Samuel TimbergOccupation / Title:
21/05/1903Date of death:
Lower Manhattan, New York, USA.Associated studios:
Sammy Timberg was the musical director for Fleischer Studios and one of the most important composers of music in the history of American cartoons. Although Timberg had a long career that began in vaudeville in the 1910s, Timberg is best known for the music he wrote for the Fleischer cartoons, including the theme music for their Betty Boop and Superman cartoons.
Family and early life
Samuel Timberg was born in New York City in 1903, the youngest of six children. His parents were Austrian Jews, and his father was a barber. Timberg grew up on Houston Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a neighborhood that at the time was largely associated with and populated by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.
However, when Sammy’s father died in 1918, family finances became tight, and Sammy had to join his brother’s vaudeville act. Sammy would led orchestras, write music, and sometimes perform as Herman’s straight man under the name “Fancy Pants”. One of the most notable early shows for which Sammy led the orchestra was On the Mezzanine Floor. This 1921 show was written and directed by his brother Herman, and starred the Marx Brothers. On the road, Sammy would often wind up rooming with a Marx Brother. He continued working in vaudeville throughout the 1920s, meeting his future wife, a magazine cover model and Ziegfeld Girl named Rosemarie Sinnott, in a vaudeville review in 1930.
In 1931 Timberg began writing music for movies. His first gig was for a Rudy Vallee short called “Musical Justice”. He wrote a song for that short called “Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away”. It was performed by a live-action Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop. In short order, Timberg became the musical director for Fleischer Studios. Like Timberg’s family, the Fleischer family was an Austrian Jewish family that had immigrated to New York in the late 19th century. In addition, both Timberg and the Fleischers emerged out of a vaudeville tradition. As such, it makes sense that they would have had similar sensibilities.
- Robert Timberg. State of Grace: A Memoir of Twilight Time. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
- “The Man Who Gave Betty Her Boop-oop-a-doop” Will McKinley