Mel Blanc, The Man of a Thousand Voices
Mel Blanc is a name everyone should know. He has helped immortalizing more cartoon characters through the magic of his voice than anyone. In honor of his 104th birthday today, this blog will give Mel a well deserved nod for his contribution to the world of cartoons.
He developed a talent for dialects and voices from an early age, and thanks to that skill he, in 1927 started working in radio, as a voice actor obviously. His first gig was providing his voice to a character in a KGW program called, The Hoot Owls. Here was also where his voice changing skill was discovered.
He moved on co-hosting another radio show together with his wife and a few years later he moved to Los Angeles where he started working for a Warner Bros owned radio station.
The following years the reputation of his amazing voice grew and he worked on numerous shows as broken cars, parrots, polar bears and a train announcer. During this time he formed a deep friendship with comedian Jack Benny, on whose show, The Jack Benny Program, Blanc was a regular guest.
In 1937 Mel entered the realm where he would be most famous, the world of animation. He joined Leon Schlesinger Productions which was connected to Warner Bros, only they already had a voice actor, and not until that actor’s death, Blanc got a chance to prove himself. The very first cartoon character Blanc provided a voice for was a drunken Bull names Piacdor Porky.
He then replaced an actor for the voice of Porky Pig and a certain duck Porky was hunting, Duffy Duck, and wrote himself into history. Blanc, now well known for his talents, added several characters to his list such as, Tweety Bird, Pepe Le Pew, Sylvester the Cat, Yosesmith Sam, Elmer Fudd, Speedy Gonzales, Hiawatha and of course, his most famous character, Bugs Bunny. he was also the original voice of Woody Woodpecker.
Blanc had a solid contract for his voice which gave him screen credit sometimes which many other voice actors and actresses never received, he knew he was valuable and took what he deserved. Blanc continued working for Warner Bros successfully, and when his exclusive contract ran out in 1960 he stayed on, but he also took his voice over to Hanna-Barbera and another part of cartoon history was written. Barney Rubble of the Flintstones, and Mr Spacely from The Jetsons.
In 1961, Blanc was involved in a major accident which put him into a three week coma. During his absence his son Noel covered for him but of course no one could replace him fully so a recording center was set up in the hospital so Blanc could do the voices, which he did in a full body cast, together with the rest of the Flintstones cast.
Blanc continued voicing, immortalizing so many of our most beloved characters, doing a series of fully attended lectures all over America and also giving his voice to commercials. In 1988 he reprised many of his classic characters in the fantastic animated/live action feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Only one year after, Mel Blanc passed away from a stroke, 81 years old. Blanc, with his one-of-a-kind talent left a great gap in the Cartoon industry and animator Darrell Van Citters did an unforgettable drawing in Blanc’s honour, showing the characters he gave life to, bowing their heads in respect.
Well, growing up today, 25 years ago or 45 years ago doesn’t matter, we would all be affected by Blanc’s work somehow. I was obsessed with The Jetsons’s, Flintstones and Looney Toones when I was a kid, and it is quite mind boggling realising so many characters were voiced by the same man.
Blanc did more for the Cartoon industry than many with his incredible skills and will always be remembered. Blanc is buried in California and three small words are suitable engraved into his gravestone, ’That’s All Folks’