Today is the birthday of Max Fleischer (1883-1972), the producer behind the first series of excellent Popeye cartoons, as well as Betty Boop, the first Superman animated series, and countless other animated highlights.
In honor of Mr. Fleischer, I’d like to post my review of a wonderful biography of him, written by no less a personage than his son.
Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution goes a long way towards filling the gap where the dearth of biographies concerning the Fleischer Brothers’ work is concerned. Richard Fleischer, an accomplished film director in his own right (Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green) gives a very detailed but breezy history of the Fleischer Bros.’ film work and their unfortunate break-up after decades of working together on ground-breaking theatrical cartoons.
The sweet bonus of this particular biography is that Richard is Max’s son. And, far from being a Mommie Dearest-type book with an axe to grind against a famous parent, Richard happily recounts how his father’s fame brought many perks and much happiness to his life. Besides his father’s film work, Richard relates many enjoyable anecdotes about life in the Fleischer household, and how his parents’ earthy sense of humor was reflected in his father’s remarkable cartoons.
This is the all-too-rare film biography that is just as enjoyable and fun as its subject matter. Fleischer and animation buffs, as well as casual cartoon viewers, should savor this book.