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Melvin Jerome "Mel" Blanc (né Blank; May 30, 1908July 10, 1989; aged 81) was an American voice actor and radio personality. Referred to as "The Man of a Thousand Voices", he is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice acting industry, and as one of the greatest voice actors of all time.

He was the original voice actor of many characters in the Looney Tunes franchise, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and the Tasmanian Devil.

Career[]

Animation voice work during the golden age of Hollywood[]

In December 1936, Mel Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Productions, which was producing theatrical cartoon shorts for Warner Bros. After sound man Treg Brown was put in charge of cartoon voices, and Carl Stalling became music director, Brown introduced Blanc to animation directors Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Frank Tashlin, who loved his voices. The first cartoon Blanc worked on was Picador Porky (1937) as the voice of a drunken bull. He soon after received his first starring role when he replaced Joe Dougherty as Porky Pig's voice in Porky's Duck Hunt, which marked the debut of Daffy Duck, also voiced by Blanc.

Following this, Blanc became a very prominent vocal artist for Warner Bros., voicing a wide variety of the "Looney Tunes" characters. Bugs Bunny, as whom Blanc made his debut in A Wild Hare (1940), was known for eating carrots frequently (especially while saying his catchphrase "Eh, what's up, doc?"). To follow this sound with the animated voice, Blanc would bite into a carrot and then quickly spit into a spittoon. One often-repeated story is that Blanc was allergic to carrots, which Blanc denied.

In Disney's Pinocchio, Blanc was hired to perform the voice of Gideon the Cat. However, it was eventually decided to have Gideon be a mute character (similar to Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), so all of Blanc's recorded dialogue was deleted except for a solitary hiccup, which was heard three times in the finished film.

Blanc also originated the voice and laugh of Woody Woodpecker for the theatrical cartoons produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Pictures, but stopped voicing Woody after the character's first three shorts when he was signed to an exclusive contract with Warner Bros. Despite this, his laugh was still used in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons until 1951, when Grace Stafford recorded a softer version, while his "Guess who!?" signature line was used in the opening titles until the end of the series and closure of Walter Lantz Productions in 1972.

During World War II, Blanc served as the voice of the hapless Private Snafu in a series of shorts produced by Warner Bros. as a way of training recruited soldiers through the medium of animation.

Throughout his career, Blanc, aware of his talents, protected the rights to his voice characterizations contractually and legally. He, and later his estate, never hesitated to take civil action when those rights were violated. Voice actors at the time rarely received screen credits, but Blanc was an exception; by 1944, his contract with Warner Bros. stipulated a credit reading "Voice characterization(s) by Mel Blanc". According to his autobiography, Blanc asked for and received this screen credit from studio boss Leon Schlesinger after he was denied a salary raise. Initially, Blanc's screen credit was limited only to cartoons in which he voiced Bugs Bunny. This changed in March 1945 when the contract was amended to also include a screen credit for cartoons featuring Porky Pig and/or Daffy Duck. This however, excluded any shorts with the two characters made before that amendment occurred, even if they released after the fact (Book Revue and Baby Bottleneck are both examples of this). By the end of 1946, Blanc began receiving a screen credit in any subsequent Warner Bros. cartoon for which he provided voices.

Voice work for Hanna-Barbera and others[]

In 1960, after the expiration of his exclusive contract with Warner Bros., Blanc continued working for them, but also began providing voices for the TV cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera; his roles during this time included Barney Rubble of The Flintstones and Cosmo Spacely of The Jetsons. His other voice roles for Hanna-Barbera included Dino the Dinosaur, Secret Squirrel, Speed Buggy, and Captain Caveman, as well as voices for Wally Gator and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.

Blanc also worked with former "Looney Tunes" director Chuck Jones, who by this time was directing shorts with his own company Sib Tower 12 (later MGM Animation/Visual Arts), doing vocal effects for the Tom and Jerry series from 1963 to 1967. Blanc was the first voice of Toucan Sam in Froot Loops commercials.

Blanc reprised some of his Warner Bros. characters when the studio contracted him to make new theatrical cartoons in the mid- to late 1960s. For these, Blanc voiced Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales, the characters who received the most frequent use in these shorts (later, newly introduced characters such as Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse were voiced by Larry Storch). Blanc also continued to voice the "Looney Tunes" for the bridging sequences of The Bugs Bunny Show, as well as in numerous animated advertisements and several compilation features, such as The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979). He also voiced Granny on Peter Pan Records in 4 More Adventures of Bugs Bunny (1974) and Holly-Daze (1974), in place of June Foray, and replaced the late Arthur Q. Bryan as Elmer Fudd's voice during the post-golden age era.

Car accident and aftermath[]

On January 24, 1961, Blanc was driving alone when his sports car was involved in a head-on collision on Sunset Boulevard; his legs and his pelvis were fractured as a result. About two weeks later, one of Blanc's neurologists at the UCLA Medical Center tried a different approach than just trying to address the unconscious Blanc himself: address his characters. Blanc was asked, "How are you feeling today, Bugs Bunny?" After a slight pause, Blanc answered, in a weak voice, "Eh … just fine, Doc. How are you?" The doctor then asked Tweety if he was there, too. "I tawt I taw a puddy tat", was the reply. Blanc returned home on March 17. Four days later, Blanc filed a US $500,000 lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. His accident, one of 26 in the preceding two years at the intersection known as Dead Man's Curve, resulted in the city funding the restructuring of curves at the location.

Years later, Blanc revealed that during his recovery, his son Noel "ghosted" several Warner Bros. cartoons' voice tracks for him. Warner Bros. had also asked Stan Freberg to provide the voice for Bugs Bunny, but Freberg declined, out of respect for Blanc.[citation needed] At the time of the accident, Blanc was also serving as the voice of Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. His absence from the show was relatively brief; Daws Butler provided the voice of Barney for a few episodes, after which the show's producers set up recording equipment in Blanc's hospital room and later at his home to allow him to work from there. Some of the recordings were made while he was in full-body cast as he lay flat on his back with the other Flintstones co-stars gathered around him. He returned to The Jack Benny Program to film the program's 1961 Christmas show, moving around by crutches and a wheelchair.

Death[]

Blanc began smoking cigarettes when he was 9 years old. He continued his pack-a-day habit until age 77, after he was diagnosed with emphysema. On May 19, 1989, his family checked him into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles when they noticed he had a bad cough while shooting a commercial. He was originally expected to recover, but when his health worsened, doctors discovered he had advanced coronary artery disease. After nearly two months in the hospital, Blanc died on July 10, 1989 at Cedars-Sinai of complications from both illnesses. He was 81. He is interred in Hollywood Forever Cemetery section 13, Pinewood section, plot #149 in Hollywood. His will specified that his gravestone read "THAT'S ALL FOLKS"—the phrase with which Blanc's character, Porky Pig, concluded Warner Bros. cartoons.

References[]

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