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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in New York, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (cancer)

Mini Bio (1)

During the heyday of cartoon slapstick in Hollywood, one basic tenet held precedence: namely, that an inseparable connection existed between perennial antagonists like Tom and Jerry, Sylvester and Tweetie, Wile E. Coyoye and the Road Runner, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam (or Elmer Fudd). In other words, one could not work without the other. Few people understood that better than Michael Maltese, one of the unsung heroes of animation, and, arguably, the best cartoon writer to emerge from this period. The son of Italian immigrant parents, Maltese learned his craft at the National Academy of Design in New York and began his career in animation in 1935, working on Betty Boop cartoons for Max Fleischer as an opaquer (colouring animation cels) and assistant animator. After two years, he moved to the West Coast and hooked up with Leon Schlesinger's studio at Warner Brothers (following his wife who had been hired as an 'in-betweener' for $20 a week). By August 1939, he had become an integral member of the story department. Maltese was briefly associated with Friz Freleng's unit but ended up spending the better part of his tenure at Warners (1946-58) as the indispensable gag man and storyboard artist for Chuck Jones.

Maltese had a zany sense of humour and was the wit behind many innovative Looney Tunes in-jokes and gags (especially those involving the Acme company !). As a character designer, he and Jones created Pepe Le Pew as a composite of French-born Hollywood star Charles Boyer (the archetypal romantic lover) and fellow animator Tedd Pierce (the skunk -- Pierce, an avid party animal, had a reputation for turning up at work unwashed and hung-over). Another Maltese-Jones creation, Yosemite Sam (whose 'real' cartoon name was -- amazingly -- Samuel Michelangelo Rosenbaum), was designed as the alter-ego of Friz Freleng, a guy notorious for his volatile temper and short fuse. Maltese was similarly instrumental in the evolution of the Road Runner/Coyote cartoons, having devised the concept of the 'ultimate chase' inaugurated by the episode Fast and Furry-ous (1949). Maltese derived the Road Runner's famous sound from layout artist Paul Julian, who had a habit of shouting 'beep-beep' to get people to scurry out of his way while carrying large paintings through the halls and passages of 'Termite Terrace'. For One Froggy Evening (1955), Maltese co-created the top-hatted vaudevillian Michigan J. Frog, a character for whom he also wrote an original piece of music, 'The Michigan Rag'.

In 1958, Maltese departed Warner Brothers (for reasons unknown) to work for newcomers Hanna-Barbera. As head of their story department, he was charged with writing a half-hour episode each week, helping in the development and success of Quick Draw McGraw (1959) (he originated the catchphrase "Exit, stage right" -- or left -- voiced by Snagglepuss), The Yogi Bear Show (1961) and The Flintstones (1960).

Beginning in the 1940's, Maltese frequently sidelined as author of comic book stories for Sangor, Dell (Daffy Duck cartoons) and Western Publishing (often featuring Bugs Bunny, Road Runner/Coyote or Pink Panther). In addition to providing his voice to several Looney Tunes creations, he also appeared as a real-life security guard in You Ought to Be in Pictures (1940), chasing an animated Porky Pig around the studio lot. Maltese never won an Oscar, though he would have made a most deserving recipient. Three years after his retirement in 1973, he was finally honoured with a Winsor McKay Award for lifetime achievement in animation. Warner Brothers paid him a little homage with a Sylvester & Tweetie cartoon, The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries: The Maltese Canary (1995) (a send-up of the classic 'Maltese Falcon') in which a store is named 'Mike Maltese's canaries'.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Florence Sass (30 May 1936 - 22 February 1981) (his death) (1 child)

Trivia (2)

Warren Foster served as Best Man at Maltese's wedding.
Longtime collaborator Chuck Jones died 21 years to the day after Maltese.

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