Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mel Blanc - Part 1

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of a genius!

Melvin (Mel) Jerome Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was a prolific American voice actor and comedian. Although he began his nearly six-decade-long career performing in radio and television commercials, Blanc is best known for his work with Warner Bros. during the Golden Age of American animation (and later for Hanna-Barbera television productions) as the voice of such iconic characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, and hundreds of others. Having earned the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Voices", Blanc is regarded as one of the most gifted and influential persons in his field.
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Blanc began his radio career in 1927 as a voice artist. His ability to create numerous voices was quickly recognized and by 1933 he had his own show on a small station (KEX) called "Cobwebs and Nuts" He moved to Hollywood in 1935 and worked for Warner Brothers, CBS and NBC over the next few years.

He was a regular on "The Jack Benny Show" and was featured in a number of roles including the voice of Jack's auto (Maxwell) which was constantly coughing and sputtering. He also voiced Polly the Parrot and the tormented store clerk. One of the most famous of the Benny characters was "Sy", the Mexican who only spoke one word at a time. No matter how often the routine was done, the "Sí" was always a hit! Blanc was also the voice of the train announcer "Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cuc.....amonga". Eagle eyed members of the studio audience woul often see Benny trying to maintain character while Blanc deadpanned his lines. Benny and Blanc were close friends in real life and Benny often said that no one could make him laugh like Mel could! High praise indeed. You can watch a clip of Benny and Blanc on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson (1974) on YouTube at;

Mel was the voice of the postman on the "Burns and Allen Show" and also made appearances on numerous radio shows during WW2 as Private Sad Sack, a soldier that stuttered worse than Porky Pig!

He was the original voice of "Woody Woodpecker" (Universal) but had to give up the role when he earned an exclusive contract with Warner Brothers.

There were notable similarities and references between the Warner cartoons and the movie and radio broadcasts of the day. The most striking were between Jack Benny and Bugs Bunny. Bugs and Benny were both famous for saying "Now cut that out!" Bugs even appeared in a dream sequence of Benny's radio show in 1954. The train announcer bit was also used by Daffy Duck. The imitations of cars, parrots, horses and other sounds were also Incorporated into the cartoons. The ultimate salute/tribute was "The Mouse That Jack Built", a 1959 cartoon that featured Benny and the rest of the cast drawn as mice.

"The Mel Blanc Show" ran for 42 episodes on CBS Radio from September 3, 1946 to June 24, 1947 and featured Blanc as the hapless proprietor of "Mel's Fix-It Shop". There was a regular cast, but he also did several voices including his assistant, "Zookie". You can listen to most of the episodes at;

Reportedly, Blanc changed his name from "Blank" to "blanc" at age 16 after a teacher told him he would amount to nothing - just like his name!

Thank goodness that teacher was wrong! Even with the comedic genius of the writers and animators at Warner Brothers, their cartoons would never have been as successful without Mel Blanc behind the microphone!


Tomorrow; Mel Blanc - Part 2

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