Remembering Jack Davis

On Film / Short Takes — Jul 30, 2016

We were deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of legendary illustrator Jack Davis. First as a founding member of Mad magazine’s “usual gang of idiots,” and later as one of the preeminent commercial illustrators of his generation, Jack brought smiles to millions over the course of his nearly seventy-year career.

Working with Jack on revisiting his classic design for Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was one of the highlights of my own career. It was amazing to see the high standard of quality he maintained fifty years after creating the design for Kramer’s film. Jack’s style had evolved somewhat over the years, of course, but his work was just as bold and vibrant at eighty-eight as it was at thirty-eight.

I was also struck by his generous spirit. After the project, we were interested in purchasing the drawings Jack made for our release. Jack eschewed any payment for himself, asking only that we make a donation to the congregation he’d been a loyal member of for so many years. He didn’t need the money, he told me—life had been good to him, and now he wanted to give back. To the millions of us who grew up on his work, of course, Jack had already given far more than his share.