjoyed this one … now back to your Wheaties.


  5. Frank,
    As a kid, my dad had given us nicknames based on tv cartoons; I was Pepé Le Pew, my younger brother and my sister, because of her very tall and skinny height, Olive Oyl. And it has stuck with her…


  6. Can someone, ANYONE, tell me what was the attraction that made both Bluto/Brutus and Popeye go nuts over Olive? Fer cryin’ out loud, I’ve climbed telephone poles with more shape than she had! 😉


  7. I can still hear her singing, “Who’s that knocking at my door…” I have always loved Olive Oyl! I loved Popeye, too, but there was something so appealing about Olive! I didn’t know the cartoon dated quite that far back. That surprised me!


  8. Interesting choice and good video clips. Personally I was an avid watcher of Popeye cartoons but could never see the attraction to Olive. Maybe he just liked the older goyl 😉


  9. I always thought Olive’s voice was so funny. I used to try to imitate her but I could never get it right. I could never get my voice high enough. I had no idea that she got around like that before she met Popeye–you go, girl!


  10. I’ve never thought highly of Olive Oyl…in fact, I’ve always found her to be the most forgettable cartoon character ever. Just a colossal PIA to Popeye. Your research, though, is impeccable and is quite possibly the opus work on Olive.

    That said, there was a guy near Boston that was something of a Popeye scholar – http://www.wickedlocal.com/watertown/news/x1943022188/Watertown-man-a-huge-Popeye-fan#axzz2ISq8vCkT quite the character himself.


    • Nonnie,
      Greetings my friend … 🙂 …. Your portrayals using the Popeye characters cracks me up = but I’m just not sure which was my favorite – a tossup between McCain and Chaney. Many thanks for the flashback.


  11. When I was a kid growing up in Atlanta, one of the local TV stations hosted “The Popeye Club” from 4:30-5:00 pm on weekdays before all the news shows came on. My dad was a “newsaholic” so my sister and I got our fix of cartoons – namely Popeye and Olive Oyl before we disappeared when Dad took over the TV. They were entertaining, but honestly never as clever or interesting as some of the other cartoons of the day. Thanks for the tour down memory lane, Frank!


  12. As usual, another terrific cartoon post, Frank. I’ve never been a fan of Olive Oyl, but aside from the few other familiar female characters in the classic cartoon canon — the Fleischer Bros.’ Bettie Boop, and Disney’s Minnie Mouse and Clarabelle Cow, and if you really want to stretch it, the Warner Bros.’ bit player, Petunia Pig, Olive scored much more screen time and plot lines, and that I appreciate. I think the dearth of female characters says a lot about who was creating those classic cartoons — all guys. And that is why my all-time favorite feminine character is Bugs Bunny when he cross-dresses.


    • Lame,
      It’s interesting to see how many readers had negative comments about Olive. To support your point, not only were the animators male, but society’s view of women at the time had to influence cartoons. Meanwhile, cheers to your appreciation of cartoons from this era!


  13. Popey … and Oliva has never been any of my favorites … but what a post you have done .. fantastic job. I was a bit too old for cartoons – when we got TV … I was more into “The Saint” – comic books I never got any neither.


  14. so olive was her own cartoon star before joining popeye? never knew that. thanks. always like good cartoon trivia. i know i asked you this before, but have you seen the popeye movie with robin williams and shelley duval as olive oyl?


  15. Pingback: On Popeye Day | A Frank Angle

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