By Susan Johnson
Born Melvin Jerome Blank on May 30, 1908, he eventually came to be known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices.” He was the voice behind many of the Looney Tune characters, many Merrie Melody characters, as well as, the Hanna Barbera characters, Barney Rubble and Mr. Spacely. His voice was added to many more characters, some well-known and some, not so much.
Twenty years ago, everyone had heard of Mel Blanc. Bugs Bunny and the entire Looney Tunes brand was very popular, as well as being a huge money maker. Everyone knew that Mel Blanc was the voice behind the characters that the world had grown to love.
He practiced and honed his routine in the classroom, goofing off and being the class clown. He had a natural talent for voices and would pick up on the many accents of the immigrants in his neighborhood.
Mel got his start in radio in 1927, gaining attention for voice acting for quite a few characters on the radio program, The Hoot Owls. In 1933, he produced and hosted a new radio program called Cobweb And Nuts and the show aired for the next two years, ending in 1935. He voice acted in a few more shows throughout the 1930’s and in the late 30’s began appearing on the Jack Benny Program, playing a few different roles. He could always make Jack Benny crack up and Benny had a hard time holding in his laughter during some of the live shows.
Because he was so popular on the Jack Benny Program, he was offered his own old time radio show and The Mel Blanc Show began in 1946. He played different characters on the show and other radio actors of the day played regulars on the show, including Alan Reed and Bea Benedict, who he later worked with years later on The Flinstones. His own radio show only lasted until June of 1947, but he often appeared on other radio programs. He often appeared on the show, The Great Gildersleeve and would voice two or more different characters per episode. He lent his talents to other popular radio shows, such as, The Abbott and Costello Show, and the Burns and Allen Show.
Because of all of his contributions to radio, Mel Blanc was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, Mel Blanc went on to bigger stardom and fame, voice acting in America’s most well-loved cartoons. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melody cartoons are some of the most famous cartoons in history. Blanc put a little of himself into every character that he played, however, Mel’s son, Noel, says that Bugs Bunny was most like his father, who also loved playing jokes on others.
In 1937, Mel Blanc started working for Leon Schlesinger Productions. Warner Brother distributed the animated cartoons that they made. Picador Porky was the first cartoon that Blanc did for Leon Schleslinger and he was the voice of a bull that was drunk. He soon replaced Joe Dougherty as the voice of Porky Pig in the cartoon, Porky’s Duck Hunt, in which Blanc also voiced the role of Daffy Duck. He voiced many other of the Looney Tune’s characters, such as, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, and Pepe Le Pew.
When Mel’s contract ran out with Warner Bros. in 1960, Blanc continued working with them, but he also picked up roles in Hanna Barbera cartoons. His most famous role for Hanna Barbera was Barney Rubble, from The Flinstones. Many people might not know that Mel Blanc was also the voice behind the character of Toucan Sam from the Froot Loops commercial fame. Mel Blanc lent his voice to many cartoon characters throughout his long career and some of them weren’t even credited to him.
The last project that Mel Blanc acted in was the hit film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He voiced many of his popular Looney Tunes characters in the film, except for Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam.
Here is a video I put together. This was actually a 45 record that had a comic book included and when Woody Woodpecker laughed, the reader was supposed to turn the page. I thought it might be fun to make a video out of it.
Mel Blanc went to the hospital on July 8th for a heavy cough and the hospital wanted to keep him for observation. The railing on his bed was left down and Mel fell out of the bed, breaking his femur and fat emboli entered his brain, causing a stroke. He died two days later at the age of 81, on July 10, 1989. Mel Blanc will always be remembered as one of the most prolific voice actors of all times.