Up until recently, male dolls were very few and far between, but over the last few years, as the trend for character dolls has grown, men have been making their presence felt – and how. Dolls are made to represent footballers, pop stars, sportsmen and even politicians. Here, though, we’re looking at the movie men, those who star on tv or in the films. Sometimes, like Indiana Jones, they are brave and fearless, others, such as Spiderman, are crime fighters in strange outfits, then there are the suave sophisticates; Henry Higgins, Rhett Butler. The fourth category falls to those inoffensive, often funny types – think Dick van Dyke, in Mary Poppins.
A collection of male dolls, all testerone, trousers and teeth, makes a fun group, and might even prove a bit of an investment, certainly if you buy some of the cheaper types. If this sounds an odd theory, it’s really very simple – there are some wonderful versions of male dolls produced by designers such as Robert Tonner. However, these top of the range models are intended for collectors, who tend to keep them safe, and with their boxes. They are unlikely to undress them, let alone comb their hair or give them rides up the garden path on a skateboard – but the cheaper dolls intended for children will soon be unboxed, undressed and scuffed. These character dolls usually have quite a short shelf life because movies are constantly changing, and new heroes are produced. So in a few years time, if you resist temptation to debox your handsome hero, you may suddenly find he is demand.
Perhaps the most modelled male film character has been Harry Potter; there are dozens of different types from small plastic figures through to expensive Robert Tonner versions. Many of these dolls featured in Dolls To Delight last October, so I won’t dwell on them here, but suffice to say that the Tonner types are stunning, while the large Gotz figures and many of the Mattel versions are very good, too. In a similar vein are the Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy figures. Even so, with the best will in the world Harry Potter doesn’t really fall into the ‘handsome swash-buckling hero types’; for those we turn to characters such as swashbuckling Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or adventurer Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
The Tonner version of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) features an elaborate costume, and the beading in the hair has been painstakingly reproduced. A much more affordable version, by Zizzle, was in the toy stores a couple of years ago as a 12 inch high doll. Although this one had moulded hair, the resemblance to the actor was amazing, and the costume still very intricate. Zizzle also made an Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, in a choice of outfits – either a ‘piratey-loo king’ red shirt, black waistcoat and black trousers, or a black leather outfit with a cream brocade waistcoat. Tonner, too, have depicted Will in his pirate outfit. A recent introduction is Hasbro’s Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, as a talking version, with phrases such as ‘I think we’ve got a big problem’ and ‘That’s why they call it the jungle, sweetheart’. His mouth even moves as he speaks. Dressed in his typical leather jacket, coarse trousers and battered hat, this is a super doll and certainly one to look out for.
Doctor Who, in his David Tennant reincarnation, is made by Character Options. Wearing a battered suit, he comes complete with, of course, his sonic screwdriver. This doll bears an excellent likeness to David. While we are on a space theme, there have been many Star Wars dolls (or ‘Action Figures’ as boys prefer to call them!) made over the years. In the 1980s a series of 12 inch high dolls were made by Palitoy, and are very collectable today; various others still appear from time to time. Likewise figures from ‘Babylon Five’, ‘Star Trek’ and similar cult sci-fi films, such as the Mego figures from the mid-seventies.
Of course, you don’t have to be constantly warding off aliens, pirates, villains or dark forces to be a hero. You might be the suave and polished kind. Recently, Tonner created a Clark Gable doll in his role as Rhett Butler from ‘Gone With The Wind’, while in 1996 Mattel came up trumps with an excellent ‘enry ‘iggins as portrayed by Rex Harrison, from ‘My Fair Lady’. Dressed in his tweeds, Henry is depicted as the typical aristocratic gentleman. In contrast, we have Bert (Dick Van Dyke), who most certainly could have done with a few elocution lessons from Henry Higgins. The presentation of this recent doll from Mattel is most attractive – Bert is riding a carousel horse from the fairground scene in Mary Poppins. Very popular at the moment are the High School Musical dolls, and of course, Troy (Zac Efron) is included in the range by Mattel, and available in various outfits. John Travolta in his ‘Grease’ days was issued by Mattel a couple of years ago – but this was a mini-John, as modelled by Tommy, friend of Kelly, Barbie’s little sister. Barbie herself was depicted alongside James Bond in 2003. James has also appeared in Action Man special issues, though no attempt was made to capture any of the actors’ features, and more recently by Sideshow Collectables.
More mystical are the ‘Lord of the Rings’ dolls. Characters such as Aragon have been expertly modelled by Applause and Toy Biz. Other fantasy figures include the comic book heroes; Batman, Superman, Spiderman – all of these have been produced in doll form, but I’m sure that most will have endured rough handling by their young owners, so pristine or boxed versions are certainly worth acquiring for your collection. That goes for ‘Thunderbirds’ dolls and Captain Scarlet too.
Most heroes are handsome, or at least, reasonably presentable. If you want something a bit out of the ordinary though, then in the 1990s, Sideshow Collectables issued figures from famous horror movies. Amongst them was a very scary12 inch tall Lon Chaney playing the starring role in the 1925 film ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Others included Frankenstein and Dracula. It’s not really advisable to display these horror dolls in a room you use to relax in – you’ll get a terrible fright if you look up unexpectedly and see one of these hideous faces leering at you. It’s much better to wrap them up well and put them in a box out of sight in a spare room!
A collection of male dolls is a bit out of the ordinary, and whilst they don’t have the gorgeous frocks of the ladies, many of the manly costumes are just as elaborate. So why not recreate some movies in your display case and act out your favourite film star fantasies?