Stephen Slesinger (
December 25, 1901– December 17, 1953), was an American radio/television/film producer, creator of comic-book characters, and the father of the licensing industry. From 1923 to 1953, he created, produced, published, developed, licensed or represented most of the popular literary legends of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.
Slesinger was born on
December 25, 1901, in New York. His Hungarian born father, Anthony, was a dress manufacturer and his mother, Augusta (nee Singer), was a prominent psychoanalyst.
Ethical Culture Fieldston Schoolfrom September 1914 until June 1919 and later Columbia University.
His younger sister was author/writer
Slesinger died at 4:45 am on
December 17, 1953, of gastric hemorrhage at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, CA.
In 1927, Slesinger set up shop in New York as a
literary agent, and went on to represent, among others, Newbery Medal-winning writers Hendrik Willem van Loon(who won the first Newbery in 1922) and Will James, Western authors Zane Greyand Rex Beach, and journalist Andy Rooney. Slesinger also acquired the rights to popularize illustrations, texts, characters and personalities in other media, a pioneering effort into ancillary rights uses and licensing. Always interested in new media, Slesinger took out several patents for experimental television presentations of cartoons and presented Winnie the Pooh as the first Sunday Morning Cartoon for the medium of television in the mid 1940s (New York TImes).
Slesinger acquired US and Canadian merchandising, television, recording and other trade rights to the "
Winnie-the-Pooh" from A. A. Milnein the 1930s, and developed " Winnie-the-Pooh" commercializations for more than 30 years. Slesinger created Pooh's trademark red shirt and adapted Shepard's drawings into a classic Americanized versions for the stage, radio, television and character licensing. In the 1950s after Slesinger's death, his widow, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, took over the business and launched her own nationwide licensing campaigns. In 1961 and 1983 Stephen Slesinger, Inc licensed certain of Slesinger's exclusive Pooh rights to the Walt Disney Company.
In 1933, Slesinger acquired the merchandising rights to
Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzancharacter and produced a series of Big Little Books, games, premiums, toys, treasure maps and many other products. Slesinger's marketing and media strategy for Tarzan became the blueprint for success in character merchandising, even among competing characters such as Superman. Slesinger's 1935 Blue Ribbon Press "New Adventures of Tarzan" Pop-up book, which he also illustrated, was chosen by Albert Tillman as one of the one hundred best pop-up books ever published, and is featured on the cover of Tillman's book "Pop-Up!"
Slesinger purchased the rights to the
Ozark Ikestrip from creator Rufus A. ("Ray") Gotto. In 1936, it became his first comic strip in syndication.
Other characters included
King of the Royal Mounted, Alley Oop, Captain Easy, Wash Tubbs, Og Son of Fire, Polly the Powers Model, Tom Mix, Charlie Chan, Buck Rogers, as well as all of the NEA newspaper comics.
In the late 1930s Slesinger began developing original characters, which he then hired artists to bring to life. Most prominent among these are
Red Ryderand King of the Royal Mounted, which ultimately, would be Slesinger's most popular characters, syndicated internationally in newspaper comic strips and also generating books, radio shows, motion pictures and numerous ancillary commercial products.
Red Ryder and Little Beaver
Slesinger, working with artist
Fred Harman, who came from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, launched the popular comic strip Red Ryder. Red Ryder's artistic style evolved from Harman's previous comic strip The Bronc Peeler in 1937. The two worked on the project for a year before Red Ryder was launched in 1938.
Between 1938 and 1967, Red Ryder became the longest running Western strip in the history of newspapersFact|date=March 2007, the longest running Western Comic book, the subject of 12 chapter films, 26 motion pictures and many merchandising and promotional tie-ins, -including the still-produced Red Ryder Daisy Carbine Air Rifle, which holds the longest continuing license in the history of the licensing industry and was immortalized in the film
A Christmas Story(1983).
King of the Royal Mounted
In 1937 Slesinger licensed
Zane Grey's byline and created Zane Grey's King of the Royal Mounted. The adventures of a Canadian Mountie who always got his man, King appeared in newspaper strips, comics, Little Big Books and other ancillary items. Grey's son Romer and Slesinger collaborated on many of the stories, and the artwork was produced by Allen Dean and Charles Flanders in Slesinger's New York studio. A movie serial was produced in 1942.
Television and films
In 1940 Slesinger licensed to Republic Pictures the right to produce a 12-chapter Red Ryder serial and 23 Red Ryder motion pictures from 1944-1946.
In the mid-1940s through the early 1950s, Stephen Slesinger Productions began producing films and television programs, including adaptations of
Winnie-the-Pooh, Red Ryder, King of the Royal Mountedand The West That Lives Forever. In addition to Stephen Slesinger Productions, he also formed Telecomics Presents, which produced for television dramatically scripted comic strip segments (static images of the strips, not animated with movement). There were approximately 130 episodes produced, each lasting about three minutes. Each episode would begin with opening a comic book, the first page showing a silhouette of the lead character ( Space Barton, Danny Marchor Kid Champion); the page then was "turned" to show a full page illustration. Telecomics is generally heralded as one of the very first cartoon series produced for television. In 1950, NBCoptioned Telecomics' product and repackaged it as NBC Comics.
Slesinger acquired the rights to make a "Blondie" television show with
Arthur Lakeand Pat Lakeas Dagwood Bumsteadand Blondie in 1951. He was working on the pilot episode at the time of his death on December 17, 1953.
Among Slesinger's many honors was a proclamation shortly before his death in 1953 from the County of
Los Angeleswhich singled him out as a "nationally known humanitarian" whose works "are read by more than twenty-five million youngsters and adults" and who "has devoted much of his personal time and energy toward helping underprivileged children throughout the nation" and whose "interest in underprivileged children stems from the magnificent work done by his mother, Augusta Slesinger, who served as a psycho-analyst and social worker…for forty years". The proclamation ends with Slesinger being "complimented for continuing to help in the program of making better citizens out of the youth of the land."
* [http://www.stephenslesinger.com/ Stephen Slesinger, Inc.]
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