Saturday, 9 February 2013

Hogan Isn't With Us Any More

You can count on a sign commenting on a pun in a Tex Avery cartoon, and “Batty Baseball” is no exception. But in addition to being a gag, the sign may very well have stated a fact.



There’s no writer credit on the cartoon, but the likely storyman was Rich Hogan, who wrote for Avery at Warners and then left to join him at MGM. If that’s the case, he wasn’t with the studio any more when it announced in October 1943 that “Screwball Baseball” (the original name) would be the first release “in a special slapstick series” (as Boxoffice magazine called it) for the coming season. Seems the military had something in mind for him.

Aside from his cartoon credits, there’s not much information around about Hogan. He’s the forgotten man in the story of Bugs Bunny; he received the story credit for the wabbit’s breakthrough cartoon, “A Wild Hare,” in 1940.

Richard Adams Hogan was born in Buffalo, New York on June 7, 1913, the oldest of seven children of John Martin and Florence L. (Adams) Hogan. His father was a customer service manager for Buffalo General Electric Co., active in the Knights of Columbus and Secretary of the Buffalo Golf Club. Hogan’s World War Two draft record states that he spent four years in art school and the New York Times of June 10, 1937 lists his name in a story about graduates of the Pratt Institute.

The Buffalo Courier-Express of April 17, 1940 has this brief biography:

SCRIPT BY BUFFALONIAN
Cross Country Detour, color cartoon, at Hippodrome

The Merrie Melody color cartoon, Cross Country Detour, which has been receiving special mention from press and public and is now at Shea's Hippodrome, is of special interest to Buffalo.
The script for the film was written by Rich Hogan, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Martin Hogan of 181 Sterling Avenue. Rich has been with the Leon Schlesinger Studios in Hollywood as cartoonist and writer for four years. He has written many scripts for cartoons but Cross Country Detour is the first to receive nationwide acclaim.
In Buffalo, Rich attended St. Margaret's School and was graduated from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. He then went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study cartoon drawing before joining the Schlesinger staff in Hollywood.


His first credit on a Warners cartoon is in Frank Tashlin’s “The Major Lied Till Dawn,” released in August 1938 and his last is on Chuck Jones’ “The Brave Little Bat,” released in September 1941. At the time, Hogan was renting a room at the large home of Disney artist David Swift’s parents along with Bob Givens (who drew the first Bugs Bunny model sheet), John Freeman (also at Disney) and Rogers Brackett, at the time a clerk at a movie studio and who was later known for his personal connection to James Dean.

Daily Variety reported on June 24, 1942 that Hogan had joined the MGM cartoon staff, buying out his contract with Leon Schlesinger for $1000 with a year left to go. The trade paper says Hogan’s first assignment was on Avery’s “The Blitz Wolf.” But things don’t quite add up. Avery had arrived at MGM the previous September and Variety reported on January 16, 1942 he was assigned to work on that cartoon. “The Blitz Wolf” wouldn’t have sat there for six months without a writer. Animation historian Keith Scott speculates Hogan did it on a freelance basis. “The Blitz Wolf” was released August 22, 1942. Four days later, Hogan enlisted. His name appears on several other shorts but then there is a period when there are no writer credits until Heck Allen’s name on “Screwball Squirrel,” put into production next after “Batty Baseball.” Animator Berny Wolf told historian Mike Barrier that Allen replaced Hogan, so it’s possible “Batty Baseball” was Hogan’s last cartoon before his military service.

Hogan re-appears as a storyman after the war. Weekly Variety reported on June 12, 1946 he had returned to Metro after 42 months in the Army. His first cartoon credit shows up on “Lucky Ducky” (released October 1948) though, once again, there are a couple of Avery cartoons released after Hogan returned with no story credit. His name appears later on such great cartoons as “Bad Luck Blackie,” “Little Rural Riding Hood” and “Magical Maestro.” Hogan’s animation career ended when Avery left MGM for health reasons in May 1950. Dick Lundy took over Avery’s unit but Hogan didn’t stay. He settled in Sherman Oaks and got into the real estate and development business with Coldwell Banker. Later, he and his wife Marge had a home in Studio City and the two were part of the San Fernando Valley’s social set through the 1960s. The pair had four children, including a set of twins. Tragedy clouded the twins’ seventh birthday party—Hogan spotted a six-year-old neighbour girl face down in the pool. She was pronounced dead in hospital.

Post-cartoon career newspaper stories refer to him as “Dick” Hogan. Warners animator Phil Monroe did the same in an interview with historian Mike Barrier. In the late ‘30s, there was a contract player at RKO named Dick Hogan. That may be why Hogan went with “Rich” in his on-screen credit.

Hogan seems to have disappeared in the ‘70s—he was divorced late in the decade—and he died in Los Angeles on January 28, 1981 at age 67.

4 comments:

  1. Very informative post. And wow, that six-year old girl drowning is sad.

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  2. Thanks for another mini-biography on one of animation's unsung heroes!

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  3. Yeah-- thanks for the depressing stuff! You must be fun at parties!

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  4. It's informative, but I have to agree with Tom...some of the information were pretty dark and depressing!

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