Friday, 28 October 2011

Harman-Ising Studio Staff, 1937

On August 23, 1937, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer opened its brand-new cartoon studio in Culver City, California, demonstrating the cut-throat world of show biz at the same time. M-G-M had spent more than three years distributing the increasingly-costly cartoons of Harman-Ising Productions. Management told Fred C. Quimby, who had been running Metro’s short subject division, to set up his own cartoon operation, so he promptly went behind the backs of Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, and threw money at their staff to desert. It killed the Harman-Ising studio. Boxoffice magazine of September 4, 1937 reported it was “at present inactive” but trying to work out a release with United Artists which never came about. A newspaper story reported on November 18, 1938 that Hugh and Rudy had “recently” been signed by M-G-M; by all accounts Quimby did it in desperation because his new studio had quickly become a fiasco. But they produced cartoons using the Metro studio, not their own.

The 1938 Los Angeles City Directory contains the names of at least 86 people who it specifically revealed were employees of Harman-Ising Productions. It’s difficult to precisely determine how old the list is. It’s certainly not from 1938 or even the end of 1937. Bill Hanna’s name is on it; he was one of the H-I staffers who chomped on Quimby’s bait. Because it contains people who lived outside Los Angeles, it’s safe to assume that it was submitted to the directory by the studio.

I’ll caution this probably isn’t a complete list, and some names may have been missed due to OCR errors.

Thos J Armstrong artist
r1912 N New Hampshire av
Rudolf Ising (Maxine) sec-treas h106 S Kings rd
Dawn I Ashworth artist r560 N Kingsley drRichard Kinney artist r5121 S St Andrews Pl
Helen Baughman artist r1012 N Ardmore avMichael Lah artist r3023 Hyperion av
Lee Blair (Mary) artistErnest Lynch (Betty) artist h1138 N Berendo
Mrs Lillian Bothuyne (Eug) artist r815 N JuneRichard Marion r815 S Sycamore av
Scott Bradley musician r ChatsworthCharles F McGirl writer h858 N Poinsettia pl
Frances Brady artist r Brentwood HeightsCharles E McKimson artist r5001 Pickford
Wilson D Burness artist r PasadenaThomas J McKimson (Ernestine) artist
h1203 S Orlando av
Lenore Cady sten r3628 10th avBarbara D Merrill artist r5746 Virginia dr
Jonathan T Caldwell writer h857 N JuneGeorge H Miller artist r1203 N Cherokee av
Beatrice C Chambosse artist r606 N Citrus avJohn H Miller (Mary M) artist h1861 S Curson av
James Cingoli artist r7101 S San PedroLucille Miller artist r6823 Iris pl
John R Clopton artist r1377 N Ridgewood plPaul J Murphy artist r West Los Angeles
Alfred Coe (Ruth) artist h957 Cole avJohn S Niendorff (Mary) artist h859 N June
Oneta Coffey artist r1178 N Madison avStanley C Onaitis artist h910 N Orange Grove av
James E Cook (Margt) cameramn
h8163 Waring av
Albert Pabian artist r9053 Nemo
John V Cosgriff writer r1710 N Harvard blvdAnthony A Pabian artist r9053 Nemo
Maurice E Day artist r1819 N Kingsley drJames A Pabian (Patricia) artist 112 Clybourn av
Eva Deetha artist r8814 Dorrington avHazel L Preston artist r839 ½ N Formosa ave
Mary Dement artist r1307 N Bronson avMartin Provenson r artist Glendale
Evelyn H Douglas artist r1382 Ridgewood plArthur Riley r artist Burbank
Walter G Elliott sound techn r West Los AngelesEsther E Rothwell artist r1640 Echo Park av
Evelyn Feilen artist r Huntingdon ParkPepé Ruiz artist r4239 Russell av
Edwin Fourcher artist r5942 Willoughby avFrank P Scheidenberger artist r919 N Ardmore av
Lillian Fourcher artist r5942 Willoughby avMelvin Schwartzman r648 Cloverdale av
Lucille Fuller artist r650 N Alexandra avEvelyn F Smith artist r1423 N Wilton pl
Marion Gates artist r1622 N Alexandra avFrancis Smith artist r957½ N Wilton pl
Robert M Gentle artist r No HollywoodWilliam Smith artist r1733 Cherokee av
Merle Gilson (Sarah) artist r1159 N DetroitWilliam D Smith artist r1740 N Gramercy Pl
Nancy L Gluck artist h1975 N Alexandra avMarion Stephens artist r970 N St Andrews Pl
Mary L Graham artist r829½ N JuneHelen M Stirdivant (Bryant) office sec r561 N Flores
George Grandpré artist r Hermosa BeachHelena Thompson artist r820 N June
Ernest E Griffiths acct r Beverly HillsFrank Tipper artist r Santa Monica
Rollin Hamilton (May B) artist h1931 Canyon drWilliam Tracy (Rae) artist r1740 N Gramercy pl
William D Hanna (Violet) writer
h5611 Carlton way
Carl Urbano artist r1111 Victoria av
Gladys Harding artist r5607 Virginia avAlexander Walker artist r1310 S Kenmore av
Hugh M Harman (Marguerite) pres
h1969 N Kenmore av
Virginia B Whitney artist r127 N Serrano av
Walker Harman (Jeanette) writer
h5611 Carlton way
Edrie Willebrandt artist r Montebello
Thurston Harper artist r1771 N Vmont avJune Willebrandt artist r Montebello
James C Hazell artist h5800 Carlton wayGordon Wilson v-pres r La Crescenta
Lucille B Holman artist r1115 N VistaBarbara Wirth artist tr5636 La Mirada av
Adele C Ising artist r1848 N Gramercy plAlberta Wogatzke artist r1012 N Ardmore

