Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Short Life of Godfrey Bjork

If the name of animator Godfrey Bjork comes up in conversation, it is most often accompanied by the name of Emile Offeman. The story, as told by Shamus Culhane in his autobiography, Talking Animals and Other People, describes how Offeman, the production manager at the Ub Iwerks Studio, badgered Bjork incessantly for his footage -- this in spite of the fact that Godfrey had a declining heart condition.

Even when Bjork's condition kept him bed-ridden, Offeman (a would-be stand-in for Bela Lugosi) sent work to his home. He also made a point of calling several times a day to make sure Godfrey hadn't run off to the beach and pushed for him to get the work done. This soon lead to Bjork suffering a fatal heart attack. The saddest fact (apparently lost in the fog of the past 74 years) is that Godfrey Bjork was a mere 25 years old!

Godfrey Waldemar Bjork was born in New York, December 12, 1907, the second of four sons to Alfred and Hilda Bjork who had emmigrated from Finland in 1896. Throughout his youth he showed quite a talent for drawing, which enabled him to begin a career in animation before he reached the age of 19.

By 1930 he was listed as an artist in motion pictures and lived with his parents at 924 Summit Avenue in the Bronx -- just a half mile from home plate at Yankee Stadium. When he relocated to California shortly thereafter he work at the Ub Iwerks Studio and made his home at 740 North Stanley Avenue, up the street from what is now trendy Melrose Avenue.

Godfrey Bjork is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Godfrey W. Bjork's parents came from Finland and he was born almost ten years before this country broke away from Russia.