Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I Hear Voices

You hear their voices on cartoons but, of course, you never see them. They’re the great voice actors that Hanna-Barbera hired. Most of them had training in the days of radio drama and comedy before television bludgeoned it to death. Some did live action television, so their faces may be familiar.

We’ve posted pictures of some of them here before—Daws Butler, Don Messick, Doug Young, the casts of The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Top Cat. And you’ve seen others elsewhere on the internet. But I’ve got a file folder with photos and clippings that I don’t think have been posted, so I’m doing it now.

This is not intended as a complete, definitive photo gallery, so don’t ask “Why isn’t there a picture of Lennie Weinrib?” and then list every cartoon role he ever played. I’m just putting up a miscellany of graphic files I’ve accumulated. Some are trade ads, others are publicity head shots.

Daws Butler improved every cartoon he appeared in, and some needed a lot of help. This shot must be from the early ‘50s when he was working with Stan Freberg, and comes from a biography about him broadcast years ago on PBS. Daws had so many great voices, it’s impossible to pick a favourite. I do have a favourite one-shot voice, though. It’s when Daws did his Fred Allen impression in the Huckleberry Hound cartoon “Skeeter Trouble.” My dad came into the living room when the cartoon was on and remarked that it was Fred Allen. “No, dad, it’s Daws Butler,” I replied. It’s the only time I ever corrected my father; kids didn’t do that back then. But this was important. We were talking cartoons, after all. (You can also hear Daws as Fred Allen in the August 1956 CBS Radio Workshop production “An Analysis of Satire”).

Mel Blanc was the King of Theatrical Cartoon Actors. There was no one better. He was a tremendous actor, yet he failed when handed a starring role in a radio sitcom in 1946, though the one-dimensional characters and trite concept were the reasons. He didn’t work for Hanna-Barbera until The Flintstones came along. He was Secret Squirrel and, well, a bunch of other characters that didn’t do a lot for me. This trade newspaper ad is from 1950, which gives you an idea what roles Mel thought were his most important at the time.

I love Howie Morris. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen is Howie as Uncle Goopy on the This is Your Life send up on Sid Caesar’s show. His first H-B role, to the best of my knowledge, was Jet Screamer on The Jetsons, though he was pretty funny as Harlan, Cogswell’s lackey. He starred as Atom Ant, tried to enliven Magilla Gorilla cartoons as Mr. Peebles and got a Kellogg’s cereal gig as the voice of Hillbilly Goat, pushing Sugar Stars. He also told off Joe Barbera in language not fit for television, thus resulting in a change of cartoon addresses to the Filmation studio.

Know who this is? He’s in character as Solomon Levy on The Goldbergs radio show. It’s Alan Reed. This trade ad shot is from 1943. He carved out a good radio career before being hired as Fred Flintstone. His best role was probably that of hammy poet Falstaff Openshaw on Fred Allen’s show; the Falstaff voice got recycled as “Frederick” in the first season of The Flintstones. Reed did dialects on radio as well; Pasquale on Life With Luigi may be his best-known one.

This is the guy that Reed replaced as Fred Flintstone because he couldn’t keep enough gravel in his voice during recording sessions. It’s a picture of a young Bill Thompson, who theatrical cartoon fans will know as Droopy (MGM) and J. Audubon Woodlore (Disney). Old radio fans remember his long stint on “Fibber McGee and Molly” starting in the late ‘30s, interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Navy during the war. He was billed as “Jackie Coogan’s Double” at age five and went into vaudeville at 12. The Fibber gig dried up about the time MGM closed its cartoon studio, so Thompson got a job in 1957 as a community relations executive for Union Oil. That’s what he was doing when he arrived at Hanna-Barbera. He starred as Touché Turtle but didn’t do a lot of work for the studio. He died in July 15, 1971 at age 58.

Paul Winchell entertained audiences on radio, TV and cartoons. His sneering Dick Dastardly on Wacky Races was great, though I suspect his first H-B “appearances” were on The Banana Splits Show (both of which debuted in 1968). Winchell, of course, was Gargamel in the studio’s take on The Smurfs and popped up on other series, and made a fine Tigger for Disney. He was born Paul Wilchinsky and he, his father Sol (a tailor by trade), mother Clara and sister Rita were in Los Angeles by 1940 where Paul was acting in what was left of vaudeville. As you likely know, he was an energetic ventriloquist. You should check out a What’s My Line show where Winchell is on the panel and the mystery guests are Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. You can read Mark Evanier’s remembrance of Paul Winchell HERE.

