Thursday, 20 November 2014

The History Of Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc

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Mel Blanc
Mel Blanc - 1959.jpg
Blanc in a 1950s publicity photo
BornMelvin Jerome Blank
May 30, 1908
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 10, 1989 (aged 81)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart disease
Emphysema
NationalityAmerican
Other names"The Man of 1000 Voices"
Alma materLincoln High School
OccupationVoice actor, comedian, singer, radio personality
Years active1927–1989
Known forLooney Tunes
The Jack Benny Program
Spouse(s)Estelle Rosenbaum
(1933–89; his death)
ChildrenNoel Blanc
Melvin Jerome "MelBlanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was an American voice actor, comedian, singer,[1] and radio personality. Although he began his sixty-plus-year career performing in radio, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. as the voices of Bugs BunnyDaffy DuckPorky PigTweety BirdSylvester the CatYosemite SamFoghorn LeghornMarvin the MartianPepé Le PewSpeedy GonzalesWile E. Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil and many of the other characters from theLooney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon short films, produced during the golden age of American animation.[2]
He later worked for Hanna-Barbera's television cartoons, most notably as the voices of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons. Blanc was also a regular performer on The Jack Benny Program in both its radio and television formats (among various other radio and TV programs), and was the original voice of Woody Woodpecker for Universal Pictures.[2]
Having earned the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Voices", Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice acting industry.[3]

Contents

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Early life[edit]

Blanc was born Melvin Jerome Blank in San FranciscoCalifornia, to Russian-Jewish parents Frederick and Eva Blank. The younger of two children, he grew up in the neighborhood of Western Addition in San Francisco, and later in PortlandOregon, where he attended Lincoln High School. Growing up, he had a fondness for voices and dialect, which he began voicing at the age of ten. He claimed when he was sixteen, he changed the spelling from "Blank" to "Blanc," because a teacher told him that he would amount to nothing and be like his name, a "blank." Blanc joined The Order of DeMolay as a young man, and was eventually inducted into its Hall of Fame.[4] After graduating high school in 1927, he split his time between leading an orchestra, becoming the youngest conductor in the country at the age of 19, and performing shtick in vaudeville shows around Washington, Oregon, and northern California.[5]

Career[edit]

Radio work[edit]

Blanc began his radio career at the age of 19 when in 1927 he debuted as a voice actor on the KGW program The Hoot Owls, where his ability to provide voices for multiple characters first attracted attention. He moved to Los Angeles in 1932, where he met Estelle Rosenbaum (1909 - 2003), whom he married a year later, before returning to Portland. He moved to KEX in 1933 to produce and co-host his Cobweb And Nuts show with his wife Estelle, which debuted on June 15. The program played Monday through Saturday from 11:00 pm to midnight, and by the time the show ended two years later, it appeared from 10:30 pm to 11:00 pm.
With his wife's encouragement, Blanc returned to Los Angeles and joined Warner Bros.-owned KFWB in Hollywood, California, in 1935. He joined The Johnny Murray Show, but the following year switched to CBS Radio and The Joe Penner Show.
Group photograph of Eddie AndersonDennis DayPhil HarrisMary LivingstoneJack BennyDon Wilson, and Mel Blanc.
Blanc was a regular on the NBC Red Network show The Jack Benny Program in various roles, including voicing Benny's Maxwell automobile (in desperate need of a tune-up), violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the Parrot, Benny's pet polar bear Carmichael, the tormented department store clerk, and the train announcer (see below). The first role came from a mishap when the recording of the automobile's sounds failed to play on cue, prompting Blanc to take the microphone and improvise the sounds himself. The audience reacted so positively that Benny decided to dispense with the recording altogether and have Blanc continue in that role. One of Blanc's most memorable characters from Benny's radio (and later TV) programs was "Sy, the Little Mexican", who spoke one word at a time. The famous "Sí...Sy...sew...Sue" routine was so effective that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there, thanks to the comedic timing of Blanc and Benny.[6]
By 1946, Blanc appeared on over 15 radio programs in supporting roles. His success on The Jack Benny Program led to his own radio show on the CBS Radio NetworkThe Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, to June 24, 1947. Blanc played himself as the hapless owner of a fix-it shop, as well as his young cousin Zookie.
Blanc also appeared on such other national radio programs as The Abbott and Costello Show, the Happy Postman on Burns and Allen, and as August Moon on Point Sublime. During World War II, he appeared as Private Sad Sack on various radio shows, most notably G.I. Journal. Blanc recorded a song titled "Big Bear Lake."

