Tom Aitken


Tom (Thomas Keith) Aitken was born in Glasgow in 1879, but, according to an article in the magazine Picture Show, June 12 1920, his family emigrated to the US when he was a boy. In New York it appears he worked as an assistant to a newspaper cartoonist (possibly Bud Fisher) and then on some early animated cartoons, probably the first Mutt & Jeff series. During the First World War he returned to the UK to join up, and was assigned as a war photographer in December 1917.

After the war he worked for live-action film companies in London, first as a cameraman then as a director. In 1920 he wrote and directed the comedy Trotter on the Trot, about a henpecked husband's attempts to escape from his wife during a day at the seaside.

In 1922 he directed (according to the onscreen credits - Gifford only lists him as cameraman) Tom Webster's cartoon Tishy, about the cross-legged racehorse that Webster had promoted to a running joke in his sports cartoons for the Daily Mail. Webster drew the key scenes, which were then animated by W D Ford and Joe Noble. They went on to make two more films based on Webster's sports cartoons, Jimmy Wilde, based on the famous boxer, and Inman in Billiards, featuring billiards player Melbourne Inman.

Aitken went on to produce and direct a series of live-action shorts entitled Stage Stars Off Stage, which he promoted by submitting an article on "Filming Stage Stars" to Pictures and Picturegoer magazine.

Animation Filmography

Tishy(Webster Cartoons, released by Napoleon Films 1922) Director/Camera
Jimmy Wilde(Webster Cartoons, released by Napoleon Films 1923) Director/Camera
Inman in Billiards(Webster Cartoons, released by Napoleon Films 1923) Director/Camera

Links to Other Sites

National Library of Scotland WW1 'Official Photographs': War photographs and biography of Tom Aitken.

Internet Archive Picture Show June 12, 1920: Article on Tom Aitken, promoting Trotter on the Trot.

Internet Archive Pictures and Picturgoer July 1925: Article by Tom Aitken.

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Peter Hale
Last updated 2016