And still more from Ward's lengthy chat with me out under the San Gabriel trees, twenty-eight years ago. This time Mr. Kimball discusses a director he worked with -- and didn't like a whole lot -- Clyde Geronomi. He's not nearly as diplomatic as, say, Frank and Ollie in The Illusion of Life, but that was Ward. (He also touches on Mr. Geronomi here, in an interview with Mike Barrier) ...
Ward Kimball: ...A lot of times the animator would improve (the material he was handed) ...in spite of the director. That's happened many times. We always felt that's what we did for Gerry Geronomi, we saved him all the time. Whether we did nor not, I don't know, but we'd like to believe...
Gerry was one of the prime (expletive)s at Disney's. Walt had a way or retaining someone like that, because he figured if there was conflict it brought the best out of all of us.
But Gerry was a crude man. I had a woman assistant named (blank) who was very well constructed. She drove Jerry crazy and finally he couldn't stand it. And one day he came up behind her and he went "Rhhhrr!"... I heard this scream and the chair flew back and the desk got knocked over. And I went running in there and said "What the hell?" I knew Gerry had just left my room... Vince said that Gerry had grabbed Mary... I mean, that's terrible. That's not a class act.
Finally we boycotted Geronomi, said we weren't going to work for him. We told Ken Peterson, who was head of the animation department, and nothing was done about it until Geronomi said: "How come I can't get this guy Kimball?" Peterson told him that Kimball "doesn't want to work for you."
"What the hell is Kimball talking about?" Geronomi says. "Who does he think he is? Son of a b*tch."
And Milt Kahl told him about everybody, and finally the straw that helped break the back was John Lounsbery, the nicest guy you would ever want to meet, who was patient, and didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings, who finally went to Walt and said: "I don't want to work with this man anymore."
And Walt thinks, if Lounsbery goes, there must be something wrong. And of course the end came when Walt decided to take Geronomi out of the animation room for a number of reasons, one of which was TV, and he wanted him to go to Germany and kind of produce some live action ... Like all the kids from the lower eastside who had been beaten up every day of their lives for being small or something, Gerry thought he was in some alien surroundings, there with the "Krauts." In other words he was in Germany and here were these "Krauts." See, he wanted to be picked up in a big limousine, he wanted to play director, just like Ernst Lubitsch or Frank Capra.
Gerry wasn't in sympathy with the whole project; he mistrusted everybody and made an ass out of himself. Finally Walt had to go over there and see what the matter was. And at a meeting he gave Gerry his choice. Gerry said "I want to go back to work on animation! I don't like this sh*t." Well, that's when they let him go.
Yeah, he was a prime (expletive). Outside the studio there were stories you can't repeat because most people say it's just gossip. Of course, they happen, and they didn't help him one bit.