Animation voice work during the golden age of Hollywood[edit]

File:Private Snafu - Spies.ogv
Private SnafuSpies, voiced by Blanc in 1943
In December 1936, Mel Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Productions, which was producing theatrical cartoon shorts for Warner Bros. After sound man Treg Brown was put in charge of cartoon voices, and Carl Stalling became music director, Brown introduced Blanc to animation directors Tex AveryBob ClampettFriz Freleng, and Frank Tashlin, who loved his voices. The first cartoon Blanc worked on was 1937's Picador Porky as the voice of a drunken bull.[5] He soon after received his first starring role when he replaced Joe Doughertyas Porky Pig's voice in Porky's Duck Hunt, which marked the debut of Daffy Duck, also voiced by Blanc.
Following this, Blanc became a very prominent vocal artist for Warner Bros., voicing a wide variety of the Looney Tunes characters. Bugs Bunny (whom Blanc made his debut as in 1940's A Wild Hare[7][8]) was known for eating carrots frequently. To follow this sound with the animated voice, Blanc would bite into a carrot and then quickly spit into a spittoon. One oft-repeated story is that Blanc was allergic to carrots. However, Blanc denied having any allergy.[9][10]
In Disney's Pinocchio, Blanc was hired to perform the voice of Gideon the Cat. However, it was eventually decided that Gideon would be mute (similar to Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), so all of Blanc's recorded dialogue was subsequently deleted except for a solitary hiccup, which was heard three times in the finished film (Blanc would not work for Disney again until Who Framed Roger Rabbit, more than 45 years later).[11] Blanc also originated the voice (and laugh) ofWoody Woodpecker for the theatrical cartoons produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Pictures, but stopped voicing the character after he was signed to an exclusive contract with Warner Bros.[5] During World War II, Blanc served as the voice of the hapless Private Snafu in various war-themed animated shorts.[12]
Throughout his career, Blanc was well aware of his talents and protected the rights to them contractually and legally. He, and later his estate, did not hesitate to take civil action when those rights were violated. Voice actors at the time usually got no screen credits at all, but Blanc was a notable exception; by 1944, his contract with Warner Bros. stipulated a credit reading "Voice characterization(s) by Mel Blanc." Blanc asked for and received this screen credit from studio boss Leon Schlesinger when Schlesinger objected to giving Blanc a pay raise.[13]

Voice work for Hanna-Barbera and others[edit]

In 1960, after the expiration of his exclusive contract with Warner Bros., Blanc continued working for WB, but also began providing voices for the TV cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera; his most famous roles during this time were Barney Rubble of The Flintstones and Cosmo Spacely of The Jetsons. His other notable voice roles for Hanna-Barbara included Dino the DinosaurSecret SquirrelSpeed Buggy and Captain Caveman, as well as voices for Wally Gator and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
Blanc also worked with former Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones, who by this time was directing shorts with his own company Sib Tower 12 (later MGM Animation) doing vocal effects in the Tom and Jerry series from 1963 to 1967. Blanc was the first voice of Toucan Sam in Froot Loops commercials.
Blanc reprised some of his Warner Bros. characters when the studio contracted him to make new theatrical cartoons in the mid-to-late 1960s. For these, Blanc voiced Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales, the characters who received the most frequent use in these shorts (later, newly introduced characters such as Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse were voiced by Larry Storch). Blanc also continued to voice the Looney Tunes for the bridging sequences of The Bugs Bunny Show, as well as in numerous animated advertisements and several compilation features, such as The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie.

Car accident and aftermath[edit]

On January 24, 1961, Blanc was involved in a near-fatal car accident, as he was going to a studio to work on a commercial. He was driving alone when his sports car collided head-on with a car driven by 18-year-old college student Arthur Rolston on Sunset Boulevard. Blanc was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center with a triple skull fracture that left him in a coma for two weeks, along with sustaining fractures to both legs and the pelvis.[14] About two weeks after the accident, one of Blanc’s neurologists tried a different approach. Blanc was asked, “How are you doing today, Bugs Bunny?” After a slight pause, Blanc answered, in a weak voice, “Ehh... just fine Doc, how are you?”[5] The doctor then asked Tweety if he was there too. “I tot I taw a puddy tat,” was the reply.[15][16] Rolston suffered minor injuries. Blanc returned home on March 17. Four days later, Blanc filed a US$500,000 lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. His accident, one of 26 in the preceding two years at the intersection known as Dead Man's Curve, resulted in the city funding restructuring curves at the location.
Years later, Blanc revealed during his recovery, his son Noel "ghosted" several Warner Bros. cartoons' voice tracks for him. Warner Bros. had also asked Stan Freberg to provide the voice for Bugs Bunny, but Freberg declined, out of respect for Blanc. At the time of the accident Blanc was also serving as the voice of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. His absence from the show would be relatively brief; Daws Butler provided the voice of Barney for a few episodes, after which the show's producers set up recording equipment in Blanc's hospital room and later at his home to allow him to work from there. Some of the recordings were made while he was in full-body cast as he lay flat on his back with the other Flintstones co-stars gathered around him.[17] He also returned to The Jack Benny Program to film the program's 1961 Christmas show, moving around via crutches and awheelchair.

