Blake Stilwell writes: This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.
Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.
Spoiler alert: Popeye saves the day, but not before telling Bluto to “stop in the name of the Coast Guard.”
It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity.
After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform…(read more)
Blake Stilwell is a traveler and writer with expertise in television & film, international relations, public relations, and the Middle East. He is a veteran USAF combat cameraman whose civilian work includes ABC News, NBC, HBO, and the White House. Blake is based in LA but often found elsewhere.