Gravel Gertie’s Wedding Day

edith Head gravel gertie's wedding dress

With much serious news in the summer of 1946- the atom bomb tests at Bikini Island, smog, a polio outbreak, gangster violence, for a start- Los Angeles like the rest of the country could find respite in the funny pages and the much anticipated wedding of Gravel Gertie. There was a local connection, too.

Gravel Gertie was a character in Chester Gould’s popular Dick Tracy comic strip. She had been introduced in 1944 as an accomplice of The Brow. Later, with Tracy’s help, Gertrude reformed. In late summer 1946, regular readers were caught up in the excitement of Gertie’s pending nuptials to beau Bob Oscar “B.O.” Plenty, himself a reformed criminal, who joined the series in 1945.

In a twist that must have baffled men who were still having trouble getting their hands on affordable clothing other than casual sports things, Hollywood costume designer Edith Head of Paramount designed a real life wedding dress for the 1-dimensional character.

“It’s been my ambition to design Gertie’s gown and I just know she’ll like it- it has sex appeal in a modest way,” Head told reporters as she made last minute adjustments to the dress on the eve of the big event, adding that she was also sending Gertie “something blue” in the form of a garter and satin undies.

gravel gertie's wedding dress Edith Head

“SNIP, SNIP– Edith Head is rushing a wedding gown for Gravel Gertie in anticipation of her marriage to B.O. Plenty. Here the Hollywood fashion designer uses Times reporter Kendis Rochlen for fitting as she rushes gown.” Los Angeles Times, 8-17-1946. The Times carried the Dick Tracy strip locally.

gravel gertie wedding dress Edith Head

The Times’ artist sketch of Gravel Gertie’s gown, designed by Edith Head. Note the ultra-fashionable peplum. 8-17-1946.

8-6-1946: Gossip writer “Hedda” of The Hollywood Column calls Dick Tracy to find out if the Gertie-B.O. rumors are true.

Like many postwar brides, Gertie’s was a home wedding. The ceremony  took place at B.O.’s residence, Sunny Del Acres, on August 18, 1946. Guests included Dick, his longtime sweetheart Tess Truehart, Chief Brannon, officer Pat Patton, and Diet Smith, inventor of the 2-way wrist radio, which debuted earlier in 1946.

Gravel Gertie

8-18-1946: Gravel Gertie and B.O. Plenty tie the knot. LAT.

The natural sequel to this event was the birth the following year of Gertie and B.O.’s daughter, Sparkle Plenty. Gould kept the sex and appearance of the baby, born with “long blonde hair clear down to her hips,” a secret from the public for a week, until her pictures debuted the fictional Glance tabloid, for which the proud parents received $3,000.

6-1-1947: Tracy conveys the news of Sparkle Plenty’s birth to the chief by 2-way radio.

Sparkle Plenty

To everyone’s surprise, the offspring of Gravel Gertie and B.O. Plenty was a beautiful little girl, whom they named Sparkle.

Gimbals department store in New York capitalized on Sparkle mania with the introduction of a Sparkle Plenty doll. Manufactured by Ideal & sold only at Gimbals, she hit shelves in July 1947. In September, The Broadway department store in Los Angeles became the exclusive local retailer of the sensational doll.

Life magazine Sparkle Plenty

8-25-1947: Life magazine features the Sparkle Plenty doll.


9-17-1947: The Broadway was the Los Angeles retailer of the popular Sparkle Plenty doll.


Top image: Edith Head’s design for Gravel Gertie’s wedding dress. USC digital.