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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Creator of Betty Boop Was Born Hundred Years Ago Today

no copyright infringement intended

Lillian Friedman Astor , the first female movie animator, who created Betty Boop, was born on April 12, 1912: hundred years ago today.

It happens that one of her grandsons, Aaron Astor (who teaches History at Maryville College in Kentuky) is honoring me with his Facebook friendship. So I had the opportunity today to read his account on Lillian Friedman's life and work:

She grew up in NYC and shortly after high school joined Fleischer Studios as an inker. She later became an inbetweener and then was promoted (secretly at first) to animator - the first female studio animator in history. She drew some Popeye cartoons but is best remembered for drawing - and very likely creating - Betty Boop.

And a bit later Aaron Astor came with more details:

Just to flesh out the story a bit - Betty Boop was originally a dog with long ears. At some point - likely under my grandmother's pen - Betty Boop was transformed into a flapper girl (a nostalgic image in the early 1930s as the spreading Depression dampened the appeal of urban Jazz Age sexuality). The long ears became long earrings. Max Fleischer took official credit for creating Betty Boop, but Lillian is most likely (according to her peers and family lore) the one who drove the creative energy by the new character. In 1937, during the cartoon animators' strike, she actually followed Fleischer to Florida. Whether she was a scab or a spy is hard to know - though probably a spy considering her love of the Animators Guild. Anyway, she applied for a job with the rival Walt Disney Company in 1939. And my aunt still possesses the rejection letter from Disney - with color-monogrammed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the top - stating that they do no hire girls for creative work. That was the end of her career. She and my grandfather moved to Upstate NY and had my two aunts and my father in the early 1940s.

Here is a short animation movie from 1934. Lillian Friedman appears in the credits (at 0:19).

Here is another web page about Lillian Friedman:




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