Mel Blanc: The Greatest Voice Actor Ever

After browsing through this thread I am reminded of the pure genius of Mel Blanc. Along with Bugs Bunny he voiced the characters of:

Daffy Duck
Porky Pig
Wile E. Coyote
Pepé Le Pew
Marvin the Martian

and a lot more that you can find on Wikipedia, like I just did.

(Barney Rubble too.)

The man was astounding and so much a part of my childhood that I can’t even imagine Saturday mornings without him.

I don’t really have a point here, other than to state my admiration for Mel.

Perhaps we can link to some of his more memorial performances and share the love?

And yet he got all the credit for the voices while Bea Benaderet and June Foray went uncredited. I mean, he was good, but he wasn’t alone.

Mel Blanc on David Letterman, 1981.

he was a great voice artist.

though he could be somewhat limited.

If you are a cemetery buff and visiting Los Angeles, the Hollywood Forever cemetery is the place to visit, and just inside the entrance is Mel Blanc’s grave. His epitaph says,“That’s all, folks!”

One charming point re. Mel:

The voice of Elmer J Fudd was NOT done by Mel - it was the done by a friend had, and he refused WB’s request that he replace his friend, depriving the friend of the paycheck. Mel was under exclusive contract to WB at this time and, presumably, was not paid by the character…

It was only after the friend’s death that voiced Elmer.

As his voice faded, the first character to go was Yosemite Sam - that blustery half-shout was a strain.

June Foray did work with Mel on one or two of the Witch Hazel shorts, but is best known for doing Rocky and Bullwinkle.

I saw Mel Blanc speak in 1979. I got him to autograph my Tasmanian Devil sweatshirt, which is today probably the closest thing my family has to an heirloom.

When people brought up Elmer Fudd, he immediately stated that he did not create the voice, but only imitated it after the death of Arthur Q. Bryan.

I asked him about the voice of one of my favorite minor characters Pete Puma (who was voiced by an uncredited Stan Freberg). Mr. Blanc didn’t remember the character. He said it must have been another artist or studio.

He told the story of asking his boss early on at Warner Brothers for a raise. The boss responded, “Why do you want a raise? You just pay more taxes”. In lieu of more pay, Blanc eventually settled for onscreen credit for “voice characterizations”. At the time, this was unprecedented for a voice artist. So, it was never his intention to claim credit for others’ work. It was just that the others didn’t have that arrangement.

He was a class act.

June Foray also voiced Granny in several shorts, alongside Mel as Sylvester and Tweety. She continues to do voice work to this day at the age of 97.

I think we’re all forgetting his two most important characters.

Twiki, and Captain Caveman.

The voice was done by actor Arthur Q. Bryan. From what I’ve read, Bryan started doing the character before Blanc was the main voice man for WB, and Blanc never could do the voice right. When Bryan died, someone other than Blanc was hired, though Mel did do it in the 70s.

The funny thing was that I would do a writing exercise to describe a person given only the name (and absolutely nothing else). People would always describe Arthur Q. Bryan as chubby and bald, much like Elmer Fudd – or Arthur Q. Bryan.

She also did Granny in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, and Mark Antony’s owner in Chuck Jones’s brilliant “Feed the Kitty.”

Mel Blanc had a big career outside cartoons, too. he did effects for Jack Benny’s radio show, most notably the sounds of his car, the Maxwell. But he did character voices on the radio show as well. When Benny moved to TV, Mel appeared on-camera, too.
In his later years, he toured and gave lectures. I missed him when he came to my undergraduate school, but caught him a couple of years later. Students used to ask him about cartoons he was in, but it was a pointless exercise – he never remembered plots. You were on better ground asking him to come up with a voice for a character – he loved that sort of improvisation. A good ploy was to ask for a voice for the school mascot.
Credit should be given to other voice actors – June Foray did a lot more than she’s given credit for above. She was probably the most used female voice actor at WB, and did Granny besides Witch Hazel, so she and Mel worked together on an awful lot more than one or two cartoons. In addition, I’ve heard that Mel was guaranteed voice credit on the cartoons, but not all the other voice actors – Mel didn’t do every voice in those cartoons.

Two other voice actors who worked mainly elsewhere doing lots of voices (although I think they worked, at one time or another with Mel), and were the “Mel Blanc” of their studios, were Daws Butler (best known as the voice of Huckleberry Hound at Hanna-Barbera, although he had previously done a LOT of voices at MGM cartoons, including some that sounded suspiciously like Huck. He’s also Yogi Bear and other HB staple characters) and Paul Frees (the voice of Boris Badenov, Ludwig von Drake, Meowrice in Gay Purr-ee, and lots of voices at UPA). Frees also did a lot of narration and film voice work (He narrates in Atlantis, the Lost Continent, for instance. I swear it’s his voice in Spartacus telling the defeat6ed slaves that they could live if they identify Spartcus. He dubbed foreign nfilms like The Sword and the Dragon, Godzilla, and Rodan). He also appeared on-camera in the 50s in Eartyh vs. the lying Saucers and in The Thing.

And there’s always Don Messick, who’s famous for doing cartoon dogs, for vsome reason. He started off as Droopy for MGM, but went on to do Astro on The Jetsons and, most famously, Scooby-Doo

Oh, yeah – one other thing about Paul Frees that I admire – he sang in his cartoons, in character. Mel occasionally had his characters sing a few lines, but Paul did entire songs. He sang at least two songs as Ludwig von Drake for Disney, and a few other characters, I believe. His turn as the Undertaker in Mr. Magoo’s Christma Carol is one of the highlights of that holiday special And he shares top billing (at least in the opening credits) with Judy Garland and Robert Goulet – distinguished company – in the musical full=length cartoon Gay Purr-ee, in which he gets entire songs to himself*.

*It’s also the first cartoon musical I can think of where they made much of the real identity of the singing voice talent of the cartoon characters. I don’t think that even Cliff Edwards – “Ukulele Ike”, with his own radio and later TV show – got big billing for his role as Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s Pinocchio.

Worth a read:

I loved him as Jack’s violin teacher, Monsieur Le Blanc.

I don’t remember the short, but Mel’s singing of “The Merry Go Round Broke Down”* as Daffy in a very early B/W - it may have been Daffy’s first appearance (when he really was “daffy”) was quite impressive.

  • This is the “Merrie Melodies” theme.


Si, Sy.

He even had his own radio show, “The Mel Blanc Show.”

I first learned of this fairly recently, in a “grab bag” collection of old-time-radio shows, which had one episode of his show. It was, as you might expect, heavy on “funny voices.” The writing was pretty sharp, although relatively obvious “situation comedy” stuff.

(e.g., daddy doesn’t approve of Mel dating daddy’s daughter, so Mel pretends to be someone big and important to impress daddy. Hilarity ensues.)

Radiolab has an interesting episode about Mel’s near-fatal accident on Dead Man’s Curve and how “Bugs Bunny emerged from Mel’s coma before Mel did”.

If you like, Paul Frees’s singing in character, try Paul Frees & the Poster People. Doesn’t appear to be available on CD though.