Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Ink-Slinger Profiles: Fred Fox
Frederick Louis “Fred” Fox was born in New York, New York, on August 26, 1902, according to the passenger list at Ancestry.com. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was the second of three children born to Louis (German descent) and Isabella (Irish descent). His father was an engineer for a construction company. They lived in the Bronx, New York at 156 Union Place.
The date of their move to California is not known. The 1920 census recorded them in Pasadena, California on Fig Street. Fox was a clerk at a safe deposit company. Sometime in the late mid-1920s, he was involved with the strip Ella Cinders as told in The World of Comic Art (1966):
...During most of those years “Ella Cinders” was drawn by Charlie Plumb, the original artist who brought Conselman’s characters to vivid pictorial life. But the unsung hero of the strip was Fred Fox, whose Herculean labors as both writer and artist have been largely overlooked by comics historians. And, of course, there was Roger Armstrong, the third major artist in Ella’s life….
...Fred Fox entered Ella’s life almost at the beginning. Bank teller Fox had been doing cartoons for the bank’s newsletter publication. Introducing himself to Charlie Plumb, it wasn’t long before he was taken on as Plumb’s assistant. Bill Conselman soon discovered that Fred Fox was a man of many talents, and he turned the scripting of the strip over to him in order to devote full time to screen-writing. This happy arrangement continued until Charlie Plumb decided to retire in 1951, leaving Fred Fox with the job of drawing, as well as writing, the strip.
The double duties made taxing demands on his time, so Roger Armstrong was hired to draw Ella while Fox concentrated on the continuity. When Fox decided to retire, Bill Conselman, Jr. took up where his father had left off years before….
In 1929 Fox was the third artist to work on Good Time Guy.
The Fox family remained in Pasadena but at 160 State Street, according to the 1930 census. Fox was a syndicated cartoonist, and his father was a stationary engineer in the motion picture industry.
In the 1940 census, Fox was married to Muriel and lived in Pasadena at 1180 North Arroyo, the same address in 1935. Fox continued as a syndicated cartoonist. In The Comics, Coulton Waugh wrote: “…Bill Conselman lived in Hollywood and did his writing from there. When Conselman died [May 25, 1940], Fred Fox, assistant to both the artist and the author, was given the chance to write it [Ella Cinders]. After three years he convinced the Syndicate that he could handle the job, was given by-line….” Soon, he was ghostwriting Freckles and His Friends. With artist Chase Craig, they created Odd Bodkins in 1941. Fox also worked as a writer in radio, film and television; his filmed credits are here.
Fox passed away August 27, 1981. The United Press International story was published in the Dallas Morning News (Texas), September 1, 1981:
Artist-writer Fred Fox dies
Pasadena, Calif.—Artist-writer Fred Fox, who brought life to the comic strip “Freckles and His Friends” and wrote lines for such entertainers as wise-cracking Groucho Marx, has died at the age of 78.
Fox’s death of complications of cancer last Thursday [August 27] in Pasadena was disclosed during the weekend.
For more than 30 years two generations of comic strip fans read “Freckles,” the prototypical American teen-ager who lived in “Shadyside,” a small American town content with good clean fun.
The strip once was syndicated in more than 700 newspapers and ceased publication about 10 years ago. Fox’s name never appeared on it but he was acknowledged as its ghostwriter.
Fox worked in radio for Marx and Judy Canova until live radio’s prime-time demise, then moved to television. He remained active in motion pictures and television writing until his illness.
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