Since we’re on the topic of ventriloquists, Yakky Doodle’s voice is still with us. Jimmy Weldon’s fame from his television appearances in California in the 1950s with his puppet Webster Webfoot. This photo is from 1959. Weldon had replaced Shari Lewis on “Hi Mom,” shot in New York, and would very soon be back on the West Coast. Red Coffey had been doing the voice of a little duck in the earliest Hanna-Barbera cartoons but when the duck was given his own series in 1961, Weldon won the role. He’s spent time in retirement, if you want to call it that, as a motivational speaker.

Hanna-Barbera’s utility man was John Stephenson, who came on board after The Flintstones went to air in 1960. Besides Mr. Slate, he grumbled a lot about “if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their dog,” started out playing Dr. Benton Quest until Joe Barbera or someone decided to replace him with Don Messick, tried out his Cary Grant voice on Top Cat, had supporting roles on Breezly and Sneezly and Squiddly Diddly (yeah, I know, not exactly two of H-B’s greatest), used Paul Lynde-inspired voices in a couple of series and even voiced later incarnations of Doggie Daddy when Doug Young left California in 1966. He seems to have been in every one of those mid-1970s Tom and Jerry TV cartoons, the stiff-looking, talky ones where the cat and mouse are friends. I always enjoyed watching him on Hogan’s Heroes because I recognised his voice from cartoons. He was still doing commercials up to a few years ago as part of Dick Orkin’s stock company and is apparently doing well in his late 80s. The bio is from a mid-‘50s Radio-Television Mirror magazine when Stephenson was on the sitcom The People’s Choice.

I’m not a fan of the Cindy Bear character, but here are some publicity photos of the young woman who played her, Julie Bennett. The first one is from 1950, the second from 1951. I suspect Cindy’s voice was inspired by magnolia-scented Leila Ransom on radio’s The Great Gildersleeve, voiced by Shirley Mitchell (imitating Una Merkel), who had the misfortune of appearing in Hanna-Barbera’s Roman Holidays. Bennett’s first role for the studio was on “Masking For Trouble” (1959), a Quick Draw McGraw cartoon. Her whereabouts today, unfortunately, are unknown.

Okay, I’m cheating now. Gil Mack never appeared in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. But he voiced a number of H-B characters on Golden Records recorded in New York City. Gil racked up credits on some great shows, as you can see by this 1940 trade newspaper ad, but imitating Daws Butler and Don Messick’s characters wasn’t exactly his forte.

And I’m cheating again. Jack Shaindlin and John Seely never voiced characters but their music was prominent behind the voices on the soundtracks of H-B cartoons from 1957 until Hoyt Curtin started writing underscores in 1960. Biographies of both Shaindlin and Seely have been posted elsewhere on the blog. These are trade ads; Seely’s is from 1961 and Shaindlin’s from probably a decade earlier. This is as good a post as any to put them on the blog.

This is a funny photo I grabbed off Facebook. You know who it is. But someone didn’t. The caption reads:

Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland.

One of the joys of being an archivist is finding mistakes and correcting them. We found this photo in the Imogene Coca file, but it's not her. Students of 1950s television or fans of voice actors, might recognize the face as that of Arnold Stang. But when and where did he dress up in drag?

One Google search later and we learned that the picture is from an episode of the "Red Skelton Show," broadcast on April 2, 1957. One of Skelton's recurring sketch characters, "Cookie," is in the Navy and there's a chance for shore leave in Japan as the prize in a drama contest. So Red became a six-foot-three Romeo to shipmate Stang's five-foot-three Juliet.

Arnold Stang had to be a great comedian to be able to hold his own on TV with hammy scene-stealers like Skelton and Milton Berle. Here’s Stang with his alter ego in a more familiar photo you’ve seen here before.

Of course, there were many more actors who settled in front of the microphones at the Hanna-Barbera studios. All of them were talented. All of them made fans laugh, even though they couldn’t see us and, in a case of tit for tat, we couldn’t see them.


  1. It's interesting how Hanna-Barbera would periodically expand their voice talent pool. The 'first wave' was hiring newly-arrived New York voice and acting talent. Along with Morris and Stang, you also had Allan Melvin and Maurice Gosfield (who had done some work for Famous Studios in the mid-1950s, just as Melvin and Morris would before going to work for H-B in the 60s), while in the late 60s you saw voice talent like Paul Winchell and others like Joe Besser who already made names for themselves years before Bill & Joe ever started their own studio, but who up until that point hadn't been used in animation.

    Morris' fight with Jor Barbera was an after-the-fact revelation, since it explained an unanswered question of my youth -- "What the hell happened to Mr. Peebles' voice in those last Magilla Gorilla shorts?"

