Private Eye Popeye

Created by E.C. Segar
Pseudonym of Elzie Crisler Segar

POPEYE, everyone’s favourite spinach-chugging sailor man, gets the P.I. treatment in “Private Eye Popeye,” a lame, low-budget cartoon from the mid-fifties, put out by Famous Studios. It was not Popeye’s greatest moment.

Despite the fact this was produced smack-dab-in-the middle of the hard-boiled P.I. craze, with trenchcoats and fedoras popping up in everything from radio and television to bookstores and even comic books, the cartoon harkens back to the 1920s, if not earlier. Popeye may be a private eye, but he sports a deerstalker cap and a Sherlock Holmes coat (which does his already misshapen body no favours) and Bluto–the obligatory bad guy–is no Moriarty. He steals a precious gem from Olive Oyl, and dresses like a silent film villain, complete with top hat and black cape.

There are a few decent sight gags (Popeye “traces” a phone call by following the call along telephone wires with his magnifying glass) and there’s a nice little cheesy visual gag used every time the stolen emerald is shown that pays off in the end) but this is pretty typical, dumbed-down fare; the 207th Popeye cartoon (if anyone’s counting).

There’s an extended chase sequence that bounces from Paris to the Swiss Alps to the Middle East, with Popeye unleashing his inner Droopy. There are also a few dubious cultural cliches tossed in along the way and (of course) the convenient appearance of a cart full of spinach, but the whole affair is so ultimately predictable I don’t think anyone will be too offended.

Not much of a parody; and not much of a cartoon, even for the kids it was obviously aimed at.

Popeye first appeared as a minor character in 1929 in E. C. Segar’ in his comic strip Thimble Theatre. But his popularity soon made him the star of the strip, and lead to a seemingly endless stream of increasingly disappointing cartoons and even a 1980 feature film starring Robin Williams, directed by Robert Altman.


Bally writes:

Funny that Popeye is dressed like Sherlock Holmes here as there are some surprising connection between the two.

The biggest being that Popeye’s creator E.C. Segar was a massive Sherlockian and got involved in Sherlockian activities. A statue was erected in the detective’s honor (though looking like Segar himself) in Segar’s hometown Chester, Illinois along with Segar’s iconic characters like Popeye and Olive Oyl.

This isn’t Popeye’s first dabble into the detective business. In Thimble Theatre, he formed a detective for hire agency alongside Olive’s older (and shorter) brother Castor Oyl. Castor himself would end up wearing the familiar deerstalker in some stories, and Segar also created a Sherlock Holmes-like character who appeared in a number of stories, while Popeye himself displayed Sherlock Holmes-like investigative prowess in other stories.


Elzie Crisler Segar, better known by the pen name of E. C. Segar, was an American cartoonist best known as the creator of Popeye, who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Segar, who died in 1938,  had nothing to do with the  “Private Eye Popeye” cartoon, though. The writer of the cartoon was Isadore (Izzy) Klein (1897-1986), who had a long career in writing and animation, and worked as a cartoonist for the New Yorker. He also served as a member of the National Cartoonists Society from 1916-69.


  • “PRIVATE EYE POPEYE” | Buy the DVD Watch it on youTube
    (1954, Famous Studios)
    Animated short
    6:14 minutes
    Story by Isadore Klein
    Directed by Seymour Kneitel


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with additional info courtesy of Bally from Fortess of Ballytude.

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