Lawrence Walter Silverman and Jacob “Jake” Ozarkawitz were both journeymen animators whose long careers can easily be traced through IMDB, though little seems to have been written about them. I knew both a bit when I did my chats at the Animation Guild’s 1984 Golden Awards Banquet: I had interviewed Silverman for my research on early animation unions and talked to Ozark informally from time to time, as he was as a friend and colleague of my father. (However, he refused to talk to me about the Fleischer strike.)
Silverman began his career in 1926, right out of high school, washing cels for three days at Carpenter-Goldman Laboratories, in Long Island City, on a film being done for the Navy. (The company is known for providing a safe haven for Max Fleischer in 1929 after leaving Out of the Inkwell Studios.) This was followed by similar brief gigs, including one for Burt Gillett on a Mutt and Jeff cartoon, that were not uncommon during the silent era. (Ed Rehberg and Don Figlozzi told me similar tales.) He became as a cel painter for John Terry on some Krazy Kat cartoons and after a few years went to Terrytoons, where he was an assistant animator, before coming out to the West Coast and got hired by Disney; he had a run in with Walt and had to leave, and had more luck with Harman-Ising, which provided him with his fondest animation memories. (“We made some pretty good pictures. They were the second best to Disney’s, I thought.”) He returned to New York to work at Van Beuren, under Gillett again, for two years, until its animation operation closed in 1936, after distributor RKO signed up Disney instead. Silverman ended up back at Terrytoons until the 1947 strike. (I interviewed him about the walkout, as well as the labor troubles at Van Beuren during Gillett’s rather chaotic tenure.) Like other refugees from the Terrytoons strike, he ended up working at several commercial houses that had sprung up in the early days of television, starting with Film Graphics. Before returning to L.A. in 1964, he also worked at Famous/Paramount Studios; on the Coast, he put in time at Hanna-Barbera and Jack Kinney, before ending his career at Filmation.
Jack Ozark began in animation at Fleischer on March 4, 1932, at age 17, probably as an opaquer, working his way up to becoming an animator. In Miami, he worked on Gulliver’s Travels, animating on the “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” sequence. During this period, as an animator, he was expected not to fraternize with artists like my father who had gone on strike; however, this did not stop him from regularly dining at our house before he married Shana. My mom remembered Jack as being a bit crazy, but his kind of crazy was rather infectious. (By the way, Shana worked at Fleischer as an inbetweener and later with Jack as an assistant animator.)
After serving in the Army during the war, Ozark worked for Famous Studios before moving back to Miami to do animated commercials for a division of WTVJ, Channel 4, the city’s first TV station, soon after it was established in 1949. (During this period, he mentored Lou Hertz, a young college student who later became dean of Atlanta animation, who was the first animation person I met when I moved to that area.) After five years, Ozark spent a year in New Orleans before ending up on the West Coast, where he was variously employed at UPA, Hanna-Barbera, and DePatie-Freleng, ending up spending 17 years at Filmation (Fat Albert, Archie, The Lone Ranger, He-Man, Lassie, etc.). Along the way, he put in short stints at Disney and Bakshi (on Fire and Ice). He was in awe that he was hired to be Milt Kahl’s assistant at Disney, but was unable to stay because the job didn’t pay enough. I wonder if economics had any part in Ozark’s short 4 month stint with Bakshi, who he called “a true genius”?
While there doesn’t seem to be much online about Silverman, there are a few short items of interest posted by Bob Jaques on his Popeye Animators blog, including one on Ozark’s work as a sports cartoonist and some recollections by Tom Minton, as well as an obit of Shana Ozark, on whom a longer post is promised.
Starting next week I’m going to leave the 1984 Banquet for now and, for reasons I’ll explain later, jump forward to interviews I did in 1987. These will include chats with several women, two of whom played important roles in animation history.
Next week: Lu Guarnier.