Jimmy the raven
Jimmy appearing in It's a Wonderful Life
|Other name(s)||Jimmy the crow|
|Training||typing, opening letters, motorcycle riding|
Jimmy the raven (often credited as Jimmy the crow) was a raven who appeared in more than 1,000 feature films from the 1930s through the 1950s. He first appeared in You Can't Take It with You in 1938, after which director Frank Capra cast the bird in every subsequent movie he made. Among his roles were Uncle Billy's pet, seen in the Building & Loan in It's a Wonderful Life, and the crow that landed on the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
Jimmy belonged to Hollywood animal trainer Curly Twiford, who found the bird in a nest in the Mojave Desert in 1934. Twiford trained Jimmy to do an assortment of tricks, such as typing, opening letters, and even riding a tiny motorcycle: things that would make him appealing to use in films. Jimmy could understand several hundred words, though only around 50 were what Twiford called "useful". It took Jimmy a week to learn a new useful word—two weeks if it had 2 syllables. Twiford said that Jimmy could perform any task that an 8-year-old child could (see bird intelligence).
His human co-stars were complimentary of the bird. "When they call Jimmy, we both answer," remarked Jimmy Stewart on the set of It's a Wonderful Life, noting that the raven "is the smartest actor on the set" requiring fewer re-takes than his human counterparts.
As he became more popular with the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had him insured for $10,000. Lloyd's of London wrote a policy to cover Jimmy's $500 a week fee as well as Curly Twiford's $200 handler fee, in the event Jimmy forgot any of the words he would need on the set. Twiford credited these fees with keeping him solvent during World War II. At one point, Jimmy had 21 stand-ins, 15 of which were female, who would fill in for him when the scene did not require any tricks or movement.
Jimmy received a Red Cross gold medal in acknowledgement of 200 hours spent entertaining veterans after the war, and his footprints were enshrined in cement at a large Los Angeles pet store, alongside Lassie and other Hollywood animal stars.
His last credited film was 3 Ring Circus in 1954, after which little is known about him. Though Curly Twiford said Jimmy would "probably live to be 150" years old, which the papers re-printed, in reality ravens seldom live more than 30 years in captivity. Twiford died in 1956 at the age of 60.
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- Jimmy the "Crow" on Internet Movie Database
- A Shroud of Thoughts: Jimmy the Raven: Frank Capra's Avian Star
- The Unsung Joe: Koko the Raven – one of Jimmy's most prominent stand-ins