Ella Cinders

Bill Conselman and Charles Plumb's Ella Cinders (January 25, 1931). Road signs for Prescott and Wickenburg indicate the setting is in Yavapai County, Arizona. Note the curious date discrepancy in bottom panels.

Ella Cinders is a syndicated comic strip created by writer Bill Conselman and artist Charles Plumb. Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, the daily version was launched June 1, 1925, and a Sunday page followed two years later. It was discontinued in 1961. Chris Crusty ran above Ella Cinders as a topper strip from 1931 to 1940.

Characters and story

Initially, as the name implies, the strip presented a variation on the classic Cinderella story, but then it diverged into other plotlines, as noted by comics historian Don Markstein:

Ella is the Cinderella of the comic. She has the standard 1920s charm look with classic straight black hair cut in a bob and large round eyes common in comics. She dressed in simpler clothing, more prominently in the earlier years of the comic, and was not the rare beauty common in other stories.

Ella's step family is made of Myrtle "Ma" Cinders, her stepmother, and her stepsisters Prissie and Lotta Pell. Prissie has been described by Conselman as "pinched and acid" and Lotta as "fat and foolish." Both sisters use their free time to torment Ella while she is assigned household work by Myrtle "Ma" Cinders. To endure the treatment from her step family Ella joins with her allies her brother, Blackie, and her boyfriend, Waite Lifter, to wisecrack and find happiness in sarcasm.

As the story progresses Ella receives her "fairy godmother" moment from a beauty contest where she wins by a judge randomly selecting her photo. As a prize for winning the beauty contest Ella receives a job at a movie theater and she and her brother move to Hollywood. Once there Ella learns that the studio is now defunct. She and Blackie decide to stay in Hollywood anyway and continue with melodramatics in the daily comics and one-episode gags in the Sunday comics. Ella continued this life of fun but never prospered. She eventually married, though her husband Patches spent a large amount of time away having adventure.[1]

Film adaptation

The prolific Alfred E. Green directed the film adaptation Ella Cinders, starring Colleen Moore, produced by Moore's husband John McCormick, and released by First National Pictures on June 6, 1926.

In the house of late father, Ella Cinders (Moore) works for her stepmother and two stepsisters, Prissy Pill (Emily Gerdes) and Lotta Pill (Doris Baker), finding support from the local iceman, Waite Lifter (Lloyd Hughes). The Gem Film Company has a contest in which the winner gets an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood and a movie role.

A photograph is needed to enter, so Ella spends three nights babysitting to raise $3 for the photo session. However, the photographer unwittingly take a picture of her looking cross-eyed at a fly on her nose which turns out to be the photo entered in the contest. Entrants must go to a Town Hall ball, but Ella's stepmother and stepsisters won't allow her to go. Waite sees her crying on the front steps and tells her he will take her to the ball. She says she has nothing to wear, so he convinces her to use one of her stepsisters' dresses. At the judges' table, her stepsisters react violently when they see the dress. The embarrassed Ella flees the ball, losing one of her slippers.

Later, the judges come to the house and tell Ella that she is the winner because they were amused by the cross-eyed photo. Ella heads for Hollywood, where she is disappointed to discover the contest was a fraud. She nevertheless manages to land a movie contract. Waite turns out to be football hero George Waite, and the two are reunited.

The characters were introduced in the first Ella Cinders strip (June 1, 1925).


Ella also turned up in Big Little Books and comic books, including early issues of Tip Top and Sparkler Comics, plus her own title in 1948-49. The comic strip had numerous ghost writers and ghost artists, including children's book author Hardie Gramatky, Morton Traylor, Henry Formhals (of Freckles and His Friends) and Texas artist Jack W. McGuire. His son, Jack W. McGuire, Jr., recalled:

His first strip was Jane Arden in 1934, followed by Bullet Benton, a cowboy boxer similar to Joe Palooka; then the Red Knight. After the Red Knight in 1943, Dad began drawing Ella Cinders as a ghost artist for the original artist, Charles Plumb. He drew this strip until he died in December 1945.[2]

After Plumb retired, Fred Fox took over the strip in the 1950s, and he was later replaced by Roger Armstrong (of Scamp). Ella Cinders ended in 1961.


  1. Ella Cinders at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on June 17, 2016.
  2. Red Knight
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