The book ‘Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years’ reveals two of Ising’s brothers worked as cameramen at the studio. And we find them in the city directory, though the studio isn’t mentioned. It lists Herman F Ising (Selma S) studiowkr r2237 Sunset blvd and Max R cameramn r5640½ Hollywood blvd. Max went back to the days of Kansas City Film Ad with Walt Disney and was the head of the camera department at Harman’s own studio in the ‘40s. Herman was better known as “Sid.”

Two names missed due to an OCR error: “Albt Bertino artist r833 Bartlett.” He was later a writer at Disney. “Thos J Byrne artist r1408 N Ridgeway pl.” He went back to the silent days in New York and seems to have been an assistant for years, finally getting an animation credit at the tail end of the Lantz studio.

• Tom Armstrong had been the story director at the Schlesinger studio up to about 1935.
• Lee Blair was Preston’s younger brother by three years.
• Wilson Burness was one of the H-I staffers who ended up at the new MGM studio. When he finally got credited on a cartoon, it was as “Pete Burness,” under which he had a fine career.
• John Clopton was Ben’s younger brother. Ben and wife Sylvia were listed at 317 N Edinburgh pl; Ben evidently was still working for Walter Lantz at the time.
• Al Coe’s career took him to Disney then Lantz in the ‘60s.
• Jack Cosgriff was living with parents Jack and Jesse E. He sandwiched two stints at Lantz in the ‘40s around a few years at Columbia and fit in a stop at Disney. He moved on to MGM to write for Tex Avery and Dick Lundy, then showed up at Lantz again in the ‘50s.
• The Fourchers were brother and sister. Lillian was younger by three years. Their parents were Theodore A and Marie E and their father worked in radio.
• Bob Gentle’s dad was Burton C Gentle, the deputy assessor for the County of Los Angeles. He had a pair of older brothers, Burt Jr. and Bill. You probably know him best from the early Hanna-Barbera studio cartoons but he rendered fine backgrounds during the life of the MGM studio, including on The Captain and the Kids cartoons.
• Merle Gilson was an early employee (no later than January 1930) of Disney who worked for Lantz twice in the ‘30s, the second time in 1938. He lived across the street from Disney’s Freddie Moore at one point.
• Bill Hanna was living at the same address as Walker Harman, Hugh’s brother.
• Hanna remembers Jim Hazell as an Englishman whose recreactional activity was polishing his shoes. They had roomed together. He came to the U.S. in 1924. He and fellow Englishman animator Bob Edmunds were rooming together in 1930. Later he married a Lucille who was an inker or painter.
• Dick Kinney’s brother Jack was animating at Disney by this time. Dick, of course, later joined him there.
• When Harman opened his own studio, Charles McGirl was his production supervisor. The two of them acquired a patent for a bicycle in 1940. McGirl died in 1963. His son Pat was Southern California yo-yo champ in 1951 (see the things you learn here?).
• There’s another address for Jack and Mary Miller, h805 3-5 Poinsettia Place. He’s simply listed as “studiowkr”. My hunch this was a newer address from when he worked for Leon Schlesinger; his name first appears at Warners on ‘Have You Got Any Castles’, released June 25, 1938. To confound things, there’s another Jack Miller (wife Mildred) listed as “studiowkr.”
• John Niendorff was Harman’s layout man who, according to Rudy Ising, was “a bigger nut on perspective” than Hugh (Mike Barrier interview).
• Stanley Onaitis also went by Casey Onaitis. He spent part of the ‘40s at Lantz, the ‘50s at John Sutherland and UPA and finished his career in that graveyard known as Filmation. Why he went by his first and middle names has been lost to time.
• If you think that’s confusing, how about the Pabians? Word is that James Anthony Pabian went by both Jim and Tony. But, as you can see, there already is a Tony Pabian, Anthony Pabian. But his name is Anthony Albert Pabian, and there already is an Albert Pabian living at the same house. He’s Albert F Pabian. Anthony Albert went to the Fleischer studio and married Ruth Carol House in August 1939. The 1940 California Voters list shows Albert F. Pabian married to Joan. My head hurts. At any rate, Jim was born on April 14, 1909, Anthony was born March 3, 1914 and Albert’s WW2 enlistment card says he was born in 1918 in New York but I can’t find out anything else about him other there’s a phone number still listed for him in Panorama City. He’s 93.
• Martin Provensen designed Tony the Tiger in 1952 after a career at Disney and Lantz.
• In 1993, a drunk driver ran down and killed Pepé Ruiz, the long-time screen cartoonists business agent in New York City. The drunk driver was Wilson Pickett (thanks to Tom Sito for the information). Read Shamus Culhane’s autobiography ‘Talking Animals and Other People’ for his opinion of Ruiz’ union activities.
• William D Smith might be Don Smith, later at Disney and the Davis unit at Warners.
• The name “Mel Shaw” was assumed by Mel Schwartzman on credits at UPA.
• Edrie and June Willebrandt were sisters (Edrie was two years older). They lived at home with parents Charles and Edith S.
• Barbara Wirth lived with Mrs Mary Wirth, not to be confused with Mary Worth.
• Alberta Wogatzke had a twin sister named Vi, who later married one William Denby Hanna. She married Mike Lah.

