Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Century Birthday - Virgil Ross
BORN 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
Virgil Walter Ross was born a century ago today in Watertown, New York. His parents, Bertha Mary (Hart) and Ellwood Burdsoll Ross, both natives of New York state, married in 1901 and made their home at 142 Washington Street. Their first son, Ellwood Hart Ross, (known by his middle name as a child) arrived in late April in 1906 and Virgil followed about 15 months later.
By the time Virgil was ten, the family had moved to 41 Auburn Street in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park, Michigan where the his father worked as a tool-making foreman at the Ford Motor Company.
By 1920 the family had relocated to 2857 E. Theresa Street in Long Beach, California and Ellwood continued his trade, but was now working in the nearby shipyards. They had settled further north in the late 1920s at 211 W. 126th Street in Compton a home currently in the shadow of the 110/105 freeway interchange. While in high school he picked up a pencil and signed up for a class in cartooning.
Shortly after he graduated Virgil began working as a commercial illustrator with an office on Figueora in downtown Los Angeles. Having been turned down when he brought his portfolio to the Disney Studio, he did find work at the Mintz Studio.
His stay at Mintz did not last long and he soon found himself inbetweening at Ub Iwerks' Studio. A short time later he had moved on to Walter Lantz where he eventually became an animator. There he worked with many rising stars of the industry including a young (six months younger than himself) man known by the nickname of Tex.
When Tex Avery was hired in 1936 by Leon Schlesinger to direct cartoons at his studio, he brought along a few of his Lantz co-workers including Sid Sutherland and Ross. He animated in Avery's unit until Tex departed the studio in 1941. Then after a short stint with director Bob Clampett he settled in with Friz Freleng beginning an association that would last nearly three decades!
While at Schlesinger's he met an inker at the studio, miss Frances J. Ewing. They were later married and made their home at 5933 Carlton Way. By 1945 they had moved to 3337 Bennett Drive in the hills above the Cahuenga Pass. They would live on Bennett Drive for more than fifty years!
Following the closing of Warner Bros. cartoon studio in the early 1960s, Ross worked at Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng and Marvel, among others.
Virgil Ross passed away at his home on May 15, 1996 at the age of 88. He had lived long enough to receive the recognition of his peers in the industry and cartoon fans around the world.