Thursday, January 11, 2007

Swiftian Kimball?

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These caricatures of Ward Kimball can be found in Frank and Ollie's book "The Illusion of Life." (p. 124). There, Thomas and Johnston give the impression that they were drawn by Ward in 1939. But if the credit above is accurate, Kimball's assistant David "Bud" Swift drew them in 1940. (Original artwork from the James Walker collection)...

Assuming the artist is David Swift, it should be known that David was a Minnesotan who journeyed to Southern California, the Chouinard Art Institute, and Walt Disney Productions in that order. He started at the Mouse House as a teenager, left WDP for World War II in his early twenties, and returned a decorated pilot (Ward told me that when Swift came into the Disney commissary right after the war -- in a dress uniform decorated with a chest full of ribbons -- Walt looked up from lunch and said: "Bud! I haven't seen you lately! What've you been doing?" Like some other Ward stories, this one could have been, ahm, apocryphal.)

David S. didn't hang around Disney's for long after the war. He left animation and became a writer in television. (Here's an IMBD snapshot of his post-animation career.) And after television, there was a string of successful movies as writer and director, the most notable of which is The Parent Trap:

I don't think we could have hoped for a better director for the picture than David Swift...His direction was significant in maintaining the rhythm of the comedy. He claimed to have "just hired the best actores and then kept out of the way," but he did much more than that...

It was very much to Swift's credit that he cast Brian Keith to play the part of my ex-husband. Brian had never done comedy before and it was a real change for him. He had always played tough and gruff characters before that, which made him my kind of leading man. He was big and strong and burly, and Swift always called him "Mr. Masculine" on the set."

Brian was a natural at comedy.... We see this best in the sequence between Brian and me where we quarrel, and I eventurally punch him in the eye. Instead of this big and tough man showing her who's boss, he falls to pieces like a little boy crying for his mommy and the audience falls in love with him...

Maureen O'Hara "'Tis Herself" (pp. 217-18)

Swift died on the last day of 2001 at age 82. He never forgot his animation roots. One of the last things he did was a reminiscence with Ward Kimball at Ward's San Gabriel house. If memory serves, the interview can be found as an extra on Disney's special edition DVD of The Parent Trap.

Addendum: Here's a short squib on Mr. Swift from a 1937 trade paper:

David E. "Bud" Swift, Jr., son of Dave Swift, Minneapolis magician, has the distinction of being the youngest artist to enter any studio in Hollywood. At 18 he is a memberof the Walt Disney staff and is now working on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full length film to be made by Disney.

When "Bud" was 17 he was selected from Chouinard Art School in Hollywood to join the Disney organization. In Minneapolis he attended West high school. His parents live at 2921 Sunset Boulevard.


Anonymous said...

I'd bet "Bud" didn't really win that distinction of being youngest ever hired as the paper says--it'd have to be Fred Moore, or possibly even Bob Clampett(and I'd also bet there were a few girls 18 or under who'd been hired at studios in Hollywood before then-if they count, lol). But that's ballyhoo for you! T. Walker would certainly know.

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