Later career[edit]

Blanc circa 1976
In the 1970s, Blanc gave a series of college lectures across the US and appeared in commercials for American Express. He would also collaborate on a special with the Boston-based Shriners Burns Institute called Ounce of Prevention, which became a 30-minute TV special.
Throughout the 1980s, Blanc performed his Looney Tunes characters for bridging sequences in various compilation films of Golden-Age era Warner Bros. cartoons, such as The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny MovieBugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit TalesDaffy Duck's Fantastic Island and Daffy Duck's Quackbusters.
After spending most of two seasons voicing the robot Twiki in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Blanc's last original character wasHeathcliff, in the early 1980s. Blanc continued to voice his famous characters in commercials and TV specials for most of the decade, although he increasingly left the "yelling" characters like Yosemite SamFoghorn Leghorn and Taz to other voice actors since as he got older, he found their voices too hard on his throat. His final performance of his Looney Tunes roles was in Daffy Duck's Quackbusters.
In the 1983 live-action film Strange Brew, Blanc voiced the father of Bob and Doug MacKenzie, at the request of comedian Rick Moranis.
In the 1988 live-action/animated movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Blanc reprised several of his classic Looney Tunes roles (Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety and Sylvester), but left Yosemite Sam to Joe Alaskey (who later became one of Blanc's permanent successors). As Disneyreleased the film (under its Touchstone Pictures banner), it had to earn the blessing of Warner Bros. (and other rival studios) in order to feature the various non-Disney characters in the movie. Blanc died just a year after the film's release. His final recording session was forJetsons: The Movie (1990).[18]

Death[edit]

Blanc's gravesite marker
Blanc began smoking cigarettes when he was 9 years old. He continued his pack-a-day habit until he was diagnosed with emphysema, which pushed him to quit at age 77.[19] On May 19, 1989, Blanc was checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by his family. [20] when they noticed he had a bad cough while shooting a commercial; he was originally expected to recover. Blanc's health then took a turn for the worse and doctors found that he had advanced coronary artery disease. He died on July 10 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California after complications from a fall out of his hospital bed at the age of 81.[21] He was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. Blanc's will stated his desire to have the inscription on his gravestone read, "THAT'S ALL FOLKS" (the phrase was a trademark of Blanc's character Porky Pig).[22]

Legacy[edit]

Blanc is regarded as the most prolific voice actor in the history of the industry.[23] He was the first voice actor to receive on-screen credit.[5]
Blanc's death was considered a significant loss to the cartoon industry because of his skill, expressive range, and sheer volume of continuing characters he portrayed, which are currently taken up by several other voice talents. Indeed, as movie critic Leonard Maltinonce pointed out, "It is astounding to realize that Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam are the same man!"
According to Blanc, Sylvester the Cat was the easiest character to voice because "It's just my normal speaking voice with a spray at the end." Yosemite Sam was the hardest because of his loudness and raspiness.[5]
A doctor who once examined Blanc's throat found that he possessed unusually thick, powerful vocal cords that gave him an exceptional range. The doctor reported that they rivaled those of famed opera singer Enrico Caruso.[5]
After his death, Blanc's voice continued to be heard in newly released productions, such as recordings of Dino the Dinosaur in the live-action films The Flintstones (1994) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000).[24][25] Similarly, recordings of Blanc as Jack Benny's Maxwell were featured in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).[26] More recently, archive recordings of Blanc have been featured in new CGI-animated Looney Tunes theatrical shorts; I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat (shown with Happy Feet Two) and Daffy's Rhapsody (shown with Journey 2: The Mysterious Island).[27][28]
Blanc trained his son Noel in the field of voice characterization. Although the younger Blanc has performed his father's characters (particularly Porky Pig) on some programs, he has chosen not to become a full-time voice artist.
For his contributions to the radio industry, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard.[29] His character Bugs Bunny also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (the only others to have received this honor are Walt Disney as both himself and Mickey MouseJim Henson as both himself and Kermit the Frog; andMike Myers as both himself and Shrek).[30]

