Wednesday 21 March 2012

June Foray

June Foray didn’t get a lot of work at Hanna-Barbera, despite being the top female voice actress around, and having voiced for Joe Barbera in the waning days of the MGM cartoon studio when he and Bill Hanna were producers. Maybe it was a matter of cost; Daws Butler was getting more than scale, according to cartoon producer and H-B expert Mark Evanier, so the acting budget may have been tapped out. Or maybe they just didn’t need her; Daws and Don Messick generally handled the women’s voices in falsetto until Jean Vander Pyl was hired in 1959.

At H-B, June appeared in ‘Bear on a Picnic’ in the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958). She won, then lost, the role of Betty on The Flintstones (and got a paltry few incidental roles as a kind of consolation). And that was pretty well it until The Smurfs came along some years later.

It’s not like she needed the work. Her talent kept her constantly in demand. And it’s nice to see that she was getting a little bit of publicity back in the day when cartoon voice actors didn’t get a lot of credit.

Here are a couple of newspaper articles, both from 1957. Remember, this was before Rocky and His Friends, the show where she gained her most famous role (and weekly screen credit). First, a feature piece from the San Fernando Living page of the Van Nuys News, dated October 17th. The reference to “Trick or Treet” has me stumped; I thought it was referring to the Warners cartoon “Trick or Tweet,” but that didn’t come out until 1959 (see the comment section for the answer). The photo is a standard publicity shot; I wish had a better copy than a scan of a photocopy of a newspaper.

Valley Girl ‘Unseen Voice’ In Radio, Video Shows
To millions of television and radio fans, June Foray is a voice detached from a body, so to speak.
By way of explanation, it means that Miss Foray is the girl that just about everybody hears but seldom sees.
Most of her work is off-camera, as, to a large extent, her career is concentrated upon recording voices for radio and television commercials, radio programs and cartoons.
Lives in Reseda
Miss Foray, who gets her mail in Reseda, is probably Hollywood’s most outstanding specialist in imitating all sorts of voices and sounds, ranging from a baby to a witch. And this rather unconventional profession earns her an income which could arouse envy of many a big-business tycoon.
In terms of size, Miss Foray is rather a small package of charming humanity. She is about five feet tall and weighs in the neighborhood of 97 pounds, even after her daily luncheon at the Vine St Brown Derby. But she’s packed solidly with talent.
Child Star
After making her professional debut as a child in radio in her home town, Springfield, Mass., Miss Foray eventually penetrated to Hollywood. Her Hollywood debut occurred with “Lady Make Believe” radio program which she produced and starred in.
For five years Capitol records employed her talents as she recorded voices for more than 100 albums, including those slanted at children. With the popular Stan Freberg, she did all the female voices on the best-selling record “St. George and the Dragonette” and other items in the same entertainment area. More recently she has regularly appeared on Freberg’s radio show via CBS.
In the cartoon field, she has impersonated characters in the “Woody Woodpecker,” “Bugs Bunny” and other series. For the fabulous Walt Disney, Miss Foray has recorded voices for “Disneyland,” “Mickey Mouse Club Theatre,” “Trick or Treet,” “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and other projects.
Soap to Jello
It’s almost impossible to tune in your radio or television set without hearing the Foray voice extoll the virtues of such products as Helene Curtis, Schlitz, Mars Bars, Dial Soap, Boron, Snowdrift, Budweiser Beer, Randini, Pet Milk, Jello, Pillsbury, Hormel Frankfurts, Western Airlines.
June and her husband, Hobart Donovan, the writer, are lavish hosts in their Reseda home and are planning a new domicile (they recently bought a lot) in Woodland Hills which will afford them greater entertainment potentialities.
Cat and Dog
Their household includes Henry, a rather independent Thomas cat, and Katrinka, a Dachshund, who is strictly a lady.
Miss Foray occasionally finds time to indulge in her new hobbies, which are painting in oils, photography and gardening.
Incidentally, Husband Hobart excells in the culinary as well as the literary arts, especially in collaboration with barbecue facilities.

The United Press also thought the mystery voice-behind-the-show was a good angle for an April 7th story about Shirley Temple’s TV show. Perhaps the biggest revelation is June played the voice of a can of Bud, which would be as far against type as possible.

