|Born||Francis Fredrick von Taschlein
February 19, 1913
Weehawken, New Jersey
|Died||May 5, 1972
Los Angeles, California
|Occupation||Animator, screenwriter, film director|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Costa (m. 1953–66)|
Animator and brief career as cartoonist
Tashlin drifted from job to job after dropping out of high school in New Jersey at age 13. In 1930, he started working for Paul Terry as a cartoonist on the Aesop's Film Fables cartoon series, then worked briefly for Amadee J. Van Beuren, but he was just as much a drifter in his animation career as he had been as a teenager. Tashlin joined Leon Schlesinger's cartoon studio at Warner Bros. as an animator in 1933, where he was noted as a fast animator. He used his free time to start his own comic strip in 1934 called Van Boring, inspired by former boss Van Beuren, which ran for three years. He signed his comic strip "Tish Tash," and used the same name for his cartoon credits (at the time it was considered extremely unprofessional to use anything except one's birth name among animators, but Tashlin was able to get away with this due to the anti-Germanic feelings of that era). Tashlin was fired from the studio when he refused to give Schlesinger a cut of his comic strip revenues. He joined the Ub Iwerks studio in 1934. He moved to Hal Roach's studio in 1935 as a writer. He returned to Schlesinger in 1936 as an animation director where his diverse interest and knowledge of the industry brought a new understanding of camerawork to the Warners directors.
In 1938, he worked for Disney in the story department. Afterward, he served as production manager at Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems animation studio in 1941. Tashlin rejoined the Warner directors of "Termite Terrace" in 1943. He stayed with the studio during World War II and worked on numerous wartime shorts, including the Private Snafu educational films. Shortly after he left Warner Bros. in September 1944, he directed some stop-motion puppet films for John Sutherland. Robert McKimson took over his Warner's unit.
Tashlin moved on from animation in 1946 to become a gag writer for the Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, and others, and as a screenwriter for stars such as Bob Hope and Red Skelton. His live-action films still echo elements of his animation background; Tashlin peppers them with unlikely sight gags, breakneck pacing, and unexpected plot twists.
Tashlin began his career directing feature films when he was asked to finish directing the 1951 film The Lemon Drop Kid starring Bob Hope.
Beginning with the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It, with its satirical look at early rock and roll, Tashlin had a streak of commercial successes with the Martin and Lewis film Hollywood or Bust in 1956, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? in 1957, which, like 1956's The Girl Can't Help It, starred actress and Playboy model Jayne Mansfield, and six of Jerry Lewis' early solo films (Rock-A-Bye Baby, The Geisha Boy, Cinderfella, It's Only Money, Who's Minding the Store?, and The Disorderly Orderly). Many of these have attained cult status.
Moreover, in the 1950s Tashlin came to the approving attention of French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, in reviews that the director dismissed as "all this philosophical double-talk." Also, Rock Hunter's broad, colorful satire of Madison Avenue advertising earned it a spot on the National Film Registry in 2000.
In the 1960s, Tashlin's films lost some of their spark, and his career ended in the latter part of that decade, along with those of most of the stars with whom he had worked. His final film was The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell starring Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller in 1968. He made a brief return at MGM in the 1960s to produce the animated film The Bear that Wasn't, based on his own book (see below).
Tashlin wrote and illustrated three books, The Bear That Wasn't (1946), The Possum That Didn't (1950), and The World That Isn't (1951). These are often referred to as "children's books" although all contained satirical elements; The Bear That Wasn't was adapted as an animated cartoon by Tashlin's former Warner Bros. colleague, Chuck Jones, in 1967. Another children's story which Tashlin wrote in 1949 was recorded by Spike Jones, How the Circus Learned to Smile. Tashlin also wrote and self-published an instructional booklet entitled How to Create Cartoons (about cartoon drawing, not animation) in 1952.
- Frank Tashlin at the Internet Movie Database
- Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database
- Frank Tashlin interview
- "Private SNAFU – The Home Front", 1943 cartoon directed by Tashlin, viewable online
- New York Times article
- Literature on Frank Tashlin
- How to Create Cartoons