Filmography[edit]

Radio[edit]

Original Air DateProgramRole
1933The Happy-Go-Lucky HourAdditional voices
1937The Joe Penner ShowAdditional voices
1938The Mickey Mouse Theater of the AirAdditional voices
1939-1955The Jack Benny ProgramSy
Polly the Parrot
Mr. Finque
Nottingham
Train Announcer
Jack Benny's Maxwell
Additional voices
1939-1943Fibber McGee and MollyHiccuping Man
1941-1943The Great GildersleeveFloyd Munson
1942-1947The Abbott and Costello ShowMel Blanc
Botsford Twink
Scotty Brown
1942-1948The Cisco KidAdditional voices
1943-1946The George Burns and Gracie Allen ShowThe Happy Postman
1943-1955The Judy Canova ShowPaw
Pedro
Roscoe E. Wortle
1946-1947The Mel Blanc ShowMel Blanc
Dr. Christopher Crab
Children
Zookie

Film[edit]

YearFilmRoleNotes
1937-1969Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical shortsNumerous voicesIncludes the Bugs BunnyPorky PigDaffy Duck and Sylvester series
1940PinocchioGideon's hiccupsvoice
1940-1941Woody Woodpecker theatrical shortsWoody Woodpeckervoice
1943-1945Private Snafu WWII shortsPrivate Snafu
Bugs Bunny
Additional characters
voice
1944Jasper Goes HuntingBugs BunnyPuppetoon; cameo
1948Two Guys From TexasBugs BunnyLive-action; animated cameo
1949My Dream Is YoursBugs Bunny
Tweety
Live-action; animated cameos
1949Neptune's DaughterPanchoLive-action
1959-1965Loopy De Loop theatrical shortsAdditional charactersvoice
1961Breakfast at Tiffany'sOver-eager dateLive-action; cameo
1962Gay Purr-eeBulldogvoice
1963-1967Tom and Jerry theatrical shortsTom and Jerry's vocal effectsDirected by Chuck Jones
1964Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!Grifter Chizzlingvoice
1964Kiss Me, StupidDr. SheldrakeLive-action
1966The Man Called FlintstoneBarney Rubble
Dino
voice
1970The Phantom TollboothOfficer Short Shrift
The Dodecahedron
The Demon of Insincerity
voice
1974Journey Back to OzCrowvoice
1979The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner MovieBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Wile E. Coyote
Pepé Le Pew
Marvin the Martian
Additional voices
Compilation film
1981The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny MovieBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Tweety
Sylvester
Speedy Gonzales
Yosemite Sam
Foghorn Leghorn
Wile E. Coyote
Additional voices
Compilation film
1982Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit TalesBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Tweety
Sylvester
Speedy Gonzales
Yosemite Sam
Foghorn Leghorn
Wile E. Coyote
Additional voices
Compilation film
1983Daffy Duck's Fantastic IslandDaffy Duck
Porky Pig
Tweety
Sylvester
Speedy Gonzales
Yosemite Sam
Foghorn Leghorn
Tasmanian Devil
Bugs Bunny
Compilation film
1983Strange BrewFather MacKenzieLive-action; voice
1986Howard the DuckDaffy DuckLive-action; archive recording (uncredited)
1986Heathcliff: The MovieHeathcliffvoice
1987Lethal WeaponBugs Bunny
Porky Pig
Foghorn Leghorn
Yosemite Sam
Pepé Le Pew
Live-action; archive recording (uncredited)
1988Who Framed Roger RabbitBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Tweety
Sylvester
Live-action/animated film; cameos
1988Daffy Duck's QuackbustersDaffy Duck
Bugs Bunny
Porky Pig
Tweety
Sylvester
Additional voices
Compilation film
1990Jetsons: The MovieCosmo SpacelyReleased posthumously; dedicated in memory
1994The FlintstonesDino (vocal effects)Live-action; archive recordings (uncredited until home video release)
1996Space JamClassic cartoon voicesLive-action/animated film; archive recordings (uncredited)
2000The Flintstones in Viva Rock VegasBaby Dino (vocal effects)Live-action; archive recordings
2003Looney Tunes: Back in ActionGremlin Car (vocal effects)Live-action/animated film; archive recordings of Jack Benny's Maxwell

