Today we feature Dan McLaughlin’s interviews from The Animation Guild’s 1986 Golden Awards Banquet with Lavelle Haines Howard and Celine Miles Marcus, two women who were among the largely unsung grunts of the animation industry: final checkers and ink and paint artists. Though, Miles work is actually fairly well known, or at least was once upon a time, the same, however, cannot be said for Howard, who split her early career between dancing and animation.
Howard had been a dancer before going to work for Walter Lantz in 1936. “I decided,” she recalled, “that if I could get a job [where] I could sit, instead of every two minutes saying, ‘Alright, one, two, three, let’s get up,’ that I would be very happy.”
“But after I sat for awhile — and I had blinding headaches going home — I finally made it [at Lantz]. I was there for two years, then I was laid off and went back to dancing at Universal — it was my studio. I stayed at Universal for about two years and then I went back. I was back and forth like this until I finished up by staying in the cartoon industry.” She boasted that, over the years, she “taught 12 different girls to final check. It was very interesting and I loved working at Hanna-Barbera. I was there for 21 years.” She also worked at such studios as John Sutherland, Kling, Red Skeleton, Cascade, Raphael G. Wolff, Ray Patin and Disney.
When asked about any special memories of working in the industry, she recalled an incident when she was at Kling Studios: Animator “Jerry Bowen, who was then president of the Guild, decided to leave the studio. He was always kidding me. So, he came back into the studio and he was going to leave, [but he] came back in, came to my desk, picked me up, put me over his shoulder and took me out the front gate. And he said that, ‘I knew that I had forgotten something.’ And he sat me down on the sidewalk, out in front of the studio!”
Celine Miles, as she was known, was best known for her company, Celine Miles Ink and Paint Service, one of the premiere studios in the field, which she ran for 23-24 years before retiring in 1979. She began as an inker at Leon Schlesinger in 1936, shifting to MGM as “a color model girl” when they opened their own studio a year later; during her 6-year stay, she also acted as the union’s financial secretary. This was followed by a stint at Jerry Fairbanks as head of ink and paint, working on his Speaking of Animals shorts (created by Tex Avery). Miles then moved on to Paul Fennell’s for “6 years or so” before opening her company.
The studio’s credits are impressive to say the least: John Wilson’s pioneering TV animated version of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, Petroushka, the cleaning lady intro to the Carol Burnett Show; spots for the Jackson Five, for Soul Train, Chuck Jones Productions (The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie), Bill Melendez (Peanuts specials), Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, though not the X-rated material), and Murakami-Wolf (Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be Me TV special). Even New York-based Hubley Studios regularly used her on the likes of A Doonesbury Special. (Michael Sporn discussed the unusual nature of Hubley’s work on the Letterman series for The Electric Company and briefly noted Miles’ role here.)
After she sold her company, Celine and her husband, Andrew Marcus, moved to Grass Valley, California, and later to Tucson, Arizona.
It was not surprising, unfortunately, that I found nothing about Howard, but Miles fared better, thanks in large part to Martha Sigall, who devoted a short but informative chapter to Celine Miles Ink and Paint in her Living Life Inside the Lines.
Next week: George Nicholas