Friday, November 01, 2013

Milt Gross: MGM Animation Director

Above title card for both of Milt Gross' MGM shorts via Cartoon Title Art.

I knew Milt Gross did newspaper comics (Nize Baby, Looey Dat Dope, Count Screwloose) and maybe the very first graphic novel (HE DONE HER WRONG -- a "wordless novel") -- but I did not know he had a short run as a director for MGM animation!

He completed two animated shorts before leaving. Gross never stuck around in one place or with one feature for a long time. Restless, creative, bristling against authority -- he was maybe as antic as his characters. 

Above image of Count Screwloose returning to the "sanity" of Balmycrest Bobby-Hatch nicked from Sherm Cohen's Cartoon SNAP! blog. Go click for a terrific 1948 comic book story. I love Iggy in his Napoleon hat!

Anyway, Count Screwloose first saw the light of print in the New York World ten years before this short, on February 17, 1929.

He was a resident of a looney bin called Nuttycrest Sanitarium, where he kept a pet dog, Iggy. He'd escape at will (to Iggy's dismay) for an adventure among the "smart folks", but they invariably proved whackier than his everyday associates back inside. He'd always wind up returning, requesting that his welcoming pet help prevent a recurrence of the foolish act with the words, "Iggy, keep an eye on me!" This became a catch-phrase nationwide.

Here is the first of his animated shorts that was released in February 1939: Count Screwloose and J.R. the Wonder Dog in "Jitterbug Follies." Some of the changes from print to screen: Iggy has been replaced by J.R., and Screwloose, no longer a sanitarium resident, lives in a regular house.

Mel Blanc is the voice of Count Screwloose, but did not want screen credit as that would be against his Warner Brothers contract.

The second and final Milt Gross animated short "Wanted: No Master" is here. It's not as good a print and its aspect ratio has been stretched. 

Want more? Try MILT GROSS COMIC BOOKS AND LIFE STORY by Craig Yoe. A rave review of the 354 page hardcover by Jerry Beck is here.

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