Mel Blanc, "The Man of a Thousand Voices"
|Born:||May 30, 1908|
|Birthplace:||San Francisco, CA, U.S.|
|Also known for:||voice of "Bugs Bunny"|
|Character played:||a parrot in Angel on the Island |
Froggy in Water, Water Everywhere,
voice of Sam The Parrot in New Neighbor Sam
Born Melvin Jerome Blank on May 30, 1908, Mel Blanc was a longtime Hollywood voice actor and comedian. The younger of two children born to Frederick and Eva Blank, a Russian-Jewish family living in San Francisco, he attended Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon and developed a fondness for voices and dialects. A teacher suggested he change his name from “Blank” to “Blanc” to help further his career. He joined The Order Of DeMolay, a Freemason group for young men of sterling character, and worked in the school orchestra, later joining a Vaudeville troop that traveled the West Coast.
At the age of 19, he debuted as a voice actor on KGW, later moving to Los Angeles in 1932, where he met his first wife, Estelle Rosenbaum, before returning to Portland. He moved to start a career in radio at KEX in 1933 to produce and co-host, “Cobweb And Nuts” show with his wife. He eventually moved back to Los Angeles and worked on “The Johnny Murray Show” and “The John Penner Show,” eventually becoming a regular on “The Jack Benny Show,” where he voiced Benny's broken-down Maxwell automobile among several characters. His talent landed him his own CBS radio show, “The Mel Blanc Show,” from 1946 to 1947 as well as appearances on “The Abbott and Costello Show” and “Burns and Allen.”
While under license to Leon Schlesinger Productions in December 1936, Mel Blanc first starting voicing cartoon characters in theatrical shorts for Warner Brothers and met animation directors Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Frank Tashlin, who loved his voices. His first cartoon was “Picador Porky” in 1937 as the voice of a drunken bull, but he soon after received his first starring role when he replaced Joe Dougherty as Porky Pig in Porky's Duck Hunt, which also marked the debut of Daffy Duck, also voiced by Blanc. He became a very prominent vocal artist for Warner Brothers, voicing a wide variety of the Looney Tunes characters, including Bugs Bunny. Although he began his more than six-decade-long career performing in radio, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. as the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil and many of the other characters from the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoon short films, during the golden age of American animation. 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 coarseness. He was also lent out to other studios, showing up at Walt Disney Studios to perform the voice of Gideon the Cat in Disney’s “Pinocchio” and inventing the voice and laugh of Woody Woodpecker for Walter Lantz at Universal Pictures. Well aware of his talents, he protected the rights to the voices of his characters contractually and legally. He was the first voice talent to ever receive screen credit.
Mel later worked for Hanna-Barbera's television cartoons, providing multiple voices such as Barney Rubble in 'The Flintstones" and Mr. Spacely in "The Jetsons” among others, but he also started voicing several live-action characters, such as the Raven on “The Munsters” alongside actor Bob Hastings and Sam the Parrot and several critters along side Herb Vigran on “Gilligan’s Island.” He reprised some of his Warner Bros. characters when the studio contracted him to make new theatrical cartoons for DePatie-Freleng Enterprises in the 1960s while working on “Looney Tunes.” Although briefly slowed down by a near fatal car accident on January 24, 1961, he survived after a brief coma, during which time his son, Noel Blanc, took over some of his voice work.
Blanc also provided the voice of Twiki in “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” for two seasons in the 70s; his was Heathcliff in the early 1980s. He 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 Sam, Foghorn Leghorn and Taz to other voice actors since as he got older as he found their voices too hard on him, especially in the live-action/animated movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in 1988 where he left the shouting voice of Yosemite Sam to comedian and actor Joe Alaskey, who later became one of his permanent successors. Blanc died just a year after Roger Rabbit's release; one of his last recording sessions was the big screen release of “The Jetsons.” An avid smoker for much of his life, Blanc was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 19, 1989, with complications from emphysema. He died on July 10 at the age of 81. He was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. The inscription on his gravestone read, "That’s All Folks!” a trademark of Blanc's character Porky Pig. Despite his death, archived voice recordings of Blanc continued to be used for several years after his death. For his contributions to radio, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard with his character Bugs Bunny also receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only others to have received this honor are Walt Disney as both himself and Mickey Mouse and Jim Henson as both himself and Kermit the Frog.
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.