Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

A blog dedicated to the making of the first animated Christmas special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bosustow vs. Saperstein

Third in a four part series
     Due to the new distribution agreement with Hank Saperstein's company, Television Personalities, production demands at UPA skyrocketed.  It was ironic that the studio that had pioneered the limited animation technique as an artistic choice was now consumed by it as an economic necessity.  Artists at the time, though, were grateful for the work since the entire animation industry was in a state of turmoil over the collapse of the theatrical market. 

     Stephen Bosustow, although still at the studio, was nowhere to be seen.   The Magoo and Tracy TV shorts were flying through the studio and a new feature (Gay Purr-ee) was in active development, none of which involved Bosustow’s participation.  As part of his contract with Saperstein, he had been given an office at the studio and encouraged to develop new ideas and properties for UPA.  However on July 10, 1961, a special meeting of the UPA Board of Directors was called; present at the meeting were four directors, M. J. Saperstein, Harold Bell, Stephen Bosustow and Hank Saperstein, who served as chairman of the meeting.  Minutes from the meeting indicate that 78 personnel had been laid off over the last year, with most of those coming as production on the TV shorts ceased.  Saperstein claimed, that in spite of the extreme production demands on those shorts, the studio had been overstaffed when he took over and he asked to be empowered to make further cutbacks as he deemed necessary to maintain the financial health of the corporation.  The motion carried unanimously.

     The very next resolution by Saperstein stated that of all the projects and ideas that Stephen Bosustow had come up with over the last year, “none of the ideas or projects were determined to be practicable or within the scope of the corporation’s activities or its finances.”  As a result, the studio “could not continue the payment to Mr. Bosustow of a salary and substantial expense allowance.”  Bosustow dissented, probably vociferously, but Saperstein had the majority and the motion carried.  His salary and expense allowance were deferred until further order of the Board of Directors.  Bosustow had just moments before, unknowingly, given Saperstein permission to effectively eliminate his position in order “to maintain the financial health of the corporation”.  It seems fair to say that Bosustow had been blindsided by Saperstein’s machinations and five days later, all payments to Stephen Bosustow ceased.  Bosustow immediately threatened to sue, to which Hank reportedly replied, “Well, go ahead but you’ll have to get to the end of the line.” (viii)  

    On July 15, Stephen Bosustow, seeing no other options, left the company he had co-founded and helped to build.  A breach of contract lawsuit and writs of attachment were filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on October 13, 1961.  Listed as defendants, were Henry Saperstein, Peter DeMet, UPA Pictures, Inc., Television Personalities, Inc. and seven “Doe” corporations (ix), all alleged to be controlled by Saperstein and the identities of which were unknown to the plaintiff.  The allegations were many and covered everything from compensation and Bosustow’s creative role to deception and outright fraud on the part of the defendants.  Probably the most salient allegation regarding his departure was that Saperstein had deliberately sidelined Bosustow and told him that he never had any intention of using him in a creative capacity.  He further alleged that he had been told the hope was that he would abandon the agreement out of discouragement.  The fraud allegations concerned the movement of assets to Saperstein’s myriad corporations to avoid fiscal responsibility, forcing UPA Pictures to plead poverty (xi).  The financial loss was listed as approximately $346,000 while the damages requested totaled $1,000,000.

     Stephen Bosustow’s departure was the final break with the old UPA.  Most of the original staffers had left in 1959 and Bosustow himself had not been involved in any meaningful capacity at the studio for at least a year.  His sudden absence barely registered with the staff.  In addition, all eyes in the studio were now focused on their next big project, the feature length Gay Purr-ee.

           Stephen Bosustow had hoped that the hiring of his original law firm, Charles J. Katz, which was known for its fierce reputation, would induce Saperstein to settle.  He didn’t and Bosustow eventually hired a new firm.  It appears that Saperstein’s legal representation was adept at grinding down the opposition, both emotionally and financially.  For Bosustow to prove his case, his legal team had to unravel the financial dealings between each one of Saperstein’s many companies, as well as how they interacted with UPA.  Even clients and sponsors were deposed in the process. The legal actions dragged on for years as Saperstein’s counsel engaged in numerous delaying tactics filing procedural motions every step of the way.  

     It took him five years but Bosustow did finally achieve some satisfaction in his lawsuit with Henry G. Saperstein, although at a considerable expenditure of time and money.  Just as the suit was about to go to trial in September of 1966, Saperstein reached a settlement with Bosustow agreeing to pay him $125,000 over five years, considerably less than $1,346,000 in losses and damages that had been requested, especially once inflation was factored in. Over the ensuing years, Bosustow incurred further legal costs when Saperstein’s periodic payments were late.  The entire process, from the filing of the initial lawsuit to the final receipt of payment, took ten years.

(viii)The Tip of the Iceberg: A Conversation with Lee Mishkin by Leslie Bishko, FPS Magazine.
(ix) In a 1965 lawsuit by Thorton Sargent, Sargent vs. Saperstein, the plaintiff listed 50 “Doe” corporations as being pertinent to his case.
(x) It was later determined that Saperstein received business loans through Television Personalities, Inc. and then loaned the same money to UPA at a much higher interest rate. The diversion of funds to interest payments apparently helped to deplete UPA’s finances.

Next Thursday, Coda


Anonymous said...

These articles are absolutely amazing! Please keep them up -- they don't go unnoticed. :-)

Darrell said...

I appreciate the feedback. It's tough to tell if others find this information as interesting as I did when I researched it. More to come in upcoming weeks!

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

This is more informative than what I've been able to get from other sources that supposedly covered the UPA story.

You may have another book here!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm sure people will as soon as they find your blog. I am not that familiar with UPA and it's history so this is all new to me. I am finding it a great read and well-written. :-)

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

I have read several books telling the UPA history and this is by far the most informative. You're detective work has connected many of the dots and explained why certain similarities became evident in other studios. I've learned it wasn't so much a borrowing of styles as it was a splintering of staff.

Thanks for good stuff.