  2. I'm confused about your credit of Bill Thompson as being replaced by Allen Reed as Fred Flintstone. Daws Butler did it, and Reed was an inspired replacement as all will agree. While certainly not as versatile as Butler, Reed's portrayal MADE the character. In fact, as you probably know, it was Reed who came up with the famous catchphrase, "Yabba-Dabba-Do!" What an invention! It made the show without question. John Stephenson was also in the first season of FLINTSTONES and also in the TOP CAT cast as FANCY as well as incidental characters. Previously, Stephenson was the first season announcer on I LOVE LUCY as well. Lastly, the Jack Shaindlin cues were used in the 1959-60 Quick Draw McGraw cartoons, including the accompanying segements, which as you probably know has been the hold up on them being released on DVD. I loved Julie Bennet, by the way. But how could you overlook Bea Benadaret?

  3. Actually, Paul Winchell was heard as a villian in an IMPOSSIBLES episode, all of which aired in 1966. It was done with his well-known Dick Dastardly/Gargamel voice.

    Stephenson was the quintessential 'authority figure' voice, portraying dozens- if not hundreds- of cops, bosses and soldiers throughout his animation career. I don\'t know when they were recorded, but there are AccountTemps radio ads in which he plays (what else?) a long-suffering, exasperated boss.

    Hal Smith was another durable character actor who doubled as a durable voice actor. While he usually played incidental roles in cartoons, and most of his regular characters- Yahooey, the King, Coil Man- were not especially memorable, his voice is immediately recognizable in his guest shots on THE BRADY BUNCH and THE ODD COUPLE.

  4. Ray, Hal Smith remarked in the book "The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors" that he and Thompson had been hired as Fred and Barney but Thompson had problems doing the kind of voice that Joe Barbera wanted, so the roles were recast. That's when Reed and Blanc came in. Mark Evanier goes into it a bit on his blog HERE.
    I overlooked Bea for the reason I mention at the outset of the post. I simply posted contents of a folder I had of photos and trade ads of some of the actors who worked for the studio. What was in the folder is what you see, with the exception of a trade ad for Paul Frees which will be posted elsewhere. So there's nothing on Messick or Bea or Hal Smith or any number of others.

  5. Howard Morris directed a funny film called WHO'S MINDING THE MINT? starring Jim Hutton.

  6. Cindy's voice was good,BTW,even if the cbharacter wasn'
    t,.. and it was used in the Shirley Mitchell"Leila Ransom"-Una Merkel way many times, elsewhere..on "Masking for Trouble" with Quick Draw for Sagebrush Sal and the lesser-said the better Kitty Jo on "The Archies"--WHOOPS...;) "Cattanooga Cats":LOL,

    BTW I've been wanting to ask, when are you gonna do a post on what was wrong with Cindy Bear (maybe because she became a love interest of Yogi and it softened him, no doubt), like in the Julie Bennett link when you wanted to do sometime a article here why inventing the character was such a stupid idea (I'[m not exactly a big fan of the character myself but the voice was very good...)SC

  7. This is wondeful, simply great and terrific, and you know, we appreciate it. Kinda hoping you would send a photo of Doug Young, i have no idea what he looks like. John Stephenson's greatest vocal role was as Mr.Peevly in Help, It's The Hair BEar Bunch, how could you not mention that? And here is a little trivia:John Stephenson's first voice role on Hanna-Barbera was in The Flintstones' episode "The Golf Champion" (which had only a small part of golf in it!), where he voiced the commentator, a lodge member, left-foot charlie and a guest at Fred.

  8. fantastic post -- one of your very best.

  9. Anon, I should have re-posted the Doug Young photo. If you go HERE, that should bring up the picture. Young on the left, Messick in the middle, Daws on the right.
    I'm afraid I never watched the Hair Bear Bunch. After my time.
    Thanks for the note, Tom. This isn't an encyclopaedic gallery; it's odds and ends of photos with snippets of information. If anyone wants something more in depth on the Flintstones' main cast, I did separate posts on each for the 50th anniversary.

  10. I never knew about what happened between Morris and Barbera. That explains why Morris was replaced by Messick in the last Magilla Gorilla cartoons and as Atom Ant in Yogi's Ark Lark and Yogi's Gang. John Stephenson also voiced an unseen announcer on Dragnet in the late '60s at the end of each episode. That was him doing the "On [such and such a date, 1967] a trial was held in Los Angeles...In a moment, the results of that trial...The suspects were found guilty of...punishable by...(etc.)" Daws also voiced Cap'n Crunch, too!

  11. Incredible Yowp!! Thank you so much for the pics with the faces. The Howard Morris bit on " Your Show Of Shows " is also one of my all time favorites. Back in the 80s, " Showtime " ran " 10, From Your Show of Shows " Thankfully, that bit was included. Laughed til I cried!. Also the Shaindlin and John Seely cards are a good touch. Here are the voices, and here is the music. Great blog!