Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Making Census of Hanna-Barbera

Recently, the U.S. government was nice enough to release scanned copies of the pages of the 1940 Census Report. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t allow you to search for people’s names and unless you know a street name, you’re sunk. However, the folks at Familysearch.org are slowly allowing you to search by name and then click on the .jpg of the report’s page to see it. Not all of the country is searchable by name, but the Los Angeles area is. And as that’s where a number of the people who later worked at Hanna-Barbera studio were living, I’ve tried finding some of them. I didn’t hunt for everyone and didn’t find some people, so this post only has a random sampling. You can click on the images to make them easier to read.

Just a note about some of the entries. The first column is the house number, the fourth is the amount of money paid in monthly rent or the value of the home if it’s owned. The next set of columns is gender, race, age, marital status, then you’ll see place of birth. The next three location columns are where the person was living April 1, 1935. The number in the second-last column is annual salary. The Census apparently only went to $5000, anything above that is listed as “$5000+” although one census taker buggered things up and listed $11,000 for radio actor Frank Nelson. Frank was obviously very busy.

Let’s start with the studio heads and a few of the animators.

Joe Barbera later lived in Beverly Hills, but in 1940 he had a three-bedroom place at 2343 Manning Avenue in Los Angeles.

Bill Hanna’s family was at 6500 West Olympic Boulevard. Also living at the address were animators Mike Lah (Disney) and Carl Urbano (MGM). Lah worked for Hanna-Barbera on the side the first two years the studio opened; Urbano went there many years later. Hanna’s already listing himself as a producer.

The other three animators when the studio opened were Ken Muse, Lew Marshall and Carlo Vinci, all of whom came over from MGM. Muse lived with his in-laws on North Florence Street. Carlo was at home with his parents and another couple in a very Italian neighbourhood at 121 Warren Street in New York; he was still going by his birth name of Vinciguerra. He was toiling at TerryToons at the time. I haven’t been able to track Marshall.

Among the animators who arrived at the studio for the 1959 season were La Verne Harding, George Nicholas, Don Patterson, Ed Love and Dick Lundy. Harding was on Lake View Avenue, Nicholas was on North Beachwood Drive, Patterson was on Lyric Avenue and the Love family (note the listing for Tony) were on Davana Terrace in Sherman Oaks.

The Loves lived next door to Paul Fennell, the ex-Harman-Ising animator who was running his own studio. Next to him was radio producer Thomas Freebairn-Smith and who helped found the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with Walt Disney. Love’s home was built in 1937 and has a guest house. Presumably, that’s where their housekeeper lived. Evidently Ed Love was making a good living.

Lundy, who directed at Disney and MGM but never at Hanna-Barbera, had a widow as his housekeeper at his home at 4516 Strohm Avenue in North Hollywood. Two doors down, at 4534, was Merle Gilson, who had been at Disney as far back as November 1929, then moved to Iwerks and Harman-Ising. Gilson had been animating for Walter Lantz in 1939 but the census says he only worked 28 weeks and was looking for a job, so he may have been caught in a studio shut-down. A block away, at 4472, was future Warners animator George Grandpré, who had also been at Lantz and was also looking for work at the time.

Ed Benedict gets most of the credit for the early Hanna-Barbera design style. He was living on South Sweetzer at the time, not far from Beverly Boulevard. His wife is missing on this page. Dick Bickenbach’s family was on Rosewood in Glendale. The third layout man, Walt Clinton, lived his father on Waverly Avenue and background artist Bob Gentle was with his father on La Maida in North Hollywood.

As for the other original background artists, Art Lozzi may still have been back east and I suspect Fernando Montealegre was living in Central America. However, Dick Thomas, who arrived for the 1959 season, was with his first wife on Fernwood Avenue. Thomas was at the Schlesinger studio at the time and just down the street from him was Schlesinger inker Martha Goldman (who lists her salary at $900 a year).

Unfortunately, the Census results available so far aren’t searchable for Daws Butler (in Chicago in 1940) or Don Messick (in Baltimore). I can’t spot Doug Young with any certainty. However, I’ve included Janet Waldo to show you how information can get misspelled. By 1940, she and her sister were supporting their retired parents, who came down from Washington State.

And, at first glance, Art Goble’s name looks like “Gobler” because of the way the ‘J’ hangs down from the above entry. But there’s no doubt it’s him as it matches his entry in the previous two censuses. Art and his wife bought a very small house (880 square feet) on Fischer in Glendale after 1935. Note how Goble makes less supervising ink and paint at MGM than Bick makes assistant animating at Schlesinger’s.

