Friday, September 18, 2009

Milt Gross (1895 –1953)

Screwball humorist Milt Gross was born in New York City March 4, 1895 and began as a copy boy in the art department of the New York American. His first small success came with a comic called Banana Oil, a phrase he found written by a street kid in chalk on his new automobile parked along the curb. He worked for the New York World and the New York Daily Mirror and wrote a regular newspaper column for ten years syndicated by King Features. He drew several features including Dunt Esk, Nize Baby, Looy Dot Dope, The Meanest Man, and That’s My Pop.

His comic strip lingo had a direct effect on American slang, much like that of his major comic influence Tad Dorgan’s. “I imagine it goes back to my childhood days in a Bronx flat where I must have heard a great deal of it and unconsciously absorbed it.”

“At any rate, it’s a literal transcription of the Anglicized Russian Jew; at least I try to make it so. It’s the language of the people -- conveyed at times in somewhat ludicrous character.”

He served in the infantry during WWI, and during World War II campaigned for more powerful “smash” in American propaganda materials. He was returning from a two week Hawaiian vacation when he died at sea of a coronary occlusion on November 29, 1953.

See some great Sunday pages HERE.

*Original sketch courtesy Don Kurtz.

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