How can anyone not love Jimmy Durante? Listen to his old radio shows. He’s enthusiastic, a little hammy and laughs at himself. He created catchphrases people never got tired of. How many? “I got a million of ‘em!” he might say. Kicking the English language around came naturally; it didn’t need to be scripted. And just about anyone can do an impression of him. No one knew that better than a couple of cartoons studios.
Terrytoons had a Durante sound-alike in Sourpuss. Wally Maher mimicked him as the title character in Tex Avery’s Jerky Turkey (1945) at MGM (thanks to Keith for the likely ID). And when Hanna and Barbera’s Spike the dog got a voice change in the 1950s, he started speaking in a Durante style provided by Daws Butler.
A few years later when Joe and Bill opened their own studio, they borrowed ideas from themselves, modifying the Durante-sounding dad with a young pup into the Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy segment of the Quick Draw McGraw Show in 1959. And picked to play Dear Old Dad was radio actor-announcer Doug Young.
And with that elongated introduction, we wish Doug a belated happy birthday.
On-line sources say he was born February 10, 1931 and therefore turned 79 on Wednesday, but you have to pardon my scepticism. Doug was the fill-in announcer and provided character voices on a low-budget comedy show called The Anderson Family. Radio listings show KECA in Los Angeles was airing it in October 1946. That would make Doug 15 years old. On top of that, the U.S. Army Enlistment records show an actor named Douglas H. Young joining the U.S Army in 1941 and who was born in 1919. That sounds a little closer to me. If February 10th is correct, Doug would be 91.
You can listen for yourself and see if you think a 15-year-old is the announcer. Click here for show No. 8 in the series. Doug also plays an out-for-himself lawyer at the 20:10 mark. (Yowp warning: any humour on this show is purely accidental, despite the presence of Walter Tetley. Just listen to Doug and skip the rest).
One thing you’ll notice about Doug is he doesn’t have the big “radio voice” that was almost mandatory for announcers in the ‘40s. He’s pretty natural with a relaxed sound. And that’s the same sort of characteristic he brought to Hanna-Barbera when he was handed the Doggie Daddy role. Daddy has a lot of Durante’s cadence, inflections and catch-phrases, but Doug gives him a warm, friendly sound (the real Durante was a little hammier on the radio) that leaves you with the impression Daddy really does care about Augie, no matter how exacerbating his son is at times.
Old time radio histories can be sketchy, but it appears Doug spent his radio career (Andersons aside) doing incidental work. He’s not listed at all in John Dunning’s Encyclopedia or Buxton and Owen’s The Big Broadcast. Cartoon writer-producer Mark Evanier reveals Young met Daws Butler while voicing radio commercials, and when the time came to cast Doggie Daddy, Daws recommended Doug. Daws had been asked by Joe Barbera to reprise his Spike voice, but he was worried about the effect on his throat, especially after doubling or tripling in the same cartoon. So, when the 1959 TV season started, the three main cartoon voices at Hanna-Barbera were Daws Butler, Don Messick and Doug Young.
Doug’s next main role was Ding-a-ling, the dedicated sidekick of Hokey Wolf in the revampedHuckleberry Hound Show starting in March 1961. He played the first-named Goofy Guard in the ‘Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey’ portion of The Peter Potamus Show (1964). But mainly, he served as a utility player on a number of series, including providing his own voice in the first episode of Jonny Quest (1964). He dusted off a Jimmy Cagney impression for Bigelow Mouse in several Augie Doggie and Snagglepuss cartoons and even transplanted his Durante voice into the Loopy De Loop cartoon Horse Shoo (1965) and as Police Chief Rockschnozzle (joking, as Durante does, about his large nose) in the Dripper’ episode of The Flintstones.
I wish I could give you some biographical information about Doug, but there isn’t really much out there. The one newspaper reference I could find quoting him is already on this blog—Doug was fired from a radio job for doing an impression of the humourless station manager. He’s not a star, at least you don’t think of him when you think of the top cartoon voices of all time, so he wasn’t asked to do many interviews. He did appear on Stu Shostak’s very interesting internet radio station a couple of years ago and talked about his career. (Yowp update: read about the interview here.
What is clear is that Doug’s career at Hanna-Barbera was prolific but relatively short. It appears his last series was the syndicated Laurel and Hardy. Doug did incidental voices and got to work with Paul Frees. Doug went through the same experience with Paul at recording sessions that June Foray talks about in Keith Scott’s book “The Moose That Roared.” In another book, Tim Lawson’s “The Magic Behind The Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors”, Doug describes Frees as:
what we in the business call ‘The Mickey Rooney Syndrome.’ In other words, the guy was always on, but very funny. Finally, the director would have to say, “Paul, come on, shape up. We've got work to do.” He had to get really mean, because Paul just didn't want to stop.
By the time H-B’s Wacky Races hit the air in 1968, Doug was gone. He moved to Seattle where he did freelance work and appeared in radio dramas produced by well-known Pacific Northwest broadcaster Jim French (who was ubiquitous on one automated radio station a number of years ago). We understand, Doug is still enjoying life in the Puget Sound area.
So, as Augie might say every Febru-rarary 10th: “Many happy returns on this, your natal day.” A million of ‘em.