Mike Maltese moved around a fair bit upon his arrival in Los Angeles in 1937. The address in the 1940 Census is the third I have for him. Maltese should have been writing at the Schlesinger studio at this time but still lists himself as an assistant animator. The apartment building he and the family lived in on Gordon Avenue still exists. Another tenant at the time was an actor named Eugene H. Beaumont, better known by his middle name, Hugh.

Warren Foster and his wife lived in a subdivided home on Elevado Street. Note the difference in salary he received for writing than what Maltese got. No wonder Mike would be happy jumping into the writers’ room.

Charlie Shows and his wife Ida are living on Center Street in Indio in 1940 and he’s working as a brakeman on a railway. It could be the information was obtained from neighbours as it’s unusual his wife’s name wouldn’t be recorded. He may have just moved from Texas. His career writing for Jerry Fairbanks was ahead of him.

Dan Gordon had left Terrytoons in New York in 1937 to work at MGM but was working for the Fleischers in Miami at the time the Census was done. Check his salary figure to see why he moved. He was living at the Patricia Hotel at the time. Alex Lovy was the first story director at H-B starting in the 1959 season. He was living in an apartment building on La Mirada and had gone through one marriage by 1940.

Some mention has to be made of the composer of all of Hanna-Barbera’s early themes and incidental music, once the studio ended use of production libraries. Hoyt Curtin was a teenager living at home in San Bernadino when April 1940 rolled around.

The most interesting listing out of the lot belongs to Bob Givens, Tex Avery’s designer (including Bugs Bunny) at the time this census report was made, and an H-B layout man in 1959. Bob was living with a bunch of people who acquired varying degrees of fame. He was rooming at the home of David Swift, who rode the rails from Minnesota is pursue his dream of being a Disney animator. Evidently Swift’s father rode after him, as they were living in a huge house on Arbolada Road overlooking Griffith Park. If Swift Senior lost his money in the Depression, the neighbourhood indicates he gained it back. Swift later went on to create “Mr. Peepers” and direct several live-action films for Disney in the ‘60s.

Also living there were Rich Hogan, Avery’s writer who went with him to MGM from Schlesinger and John Freeman, a Disney animator who worked for Hanna-Barbera starting about 1960. But the surprise here is the name of radio director Rogers Brackett. Within the next dozen years, he became James Dean’s mentor, and something a little more if the stories are to be believed. As Brackett had family in Hollywood, how he ended up living with a group of animators is something a census report can’t answer.


  1. Great research, Yowp!. Interesting the proximity in which some of these future radio actors, animators, and writers lived.

  2. This is the kind of stuff that seems so mundane and yet is so amazingly fascinating for those of us with an interest in animation history. Great post! :)

  3. Excellent work Yowp! I did some research too, but I'm away from my computer right now, so I can't share my findings right now. I do remember though, those include a fair number of the people you listed, plus Alec Geiss, Bette Davis and Vincent Price as far as I can remember.

  4. The only guy from the other studios I couldn't find was Hugh Harman. Well, and Terry Lind, who should have been in Miami. And it seems Berneice Hansell's house was skipped altogether.
    Frank Tashlin is misspelled with an 'e' on the end, while Harvey Eisenberg is misspelled without an 'e' at the beginning.
    The census reveals some interesting things. I had no idea Owen Fitzgerald was at Fleischers or that Bill Littlejohn's brother was an animator (Pepe Ruiz lived with them).
    Didn't look for Geiss. Found Lou Lilly, Manny Gould, Harry Love and Art Davis out of the Columbia people I was looking for (Artie was making $10,000 a year). Mintz was dead by census time and I wonder if Margaret took the kids back to NYC.

  5. Fernando Montealegre attended the University of Southern California, prior to his work at Hanna-Babera. He was originally from Costa Rica. He and my Dad were great friends, "Uncle Nano" was the best man at my parents wedding and he was a fixture at our family dinners growing up.

    Unfortunately, we've lost some of his original artwork that he gave to my Dad. We would love to buy back the pictures that used to hang in our living room growing up.

  6. Fernando Montealegre attended the University of Southern California prior to working at Hanna-Barbera. He was from Costa Rico. He was the best man in my parents wedding in 1955. We've been trying to track down and locate some of his original oil paintings. If anyone has any they'd like to sell or knows someone how has them please let us know. We're particularly interested in the two that used to hang in our living room growing up. They were "lost" while being held during a move...... we do have a picture of one (that just happened to be in the background of a family Christmas picture). Any information would be greatly appreciated.