The Final Duane Crowther Letters

duane-letter-4-12-55.jpg Here is Duane Crowther’s letter from 4-12-1955 to “The Wonderful Balsers”. Matt Crowther’s coming birth is eagerly looked forward to by Duane and Susanne as Duane marvels over how active the baby is, kicking the mother! This was the prevailing attitude toward children in the 1950s, millions of people died during World War 2, so let’s re-populate the world! Duane is eager to move to California, and he sizes up the TV commercials scene in New York and Los Angeles very incisively: “The West Coast TV studios (Patin, Storyboard and the like) are doing much better, sharper and more creative stuff; but for whom? That’s why outfits like Transfilm, Academy (Pictures) and Culhane (Shamus Culhane Productions) will always make more money turning out more crap than anywhere else.” I can hear Duane’s voice in my head as I read those lines, he could be quite caustic in summing up the animation field, but he usually did it with a disarming smile. It’s interesting to note the pay differences between the two coasts in the early days of TV commercials, and the lack of “prestige” among West Coast clients.  

duane-letter-1955-lars-colonius-stationery.jpg The final letter that the Balsers saved from Duane, is an undated one on Lars Calonius Productions stationery. It’s obviously a couple of years post-1955, as Duane relates a tale of an injury that young Matt Crowther experienced. By this time, Duane has changed jobs from Transfilm to Lars Calonius. I remember him talking a little about Lars, he liked the guy and had good memories of working for him. By this time Duane was directing as well as animating commercials and industrials. Duane was equally adept at both character and what they used to call “technical” animation, gears, pistons, bricks slapping down to create a building, charts, graphs and the like. I watched Duane turning out animation of a striped chart moving around in a cycle while he was working at Fred Calvert’s studio. He was animating with one hand and playing a game of chess with the other!

susan-crowthers-christmas-letter-1954.jpgsusan-crowthers-christmas-letter-1955.jpg These last two letters are Christmas notes from Susanne Crowther both before and after Matt’s birth. I like her description of teaching Matt to talk and what some of his first words were. Her description of New York weather, “It’s been horrible here..!”, certainly forecasts the Crowther’s eventual move to Malibu, California. I’m not sure where Duane was born in Cal., but maybe he was a beach kid.  And with that, we close the archive of Duane’s letters to the Balsers for now. Many thanks again to Bob and Cima Balser for allowing me to print these here for the first time, and the kind permission of Duane’s widow, Cathy Karol-Crowther, to share them with you. If I’ve made any mistakes in my notes, please let me know and I’ll fix up the errors.

flintstones-2-3-63.jpg From Duane’s LEAST favorite studio, and in response to Yowp, here is the Flintstones Sunday page from 2-3-1963. It’s the third-page version. To see the half-page version and the rest of the Flintstones Sundays from February, 1963, just click on the link to Yowp’s blog over on your right. This could be another Dick Bickenbach effort. About this time, Wilma became pregnant with Pebbles, and the strip changed. I must have lost interest about this time, because I stopped cutting out the strip until July of 1963. Maybe Pebbles was just too cute for me. My flesh crawled when she plugged the sponsor’s product on the TV show (Welch’s grape juice) by calling it “Woo-Woo Gwape Joo”! Yeesh!

5 Responses to “The Final Duane Crowther Letters”

  1. Thanks for posting those letters. They were a blast to read. Here’s to more rare materials on this blog!

  2. Rana says:

    Mike, I emailed your conmmet to Mark Kausler and he responded. I’ve put his conmmets in italic.I’m almost positive scene 4 was animated by Burness. I could be wrong, but it just doesn’t look like Patterson’s work to me. (On looking at it again, it DOES look like Pete’s anim.)I don’t see how scenes 26-29 could be done by anyone other than Ken Muse. (Could be, I wasn’t positive that was Al Grandmain’s animation. It just looked a little too clean and the characters were a different proportion than most of Ken Muse’s other scenes, these fooled me.)Additionally, scene 47 can’t possibly be done by Barge, since that’s obviously a Muse Tom. Barge’s Tom had rounder ears and by 1947 had simplified Tom’s chest design to two bumps as opposed to the three that Muse was still doing. (Good observation on the color seps. on Tom’s chest, this could be right as well.)What I really want to know is who exactly Irving Levine is and what did he do on “Kitty Foiled”. (Mike is very good on the Tom and Jerry iDs. He should do a list on “Kitty Foiled.”)

  3. Hello Mark Kausler,
    I just tried to reach you at the number Cathy Karol-Crowther gave me for you, but it’s not working. Hoping you might have a photo of Duane Crowther showing what he looking like circa 1968. Any time before or soon thereafter would be welcome. For inclusion in volume two of our book called INSIDE THE YELLOW SUBMARINE: The Making of the Beatles Animated Classic by Dr. Robert R. Hieronimus. We are trying to give him some overdue credit for the work he did on this film that went uncredited. Anyone who might have something useful, please Email me Thanks!

    • Mark says:

      Hi Laura, My number is 818-409-9368, but if your number is a business number, it may be blocked. I will look in my photos for an early one of Duane. I don’t think I have any that are specifically 1968. I have a paperback of your Yellow Submarine book, Volume One, I guess. I did a few inbetweens on a scene or two for Duane. I’ll email you if I can find a photo. Yours, Mark

      • Thank you — enjoyed talking to you today. Email me one way or the other so we can continue the conversation. Would also like to send you a copy of our volume 2 when it’s ready. Hope you can find a photo!

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