Last year, on the Internet Animation Database (IAD) Forums, a user shared a photograph of Art Davis and a colleague with their respective wives. This person asked for an ID of the other party in the photo identified. I was able to recognize the other man as Sid Marcus. I used a photograph from approximately 1930-31 for reference. This photograph is circa 1940. During that time, Davis and Marcus were top animators/directors at Charles Mintz’s studio, later renamed Screen Gems after Mintz passed away in 1939.
Throughout his career in animation, Art Davis saved many artifacts, such as group photographs that include him and various staff members, production artwork from various studios, gag drawings, contracts and correspondence. Many items shown here are courtesy of Steven Marshall, the user who submitted the photograph and husband of Art Davis’ granddaughter. This post is a gallery of some of these items. (Some of the drawings reproduced here are from low-res files and cut off the full image, so please excuse the quality.)
First, here’s a recent discovery. This might be the earliest known artwork by Art Davis (then fifteen years old). It was published in The Yonkers Herald on January 28, 1921. A corresponding photo of the high school students that submitted drawings to the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce was published February 10, where Davis can be seen in the lower far right.
While he was an animator at a studio run by Ben Harrison and Manny Gould in New York, Davis seemed to have contacted Walt Disney for a job, undoubtedly in response to the innovations and success of the early Mickey Mouse cartoons. Here is a response from Disney to Davis, dated July 10, 1929:
Documentation is scarce to support this piece of speculation, but the next telegram makes it seem Van Beuren disapproved of Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus and Davis making Toby the Pup cartoons directly for RKO. It appears he wanted to make the trio part of his studio and sell their services to RKO that way. This is dated April 2, 1931. Van Beuren’s human characters Tom and Jerry debuted in Wot a Night, released four months later in August.
Here is a higher-resolution photograph of the Charles Mintz staff, circa 1931. Since Ben Harrison, Manny Gould, Al Rose or Harry Love– who primarily worked on the Krazy Kat series— are not present in the picture, it’s possible that the two units at Mintz took separate group photos. This was taken at 5454 Virginia Avenue, around the corner from their studio on 1154 North Western Avenue.
Davis stands second from the far left; next to him is Dick Huemer. Charles Mintz stands in the back center, with Sid Marcus next to him. Musical composer Joe De Nat stands next to Marcus, with his face obscured. Harry McCracken identified Sid Glenar as the man kneeling on the far left. (If anyone can identify the other staffers in this photograph, please comment below.)
Here is a contract from April 12, 1932 which reveals Davis’ salary as an animator at Charles Mintz’s studio. (Adjusted for inflation, $225 in 1932 is equivalent to $4,319.57 today.)
Here are some gag drawings of Davis from his time at Screen Gems – with caricatures of Sid Marcus included – that mostly poke fun at his baldness. These seem to originate sometime between the mid-thirties to the early forties.
After Davis was terminated from Screen Gems in the early 1940s, he made another attempt to apply to Walt Disney’s studio. Walt Disney’s studio evolved significantly between 1929 and 1942, With the studio’s high volume of personnel and Disney’s struggles to keep afloat financially, Disney was no longer able to maintain relationships with a large number of staffers compared to the smaller crew he had fostered earlier. It does seem reasonable that Davis’ application would be rejected.
Davis’ application to Leon Schlesinger’s is not accessible as of this writing. However, the earliest known cartoons he animated for the studio (without credit), The Daffy Duckaroo (1942) and Confusions of a Nutzy Spy (1943) had dialogue sessions recorded between June and July 1942; Duckaroo was released October 24, 1942 and Nutzy Spy on January 23, 1943. Considering the faster production schedules for black-and-white cartoons from script to screen, Davis might have joined Schlesinger’s in either month.
Here are some model sheets and character sketches from Warners cartoons Davis directed: The Rattled Rooster (1947), Odor of the Day (1948), The Stupor Salesman (1948) and Porky Chops (1949).
Davis is given a co-writer credit on the Oscar-nominated Sandy Claws (1955). Revealing the cartoon’s working title, this document was signed September 25, 1952, indicating the film was well into production before the studio shutdown in the summer of 1953. He revealed in an interview that co-writer Warren Foster only pitched the storyboard to Friz Freleng and that he did not have the authority to omit Foster’s name from the screen credits. (The $300 payment is equivalent to $3,023.25 in 2021 currency.)
Here is a 1952 letter from Izzy Sparber – a former colleague from Max Fleischer’s Inkwell studio in the 1920s – inquiring about a West Coast story man who would be willing to work at Famous Studios in Manhattan.
I’m sure many of you have seen this photograph before, but not in such great quality. This photo was taken at Warners circa 1954. Standing in the back row are Ray Young, Ted Bonnicksen. Gerry Chiniquy stands in the back row. Bob Matz, Warren Batchelder, Art Davis, John Brandt, and Sid Farren are seen at the front. If you look closely, you can see Davis is working on a scene from Freleng’s A Kiddie’s Kitty, released August 1955.
As I mentioned in Davis’ animator profile, the studio planned to activate a unit for television commercials with Davis in charge. However, the studio brought in Phil Monroe, a former animator at the studio who had experience in several commercial studios, to head the unit. Davis demanded a release from his contract, writing an indignant letter to Dave DePatie on June 17, 1960. Here is the letter and the release from Davis’ contract:
Here is a character sketch from Quackodile Tears (1962), directed by Davis in his spare time while he was working at Hanna-Barbera.
Jumping far ahead to the early 1980s, when Davis was hospitalized for heart bypass surgery. Here is a drawing of a nurse that cared for him during his recovery, with the Warners characters fawning over her.
To conclude this gallery, here are a series of photographs taken during an impromptu visit for Hawley Pratt at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills—a visit suggested by Art Leonardi.
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