Several names are noticeably absent. The main one is probably Max Maxwell, who had worked with Harman and Ising at Disney and then when they set up their own studio in 1930. Quimby plucked him to be the production manager of the new MGM studio. He’s in the directory: “Carman G Maxwell (Dorothy) h3455 Waverly dr” with no occupation. Fred MacAlpin, the film cutter responsible for the first set of sound effects at MGM, is not listed. Neither are Bob Allen, who Quimby hired as a director, his brother Heck, who later wrote for Tex Avery or Ed Barge, an assistant animator. Barge was still living at home outside Bakersfield in June 1936 so his time at H-I would have been brief. Volus Jones spent some time at Harman-Ising before a career at Disney, and he and his wife Susan are listed “h3526 Ellsworth” with no occupation. Similarly, there is a “Paul J Fennell h526 Westbourne dr” with no occupation. He and Hanna co-directed ‘To Spring’ in 1936 though only Hanna got screen credit. There’s also a “Jeremiah Brewer (Frances) artist h4439½ Willowbrook ave” but nothing about where he was working. Same with “Norman Blackburn (Alice) writer h724 N Spaulding av”.

The original Harman-Ising studio had been on Hollywood Boulevard when it was making cartoons for Leon Schlesinger to be released by Warner Bros. When it closed, it was at 861 Seward. In 1926, it was the Cinemagraph Film Lab. The following year, the City Directory reveals it was the home of Action Pictures, Binocular Steroscopic Film Co., Fashion Productions, National Aeromat (a film lab) and one Nat Levine. In 1929, you would find Belmont Productions, Producers Film Labs and producer Jack Kelly. United Productions and producer Claude Hammond were there in 1932. After Harman-Ising folded, Disney used housed his Bambi unit there for about a year, and it became the home of the Screen Gems (Columbia) cartoon studio in the ‘40s before Walter Lantz moved in. The building still exists today and you can see it below.

The real regret is that few of the Harman-Ising cartoons, post-Warners, have been restored and released on DVD. While they’re dismissed as not-quite-as-good Disney knockoffs, they deserve to be seen by fans today interested in the development of Hollywood cartoons of the 1930s.


  1. Bill Hanna living in same address with someone else in 1937? Wasn't he already married in 1936?

  2. Does that mean they can't live with someone else, like in a basement suite or something?
    He says in his autobiography they didn't get a new place until after the MGM studio opened.

  3. Oh. So, it probably meant that they had a friend living with them then?

  4. If animator Larry Martin wasn't listed as working for Harman-Ising around 1937-1938, it was because he was working for Schlesinger/WB in Tex Avery's unit.

  5. We are trying to save Rudy Ising’s home in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. He lived here from 1936-1940.
    A letter in support will be of great help.
    All you have to do is click on the link –
    Our next hearing is on January 16th with the Los Angeles City Council.