He died in 1977, and his widow and co-producer Faith Hubley continued to make films. I wrote to her in 1998 to ask about their films together, and in January 1999 I received her response. It’s very touching that she still referred to John in the present tense, and she had glowing things to say about everyone she appreciated as a colleague. I remember wishing I had done something well for her so that I could receive such praise. Also, I was surprised by how much value she gave to jazz in her work and her life.
My first question was about theatrical distribution of their films The Hole, The Hat, and Voyage to Next, especially with the first one winning the Academy Award and the third one receiving a nomination. I had assumed that Oscar recognition always helped get a cartoon into more theaters, but her answer somewhat disproved that for me. She replied, “The Hole, The Hat, and Voyage never achieved major distribution. Obviously, the Academy enhances prestige but not material support.”
The second question was about the Hubleys’ hiring of African Americans to score some cartoons. She responded, “Working with Dizzy is my idea of heaven. Our and later after John’s death, Dizzy is a reward of such specialness—a brilliant man, a true friend and a grander sense of humor. A wise man, a poet. We all know about his music.
“Quincy is not to be underestimated but his dedication to ‘art’ is his own. His scores were excellent—particularly for Of Men and Demons.
“Benny Carter, whom you did not mention, is a collaborator for many years — our first film Adventures of an * (was) scored by wonderful Benny.”
I think that the third question was also about Gillespie’s voicing of characters in The Hole and The Hat. Her answer suggested that she saw her work more as short films than as cartoons. She answered, “I suggest you look at our films which are not cartoons in the traditional sense. John and I are dedicated jazz fans—before and after our partnership. To not embrace jazz is like denying one’s major existence.
“Dizzy’s performance in the verbal department was always on par with his exemplary musicianship. What more can I say?”
After answering another distribution question, she concluded her letter with a plug and a pleasant closing: “If you can get to NY, try to set up a date at MOMA [the Museum of Modern Art], where you can see these films and others. My just-completed Africa might prove to be of interest.
“Hope this is helpful. Call me if you need more. Enclosed is a brochure or two. Best, Faith”