I know I haven’t written an entry in a few days – I’m actually working on the actual book proposal! I’ve been reading, researching and writing (would Art Babbitt say, “righting”?) the story of Disney’s most influential Golden Age animator.
I just finished devouring a terrific novel that dips its toe into historical fiction, called The Irresistible Henry House. In it, 19-year-old Henry lands a job as an inbetweener on Mary Poppins. The author, Lisa Grunwald, did a decent job re-creating what I always imagined the Disney Studios to be like in the early 60s. And I’ve dedicated years to reading about this stuff.
After Henry learns the artist’s approach to life drawing and the art of inbetweening, he begins to translate that into his everyday pursuit of — getting laid. Yes. Sex.
In the Roaring Twenties and into the Dirty Thirties, our own red-blooded young animator, Art Babbitt, was charming the ladies into his private company. He married four times, but in between he set out pursuing romances in a way that speaks true to many young artists with confidence and means.
Below are photos of some of young Art’s ladyfriends from his own files dating from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s. He wasn’t romantic with all of them, but he seems to be quite a flirt. Interspersed are quotations from Grunwald’s superb book, which I hope I don’t get sued for using here. (P.S. you should buy the book. Several copies.)
.The thing with women had become so easy. It took remarkably little for Henry to figure out how to get them. Part of his success, he knew, was the certainty of success itself. It never occurred to him that any of them would be ungettable. It was merely a matter of working out the steps from apart to together – just like the steps in in-betweening. (p.298)
Apples were not circles; chair legs were almost never perfectly perpendicular to chair seats […] In this way, Henry eventually came to see the three current women in his California life as well. It was as if he had turned them all upside-down, to study how they were in reality. He could see in each the relationship of beauty to personality, neediness to generosity, humor to brains, silliness to insecurity. He could see their mouths and hands, their hair and clothes. He could see their attraction to him, and – understanding every aspect of them individually – he could understand where he found beauty in them. But he never let his eye trick his mind into seeing them whole, as symbols of anything greater than their parts. (p. 283)