Mel Blanc

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Biography Melvin Jerome Blanc, better known as Mel Blanc, (May 30, 1908July 10, 1989) was a famous American voice actor for many animation studios, primarily the Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera studios.

Born in San Francisco, California, Blanc's ability to create voices for multiple characters first attracted attention when he worked as a voice actor in radio. He was a regular on the Jack Benny Program in various roles, including Benny's automobile (a Maxwell in desperate need of a tune up), violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the Parrot, and Benny's pet polar bear Carmichael.

Blanc's success on the Jack Benny Program led to his own radio show on the CBS radio network, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946 to June 24, 1947. Blanc played himself as the hapless owner a fix-it shop, in addition to a wide range of comical support characters. Other regular characters were played by Mary Jane Croft, Joe Kearns, Hans Conried, Alan Reed, Earle Ross, Jim Backus and Bea Benaderet.

Blanc also appeared on other national radio programs such as Burns and Allen as the Happy Postman, August Moon on Point Sublime, Sad Sack on G.I. Journal, Floyd the Barber on The Great Gildersleeve, and later played various small parts on Benny's television show. Blanc's most famous role on Benny's TV show was as "Si, the Mexican" in which he spoke one word at a time. The famous 'si-sy-sue' routine was so hilarious that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there. Another famous Blanc role on Jack's show was the Train Depot announcer who always said the phrase: "Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga". What made that phrase so funny was the spacing between "Cu.." and "...camonga" -- sometimes minutes would pass while the skit went on, the audience awaiting the inevitable conclusion of the word. For his contribution to radio, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd.

Mel Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Studios (the subsidiary of Warner Brothers Pictures which produced animated cartoons) in 1936. He soon became noted for voicing a wide variety of cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and many others. His natural voice was that of Sylvester the cat but without the lispy spray (you can hear it in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, which also featured frequent Blanc vocal foil Bea Benaderet; in his small appearance, Blanc plays a vexed cab-driver).

Though his best-known character was a carrot-chomping lagomorph, Blanc claimed he was allergic to raw carrots. No other vegetable produced the desired crunch, however, so Blanc would chomp a raw carrot, say his lines, and then hawk a mouthful of chewed carrot in a convenient wastebasket. He also once claimed to dislike doing the voice of Yosemite Sam; it was rough on the throat.

Blanc's long association with the theatrical cartoons of Warner Brothers gave him an edge over the made-for-TV voice actors like the two greats Daws Butler and Don Messick. Although Daws and Don both had voice roles in MGM theatrical cartoons {Daws being the southern talking wolf who always whistled and Don at times being "Droopy"}, the two didn't do as many theatricals as Mel.

A near-fatal car accident in 1961 put Blanc in a coma, prompting over 15,000 get-well cards from anxious fans, including some addressed only to "Bugs Bunny, Hollywood, USA". Blanc reports in his autobiography that he was awakened from the coma by a clever doctor who addressed him as Bugs Bunny, and therefore credits Bugs with saving his life.

In the early 1960s Mel went to Hanna Barbera and continued to voice various characters, with Barney Rubble from The Flintstones (whose dopey laugh is very similar to Foghorn Leghorn's booming chuckle) and Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons being his most famous. Daws Butler and Don Messick were Hanna-Barbera's top voice men and Mel was the newcomer to H-B. However, all of the 1930s and 1940s theatrical cartoons from Warner Brothers were making their way to Saturday morning TV to compete with the made-for-TV Hanna-Barberas and Mel was once more deemed relevant. Warner Bros then started to make first-run cartoon shorts for TV in the late '60s, mostly shorts consisting of Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales or Tweety and Sylvester. Mel did these voices plus the ones he did for the ensemble cartoons like Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop for Hanna-Barbera. Mel even shared the spotlight with his two rivals and personal friends Daws Butler and Don Messick. In a short called Lippy the Lion, Daws was Lippy while Mel was his side-kick, Hardy Har-Har. In the short Ricochet Rabbit, Don provided the voice of the gun slinging rabbit while Mel was his sidekick, Deputy Droop-a-Long.

Blanc was one of literally hundreds of individuals that were auditioned by director George Lucas to provide the voice for the character of C-3PO for his 1977 motion picture Star Wars, and it was he who ultimately suggested that the producers utilize mime actor Anthony Daniels' own voice in the role.

Missing image
Mel Blanc's gravesite marker.

After spending most of two seasons voicing the robot Twiki in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Blanc's last original character was an orange cat called Heathcliff, who spoke a little like his famed Bugs Bunny but with a more street tough demeanor. This was the early 1980s. Mel 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 the Tasmanian Devil to other voice actors as performing these were too hard on his throat and voice by the time of his old age in the 1980s. One of his last recording sessions was for a new animated theatrical version of The Jetsons.

His death was considered a significant loss to the cartoon industry because of his skill, expressive range, and the sheer number of characters he portrayed, which must now be taken up by others as no one person can match his vocal range. That range was aided with technology. For instance, his Daffy Duck voice is essentially his Sylvester voice played at a higher play speed on the recording tape to give it a higher pitch although he would later learn the skill to reproduce such "sped" voices himself live.

After his death, Blanc's voice continued to be heard in new productions. In particular, a recording of him doing Dino the dinosaur's bark from the 1960s Flintstones series was utilized in the 1994 live-action theatrical film based upon the series, which led to legal action against the film studio by Blanc's estate, which claimed his recordings were used without permission or proper credit.

Blanc died in Los Angeles, California, and is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. The inscription on his gravestone, one of the most famous epitaphs in the world, reads, "THAT'S ALL FOLKS."

List of characters and the year he first voiced them

  1. Porky Pig (1937, assumed from Joe Dougherty)
  2. Daffy Duck (1938)
  3. Bugs Bunny (1940)
  4. Woody Woodpecker (1940)
  5. Tweety Bird (1942)
  6. The Hep Cat (1942)
  7. Private Snafu, numerous World War II related cartoons (1943)
  8. Yosemite Sam (1945) ("Hare Trigger")
  9. Pepe LePew (1945)
  10. Sylvester the cat (1946) aka Thomas (1947) in some films
  11. Foghorn Leghorn (1946)
  12. Henery Hawk (1946)
  13. Charlie Dog (1947)
  14. Wile E. Coyote (1948)
  15. K-9 (1948) (sidekick to Marvin the Martian)
  16. Marvin the Martian (1948)
  17. Road Runner (1948)
  18. The Tasmanian Devil (1954)
  19. Speedy Gonzalez (1955)
  20. Elmer Fudd (1959, assumed from Arthur Q Bryan)
  21. Barney Rubble (1960)
  22. Dino (1960) (Fred Flintstone's pet.)
  23. Cosmo G. Spacely (1962)
  24. Secret Squirrel (1964-1965)
  25. Hardy Harr Harr (1965-1966)
  26. Bubba McCoy from "Where's Huddles?"
  27. Captain Caveman
  28. Chug-a-Boom/the Ant Hill Mob/the Bully Brothers from "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop" and "Wacky Races"
  29. Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)
  30. Heathcliff (1981 / appeared in syndication from 1986-1988)


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