spats at an Iowa picnic also Iowa spats
Noun, e.g., Blue-eyed red-haired Maureen O'Hara was spats at an Iowa picnic playing a Persian in "Sinbad the Sailor" (1947). Or: John Wayne and Dean Martin were Iowa spats playing brothers in the “Sons of Katie Elder” (1965).
Definition: Two things that don't go together.
History: Originally “spats at an Iowa picnic” meant a person in the motion picture business (spats) present at a family picnic of native Iowans. The migration of Iowa farmers to La La Land in the early 20th Century looms large in SoCal history. In Earl Derr Biggers’ second Charlie Chan novel, The Chinese Parrot (1926), a character remarks Pasadena still featured the classic Spanish architecture prominent in SoCal before “all the Iowans moved here.”
The association of spats with show biz folk faded as Iowans and Hollywood became more simpatico in the 1930s. The expression came to mean any two things that don't go together. A critic for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner applied it to the lead characters in “The Wolfman” (1940), observing: “Which requires a greater suspension of disbelief: Lon Chaney Jr. transforming into a werewolf or Lon Chaney Jr. being the son Claude Rains?”
Related Terms: caliphony film historian melon nickpick richardloo wart
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