1886 saw the birth of Al Jolson, Siegfried Sassoon and Rose Wilder Lane.
While the star of the first 'talkie', the First World War poet, and American journalist and author are fascinating folk and worthy of articles in their own right, today we celebrate the birth of a man, born this day in 1886 who had a huge influence on my childhood.
Frederick Clinton Quimby was born in Morton Minnesota. He was a journalist and ran a movie theatre for a time. He came to fame though as the producer and eight time Academy Award winner for his outstanding work in producing animated cartoons. These included the Tom and Jerry series produced between 1940 and 1955 when he stepped down and retired from MGM.
When I was younger, if I saw Fred Quimby on the credits of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, I knew I was in for a treat. The later cartoons, produced by Gene Dieitch, or Chuck Jones had me less excited.
In my imagination he was the star of the show. I didn't understand the skills needed to create such masterpieces, so I thought he either came up with the storyline, the animation, the soundtrack or maybe a bit of all three.
As it turns out, I was wrong. He was the producer of the cartoons and had absolutely no creative input in any aspect of the them. In a later interview, one of the animators (more about them later) said he was more like the stern High School Principal trying to control a group of puerile giggling animators.
After his time in journalism and cinema management, Quimby joined Pathé and went solo as an independent producer in 1921. In 1924 he was hired by Fox, moving to MGM in 1927 to head up the short features team. Ten years later he set up the MGM animation department, and his first (uncredited) animation was the first 'Captain and the Kids' cartoon, Cleaning House.
In 1939, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera suggested a cat and mouse cartoon idea to Quimby, and he agreed to let them develop it.
The first Tom and Jerry cartoon aired in 1940, Puss Gets the Boot. It was an immediate hit, and earned an Oscar nomination in the 'Best Short Subject' category. In the 9 minute and 8 second animation, we see Tom and Jerry for the first time although Tom is known as Jasper, while Jerry, yet to be formerly named, is referred to as Jinx. You can watch the cartoon by clicking on the picture below.
video courtesy of www.dailymotion.com
If you're feeling nostalgic and have a few pounds to spare, you can buy the complete collection on DVD here. The series was nominated for and won a number of Academy Awards. Quimby never invited Hanna and Barbera onto stage with him though, and was happy to take all the credit.
When Quimby retired in 1955, Hanna and Barbera took over and went on to create not just more Tom and Jerry cartoons, but The Flintstones, Top Cat, Pixie and Dixie, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo and The Whacky Races... the list goes on.
So Happy Birthday to Fred Quimby, producer of the best Tom and Jerry cartoons, and thanks Hanna Barbera for all the laughs.
Thanks for reading!