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Martha Goldman Sigall (1917-2014)

Martha Goldman Sigall (1917-2014)

With a heavy heart I report that my good friend Martha
Goldman Sigall passed away this afternoon of natural age related causes. She
was 97 and spent much of her life in the animation business, mainly as a
painter, inker and other associated activities at various studios – including
Leon Schlesinger Productions (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies), The MGM
Cartoon Department, Graphic Films (a precursor to UPA), Snowball (Bob Clampett)
and freelance on dozens of projects starring Charlie Brown, Charlie Tuna to
Pink Panther. It’s safe to say that, outside of the Disney stable, there were hardly
any classic cartoon characters Martha didn’t have a hand in.

She was also one of the best friends the animation
community – and animation historians, such as I – ever had. She lived for the
community. I think that was the secret to her long healthy life – and I think
she knew it too. Animators were fun people – and Martha never wanted the party
to stop. Makes sense that she was one of the last to leave.

Martha may have in fact been the last living member of
the gang from Termite Terrace. I met her in 1992 when she called me out of the
blue and invited me to join her and her husband Sol for dinner at the
Cheesecake Factory in Marina Del Rey. She had every book on animation history
(including mine) and a private collection of almost every Warner Bros. cartoon
on VHS. She somehow figured that I might be able to help her track down the
final 100 Looney Tunes she didn’t have.

Within a few months we completed her collection – and became
“Best Friends Forever” from that point on. Martha not only knew Chuck Jones,
Tex Avery, Michael Maltese, Friz Freleng, Leon Schlesinger, Bob Clampett, Frank
Tashlin… and on and on… but was personal friends with all of them, their wives,
and their families.

She had such wonderful stories about her days at
Schlesinger’s studio (she had co-edited the in-house newsletter in the early
40s!) and her later jobs at MGM and so on. I could listen to her tell her
stories for hours. It was like being there. She loved talking about how much
fun animation was the golden age, so much so, that I goaded her into writing
her stories down and later helped her find a publisher (I highly recommend her
book Living Life Inside The Lines: Tales From The Golden Age of Animation). She
and Sol  were never idle. They became
docents at the Warner Bros. Museum (on the Warner lot in Burbank), and appeared
at all the animation industry functions in Hollywood.
 

Martha received a Golden Award from the Animation Guild
in 1989, Asifa-Hollywood gave her the June Foray Award at the Annies ceremony
in 2004, and she was a guest of honor at the San Diego Comic Con in 2005. She appeared
on PBS’ History Detectives in 2010 and joined me on several Looney Tunes Golden
Collection DVDs doing both audio commentary and appearing on bonus
documentaries recalling her days at Termite Terrace.

She now rejoins her husband Sol, and the rest of the
staff of Schlesingers and MGM. I really don’t know what else to say. I’m going
to miss our phone calls, our dinners at the Cheesecake Factory, our friendship.
All of this will live on in my fondest memories.

Martha was more than an ink and paint girl. She was
more than a professional artist and a great friend. She cared. She cared for
the work, she cared for the fans, she cared for the history that she embodied.
Martha was one of us – and indeed everything all of us in animation strive to
be. A great lady, a wonderful person. I’m blessed to have had her in my life.
Rest in Peace, Martha.

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Comments

William Carroll

Jerry, just seeing this… so sorry you’ve lost your friend. But glad you have such wonderful memories of her.
Sincerely,
William Carroll
Denham Springs, Louisiana

Cathy

What a heartfelt, beautifully written eulogy. Thank you for memorializing Martha & including the video. I used to paint cels too — probably the last days inking & painting was done in Chicago. The inkers & painters were the funniest, most creative ppl, full of dreams of going on in the buisiness, I ever met.

Jalal

Found this on Gizmodo and started reading as a fan of animation. My condolences on your loss, Jerry. RIP Martha

aaron knueven

lol

Ian

Art Leonardi and (I believe) Bob Givens are still with us, but yeah, the amount of staff that worked on the original Looney Tunes shorts is pretty slim by this point. RIP Martha, whose enthusiasm was evident on the Golden Collection DVDs.

Maria

My son met her at a library event many years ago and she signed her book for him. She was incredibly sweet and inspired his continued interest in hand drawing and animation. She was a blessing and we were lucky to meet her. May she rest and revive in the everafter.

Milly O'Shea

Thank you, Mr. Beck, for goading Martha into writing her memoirs down. I met Martha in 2008 at the Culver City Historical Society. My sister and I were there visiting from Oregon, but we had both lived in Culver City in the mid 1960’s. Sol mentioned her book, and I ended up purchasing it from there directly after I had already returned home. It started a most wonderful friendship. I made it a point to visit her at least once a year, and we spoke on the phone. She was such a gift and I will miss her greatly. If she had not written her book, I may not have ever gotten to know her. She made my life so rich. I will never forget her. Thank you for such a lovely tribute to a jewel of friend.

ParamountCartoons

All of the Looney Tunes animation crew are gone!

Reg Hartt

Thanks for sharing.

Christian Ziebarth

Sorry to hear about this. I met her once or twice about ten years ago and felt like that was my one little connection to Termite Terrace.

Howie Hoffman

Sorry for your loss, Jerry– and sorry for our animation community, and am glad you were/are there so that her stories liven on… Best, Howie

T. Klein

This really saddens me, and my condolences as well: I knew Martha and Sol were so fond of you Jerry. When I moved to L.A and was still just a student, I met Martha at an ASIFA event and she was so gracious. She and Sol invited me to lunch at their Culver City home, then to what was the ‘new’ Warners museum. Her generosity was endless, and her recollection of the Golden Age at Schlesinger and MGM was second-to-none. To hear her tell those stories of Tex just transported you right back to the 1930s. It’s truly sad to lose her, and in many ways she was our last link to those formative days of studio animation.

Sue Monahan Larkin

What a wonderful read about a wonderful woman. I can only imagine the heavenly pranks that Martha’s now witnessing while arm in arm with Sol.

Melissa Graziano-Humphrey

I’m sorry to hear about Martha’s passing. Learning about her experiences in the industry through her book was a delight.

Yvette Kaplan

Thank you Jerry, both for writing this beautiful and fitting tribute – and for bringing Martha and her beloved Sol into my life. xoxox

Bonita Versh

an old friend of mine too, all of us from the Original WIA Archive committee. Thanks Jerry, for your excellent documentaries with Martha. Always a living legend.

Christopher P. Lehman

I’m sorry for your loss. She was one of the few Golden Age animation vets who agreed to an interview for my COLORED CARTOON book. Good people, she and Sol.

Justin

So sorry that Martha’s gone. She was truly an animation legend.

Justin

It’s very sad that Martha’s gone. She was truly an animation legend.

Mac

The loss of a friend can many times be more devastaing as losing a relative.This relationship seemed to be as natural as breathing and we also all benefitted from her acknowledgement of Jerry’s work of keeping the flame of animation alive.

DarylT

So sorry for your loss.

Eric Stefani

So sorry to hear of her passing, she looked so familiar.

Andre Watson

My condolences, Jerry. It’s always sad to see such a distinguished member of the community and a veteran of the industry go, but her works will be around for people to enjoy for generations.

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