This week’s moonlighting animation artist in comics is Terrytoons/Famous Studios animator Larry Silverman!
Born in 1908 in New York, Larry Silverman’s animation career began once he graduated high school, which led to brief stints. He started at Carpenter-Goldman Laboratories as a cel washer, but only for three days. Silverman also worked at Associated Animators, where he recalled working on a Mutt and Jeff cartoon with Burt Gillett. Later, he became an assistant to John Terry, who sub-contracted Krazy Kat cartoons from Bill Nolan between 1925 and 1927. By 1930, he went over to John’s brother Paul Terry’s studio as a cel painter and assistant animator to Frank Moser. He moved to the West Coast to Walt Disney’s studio as one of Norm Ferguson’s assistant animators.
Silverman left after what he recalled as “a run-in with Walt,” around 1931, and migrated to Harman-Ising where he became a full animator. He went back to New York when Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising separated their connection with producer Leon Schelesinger and served as an animator for Van Beuren. When Van Beuren’s studio closed in 1936, Silverman returned to Paul Terry’s studio, where he animated throughout the late 1930s and 1940s. Different examples of his work for Terry exude a softness in the character animation; he animates the first scenes of a Frank Sinatra-esque cat crooning onstage in Swooning the Swooners (1945) and the introduction of Svengali in Svengali’s Cat (1946).
In 1947, when many artists at Terry’s studio went on strike over pay disputes and layoffs, Silverman joined them on the picket line and didn’t return to work. He followed the strikers that left the studio to work in different companies that produced animated television commercials, namely Film Graphics. Silverman moved over to Famous Studios as an animator in Myron Waldman’s unit, working on several cartoons featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost.
In the mid-1950s, he left Famous Studios and went back to work at Terrytoons, after CBS bought the studio under Gene Deitch’s management. He also went into television animation, working on The Deputy Dawg Show. Ralph Bakshi, who worked with Silverman during this period, spoke of him: “Larry was one of the great old timers, very sure of what he was doing, very friendly and helpful, very quiet.” By the early 1960s, Silverman left Terrytoons and worked on for television animation, as well as theatricals for Paramount. He served as an animator on King Features Syndicate’s Popeye and Snuffy Smith series, in addition to the regular shorts produced by Famous Studios.
Silverman went back to the West Coast in the mid-‘60s to work at Hanna-Barbera as an animator on such shows as The Flintstones, Secret Squirrel and The Peter Potamus Show. By the end of the 1960s, he moved to Filmation, where he spent the remainder of his career in animation before his retirement in 1984. Tom Minton, who worked at Filmation with Silverman, shared about his technique: “His animated scenes tended to have a rather utilitarian look…He tended to animate on one’s but expose his stuff on two’s, so it had a smooth but somewhat slow quality.” It is uncertain if he used this approach in his earlier work, but judging from the examples of his work for Paul Terry in the 1940s, it might be possible. Silverman passed away in 1995, at the age of 86.
(Thanks to Milton Knight, Charlie Judkins and Harvey Deneroff for their help.)