Monday, July 10, 2006

Man of 1000 Voices Dies - July 10, 1989

The actor behind the voices of some of the most beloved cartoon characters, Mel Blanc, died July 10, 1989 in Los Angeles, California. He was born in 1908 in San Francisco, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. He found out early on that he had a love of accents and the talent to imitate them. At first he joined Jack Benny on his radio program, providing voices and sound effects, making a name for himself in the radio "biz".

In the 1936 he was hired by Warner Bros as a minor voice actor. When the actor voicing Porky Pig died, they needed a new actor and tapped Blanc for it. It became his role. During his time at Warner Bros he created his most famous character, Bugs Bunny, along with others like Foghorn Leghorn (Ah say, Ah say, Ah say!), Speedy Gonzalez, Tweety and Sylvester (Blanc's natural voice was this one minus the sputtering), Pepe Le Pew (I love this guy.) and Wylie Coyote and the Road Runner. He was allergic to carrots, so he would always put the lines with Bugs eating a carrot last. He would chomp his carrot, say his line then quickly spit the carrot into a garbage can next to him. During WWII he voiced Pvt. Snafu in soldiers' training films written by Theodor S. Geisel.

While still acting for Warner Bros Blanc joined Hanna-Barbera to voice Barney Rubble and Mr. Spacely (always one of my favorites!). He was prohibited from acting Bugs, though, by Hanna-Barbera, then in a battle for Saturday morning ratings with Warner Bros.

In early 1961 Blanc was in a car accident in Los Angeles and comatose. After two weeks of trying to wake him up by calling his name, a clever doctor called him Bugs Bunny. Blanc responded with "What's up, Doc?" The doctor talked him out of the coma by talking to a couple of other characters. The accident and the suit Blanc brought agains the city of Los Angeles led to repairs and improvements on a particularly dangerous street.

His last original character was Heathcliff. He died of cardiovascular disease in 1989. His will specified that the epitaph carved on his headstone be "That's all, folks." How fitting.

IMDB lists his work at an astonishing 954 programs as actor and at least fifteen others that he was involved in in some way. Amazing.

POV Online: Mel Blanc Tribute - an absolutely beautiful read
Mel Blanc - Toonopedia
Mel Blanc - Wikipedia
Mel Blanc - KnowAllAbout.com

PS - I just read that June Allyson passed away today. I think the phrase "classy lady" sums her up nicely. She will be missed.

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