Television[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1950-1965The Jack Benny ProgramProfessor LeBlanc
Sy
Department Store Clerk
Gas Station Man
Mr. Finque
Additional characters
Live-action
1959The Many Loves of Dobie GillisMr. ZieglerLive-action; "The Best Dressed Man"
1960-1989The Bugs Bunny ShowBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Tweety
Sylvester
Speedy Gonzales
Yosemite Sam
Foghorn Leghorn
Wile E. Coyote
Additional voices
Compilation series
1960-1966The FlintstonesBarney Rubble
Dino
Additional voices
voice
1961Dennis the Menace-Miss Cathcart's FriendLeo TrinkleDog Catcher
1962-1963;
1985-1987
The JetsonsCosmo Spacely
Additional voices
voice
1962-1963Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har HarHardy Har-Har
Additional voices
voice
1963Wally GatorColonel Zachary Gatorvoice; 1 episode
1964The Beverly HillbilliesDick BurtonLive-action; 1 episode
1964-1965Ricochet Rabbit & Droop-a-LongDroop-A-Long
Additional voices
voice
1964-1966The MunstersCuckoo clockLive-action; voice; 6 episodes
1965-1967The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel ShowSecret Squirrelvoice
1966The MonkeesMonkeemobile enginevoice; 1 episode
1969-1971The Perils of Penelope PitstopYak Yak
The Bully Brothers
Chug-A-Boom
voice
1971-1973The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm ShowBarney Rubble
Additional voices
voice
1972Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie GooliesDaffy Duck
Porky Pig
Yosemite Sam
Elmer Fudd
Sylvester
Tweety
Wile E. Coyote
Pepé Le Pew
Foghorn Leghorn
Charlie Dog
TV Movie
1972-1973The Flintstone Comedy HourBarney Rubble
Dino
Zonk
Stub
voice
1973Speed BuggySpeed Buggyvoice
1973The New Scooby-Doo MoviesSpeed Buggyvoice; 1 episode
1976Bugs and Daffy's Carnival of the AnimalsBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
TV Special
1977Bugs Bunny's Easter SpecialBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Yosemite Sam
Tweety
Sylvester
Pepé Le Pew
Foghorn Leghorn
Porky Pig
TV Special
1977-1978Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-LympicsSpeed Buggy
Captain Caveman
voice
1977-1978Fred Flintstone and FriendsBarney Rubble
Additional voices
voice
1977-1980Captain Caveman and the Teen AngelsCaptain Cavemanvoice
1977A Flintstone ChristmasBarney Rubble
Dino
TV Special
1978-1979Galaxy Goof-UpsQuack-Upvoice
1978Bugs Bunny's Howl-Oween SpecialBugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Sylvester
Tweety
Speedy Gonzales
TV Special
1979Fred and Barney Meet the ThingBarney Rubble
Dino
Additional voices
voice
1979The New Fred and Barney ShowBarney Rubble
Dino
Additional voices
voice
1979-1980Fred and Barney Meet the ShmooBarney Rubble
Dino
Additional voices
voice
1979-1981Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyTwiki (voice)Live-action; voice
1979Bugs Bunny's Thanksgiving DietBugs Bunny
Porky Pig
Wile E. Coyote
Yosemite Sam
Sylvester
Tasmanian Devil
Millicent
TV Special
1979Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas TalesBugs Bunny
Yosemite Sam (as Scrooge)
Porky Pig (as Bob Cratchit)
Tweety (as Tiny Tim)
Foghorn Leghorn
Road Runner
Wile E. Coyote
Tasmanian Devil
Santa Claus
TV Special
1980Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All OverBugs Bunny
Young Bugs Bunny
Young Elmer Fudd
Marvin the Martian
Hugo
Wile E. Coyote
Road Runner
TV Special
1980The Bugs Bunny Mystery SpecialBugs Bunny
Elmer Fudd
Yosemite Sam
Tweety
Sylvester
Wile E. Coyote
Porky Pig
TV Special
19803-2-1 ContactTwiki1 episode
1980-1982HeathcliffHeathcliffvoice
1980-1982The Flintstone Comedy ShowBarney Rubble
Dino
voice
1981-1982TrollkinsAdditional voicesvoice
1982-1984The Flintstone FunniesBarney Rubble
Captain Caveman
voice
1984-1988Heathcliff and the Catillac CatsHeathcliffvoice
1986-1988The Flintstone KidsDino
Robert Rubble
Captain Caveman
Piggy McGrabit
voice
1987The Jetsons Meet the FlintstonesBarney Rubble
Dino
Cosmo Spacely
TV Movie
1988Rockin' with Judy JetsonCosmo SpacelyTV Movie
1989Hanna-Barbera's 50th: A Yabba Dabba Doo CelebrationBarney RubbleTV Special; aired just seven days after his death

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