Birth/Death: May 20, 1884, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/ December 25, 1949, Los Angeles, California USA (Viral infection)
Head of Pacific Art & Title, which later turned into Leon Schlesinger studios.
He was considered to be a middleman and continued to reap profits by stingy budgets. Leon had Warner Bros. to lease him a building called the “Termite Terrace” to start his own studio. He was the producer during the animation strike. Leon was as known to have a little sense of humor. He let the directors and animators work on their gags in the studio with little to no objection and with a lot of creative freedom. He was also thought of as a “tightwad who had restricted budgets and schedules” and that he “knew nothing about animation.” Aside from his stingy budgets, Leon had an eye for talent and gave Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, and Bob Clampett their first break as cartoon directors. He was also responsible for hiring Mel Blanc as voice actor and Carl W. Stalling as musical director. He had a bad reputation from Chuck Jones due to the fact that Chuck started the strike resulting with Leon making Chuck’s life a living hell.
His family was from the garment businesses in New York and they were of Christian belief. He was married to Berenice Schlesinger. His early life in the entertainment business started off as a theatre usher and eventually worked up the ladder to be the head of Pacific Art and Title, which created title cards for silent movies by Warner bros.
1927 Helped finance Warner bros. pictures’ The Jazz Singer
1930 Hired Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising to create a cartoon within 60 days
1933 Harman and Ising leave Schlesinger for MGM
1934 Warner bros. leases Schlesinger the “Termite terrace”
1934 Schlesinger converted to color and poached artist from Harman & Ising staff members.
1940 “You ought to be in the Pictures” was made
1944 Sold Schlesinger studios to Warner Bros.
Retired from filmaking, though he continued to supervise merchandising of the cartoon
Comments on Style:
Notorious for making profits for the sake minimal overhead costs. Leon was also sought as taking credit for productions where he had no creative input.
It has been said that Porky pig had been modeled after Leon and that Leon urged to have Porky to be in every cartoon. The earlier Elmer Fudd was also referenced from Leon. Mel Blanc, the voice actor of the company based Leon as the inspiration for Sylvester’s and Daffy Duck’s lisp
Leon had mild yet colorful presence. He had a little sense of humor. He also favored Porky Pig and always wanted Porky to be in the cartoons.
He once weaseled his way out of giving his whole animation crew a pay raise by faking a heart attack. The crew finally caught on got the raise the following year. Leon also wore cologne that is so pungent that it made his crew cringe even when he would hand them their checks.
Leon was part of the bowling league.
Leon appeared in one of the shorts “You ought to be in the Pictures” (1940) which meshed live action and cartoons starring Porky Pig and Daffy Duck.
Contributors to This Listing:
Miguel Concepcion, Larry Loc;
“A night with Bill Melendez and Floyd Norman”; DVD
Animators Hall of Fame