June Foray Generally Is Unseen
United Press Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD (UP)—You can call June Foray “mousey” and get away with it. In fact, she’ll probably be flattered.
Miss Foray has “played” numerous roles in her theatrical career. They include animals such as mice, chickens, dogs, owls, cats, rabbits, cows, skunks, crows, pigeons, mules, pigs, monkeys and parrots—to name a few. She’s also played houses, chairs, cars, trains, lamps and, for TV commercials, a candy bar, a piece of soap and even a can of beer.
And at some times she has voiced characters such as Cinderella and Pinocchio.
Miss Foray is many voices to many people. Her voice has been dubbed in for so many animals and inanimate creatures hat she can't recall how many there have been. There have been hundreds of cartoons in which her voice has been heard, more than 1,000 radio plays and TV shows and about 300 record albums.
“I guess it’s my fate, generally speaking, to be heard but not seen,” she said. “However, I have appeared as a human on some TV shows — Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton and Johnny Carson. It’s very satisfying for the ego to be seen, but for sheer joy, dubbing voices is to me the greatest.”
Different Mice
She thinks she’s done about 200 mice dubbings. The latest mouse — her character preference, by the way, in animal vocalizing—will be heard April 18 in the “Shirley Temple Story book” TV series. The film by Screen Gems is “Land of Green Ginger,” and Miss Foray analyzed the character before deciding to play it.
“I can’t do a male mouse the same as I’d play a female,” she said. “And the suave city mouse—the guy who eats Roquefort—he’s nothing like his poor old unsophisticated country cousin. Then, of course, there are field mice, timid mice, bold mice, altruistic mice and selfish mice and old mice and young mice—each one calls for a different voice treatment.
“My latest mouse is a ‘feisty,’ forceful type of mouse. I know it’s hard to project forcefulness in a thin, squeaky voice, but it can be done. One trick is to emphasize key words like ‘Go!’ if you want to do it effectively.”
Miss Foray has never studied the habits of mice even she does like to play them.
“Gosh, I might have to look at some of them, and they terrify me,” she explained.

Isn’t that great? Free tips from one of the greats. And there probably isn’t a voice actress who fans today adore more than June Foray.


  1. Before Foray played Witch Hazel for Chuck Jones, she played Witch Hazel for Jack Hannah -- it's the 1952 Donald Duck cartoon "Trick or Treat" the story is referring to (when the story was written, voicing for Disney was probably the far more impressive credit, though nowadays, everyone who remembers June playing a witch remembers her for the Warners' role, to the point that people forget that Bea Benaderet originated the voice).

    1. "Trick or Treat" was probably her biggest role in a Disney short cartoon. She only says "My roses!" in "Man's Best Friend", and basically just says "Find Al!" and "Al?" in "How To Be A Detective".

  2. Amazing voice artist. I didn't know just how much she did...only remembered seeing her name in the Rocky credits back when it aired originally...not knowing she was voicing Rocket J. Squirrel. I was probably about 14 or so, and had little knowledge about voice actors outside of Mel Blanc. Would love to see some of the telly commercials she did.


  3. First heard June Foray on the Stan Freberg record St. George And The Dragonet in 1953 ("he boined me already").

    Not being on the American continent I didn't get to hear any of her other work.

    It wasn't till years later that I discovered who she was.

    Thanks very much for this interesting post.

  4. Let us not forget one of June Foray’s most unusual (uncredited) credits.

    That of a talking “dragon” on the Lost In Space episode “The Questing Beast”. She does that in sort of a more spirited and energetic “Grammi Gummi” voice. The dubbed or disembodied voices rarely got screen credit on that show – most notably Dick Tufeld (voice of the Robot), much less other “costumed” monsters and aliens.

    It also reunites her with the voice of Snidely Whiplash, Hans Conreid, who plays a bumbling, Don Quixote-like knight. Imagine Snidely with a more Shakespearian bent and a touch of pathos.

    Didn’t she also do interstitials and “Next Week Previews” for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?

    And, oddly, the Disney character of Witch Hazel lives on to the present day in the Donald Duck comic books – and is one of a very few (if any) “human characters” officially accepted in that “world”.

    That may be because the great Carl Barks, in his comic-book adaptation of “Trick or Treat” (1952), expanded it into something we comic fans came to love (with both originally “censored” and later “uncensored” versions) – while the actual Disney cartoon upon which it was based became a faded memory in those pre-home video decades.

  5. And just to throw in the strangest/annoying/most unnerving-to-your-childhood-memories work June did, you've got the 1987 home video "Playboy's Art of Sensual Massage". I believe Jerry Beck said Foray apparently was duped into doing narration for this video, not knowing what images the voice-over was going to be paired with. It's just creepy to watch and I'd really like to hit the producers over the head with a tire iron for pulling this stunt.

  6. bobby...thanks for the link! Love old cartoon TV ads.

  7. Interesting that Bea Benadaret, before Gerry Johnson usurped her for the voicve rtole of Betty Rubble, replaced June Foray for the character role of "Betty", since June replaced Bea [and the obscure Marian Richman who'd passed by '56] at Warner..June besides at WB and Disneydoing the Witch Hazel did that at MGM in a short "Flying Cat" with a surprise O.Henry ending after it proves to be a dream [Martha Wentworth was the prototype and GInnny Tyler a rival for that same witch elsewhere].Steve

  8. At long last I can repay a portion of the debt I owe this wonderful blog. June Foray performed with Steve Allen and Wendell Nobel on the radio show "Smile Time" during the 1940's. I placed a copy of the sound file from it on the Internet Archive.