Thursday, 27 July 2017

June Foray in Rhyming Verse

Up until 1959, female characters in Hanna-Barbera cartoons were handled by Don Messick or Daws Butler. The two of them could voice anything, meaning the studio didn’t have to use up its budget hiring other actors. But there were rare exceptions. One was Bear on a Picnic (airing the week of February 1, 1959). The mother picnicker is played by a real, honest-to-goodness woman who everyone reading this blog should know—June Foray.

We’ve talked about the early days of June’s career at Hanna-Barbera on the blog several times. Click on the highlighted link to read them. To sum up—she voiced a demo reel for The Flintstones (maybe it was still The Flagstones then) as Betty, but the part in the series went to Bea Benaderet. She did a couple of incidental voices on the series over the years and a part in the feature film The Man Called Flintstone. Maybe her biggest role at H-B was some years later as Jokey Smurf.

I’m sure you know by now June has passed away not too many weeks before what was to be her 100th birthday. As a remembrance, here’s a cute little poem published in the Toronto Star on December 23, 2013. Joseph Hall is the author.

Whose voice gave the Grinch a heart? Well, she's more than 2
(With apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Cindy Lou Who is a lot more than 2.
The voice of the tot from the classic Grinch story
Well she's now 96 and her name is June Foray.

And though decades have passed since her Who-ville connection,
She recalls Cindy Lou with undying affection.
"Oh she's everyone's favourite," Foray says via phone
As she talks from her Woodland, Los Angeles, home.

Her shortest of roles, it was easy to make:
"It was only one line. It was done in one take."
But her plaintive, sweet voicing of the blue-eyed Who girl
Has earned her acclaim from all over the world.

She's got letters from Poland. She's got letters from China.
From India, Holland and North Carolina.
She's got letters from places where people talk Finnish.
"People whom you'd think would never speak English."

In Foray's career she's done dozens of voices,
In cartooning terms they were some of the choicest.
She did Granny for Warner's old Tweety Bird shows.
She was Jokey the Smurf, and Lord only knows.

She was Witch Hazel, Aunt May, and that isn't all.
She voiced Chatty Cathy, the string-pulling doll.
She's done voices she now wracks her puzzler to name.
She was Rocky! Of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame!
Indeed, she's done Rocky again so we hear,
For a DreamWorks production that's coming next year.
But ask for her Cindy and she'll spot-on reply:
"Santy Claus why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?"

That's it, her whole Grinch role, that question above
Delivered in tones like the coo of a dove.
It's a line on which untold millions would feast,
Like they would on Who pudding, or slabs of roast beast.

And they've done so now, 47 years running,
For the Christmastime staple that just keeps on humming.
Its popularity simply can't be overstated.
Number One of the Yule shows that TV Guide's rated.

Her line's at a point — in the show's 20-odd minutes —
Where the Grinch's cold cunning is reaching its limits.
He stole all the Who presents and food he could see,
And when Cindy Lou enters, he's stealing the tree.

Boris Karloff, the voice of the Grinch — and narrator —
Says he's fixing the tree . . . and will bring it back later.
Foray knew Karloff, of monster renown,
But when she did the Grinch, he was nowhere around.

"I knew him from radio shows," Foray mentions.
And it's that radio work that drew cartoon attention.
On air at age 12, she soon caught the ear
Of someone named Disney, who said come over here.

Her Disney work wowed a guy named Chuck Jones,
Who directed the best Looney Tunes that you've known.
Jones's work with Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig
Made him first choice for directing the Dr. Seuss gig.

And when Jones went to seeking a little Who girl,
He contacted Foray to give it a whirl.
Her voices, she says, were instinctive concoctions.
She'd think "what the character is" — and just got 'em.

"Is she young, is she old, is she fat, is she thin?"
The voice would come out and then she would begin.
Those instinctive efforts, which so many hold dear,
Won Foray an honorary Emmy this year.

While she loved all the voices she voiced and created
Her career was mistaken, so Foray has stated.
Her beauty was wasted away from the lens.
She should have done movies, the actress contends.

"I was very attractive," the lady avows.
"Still am, in my old age," June Foray allows.
But you know when the phone's down, at interview's end:
June Foray's delightful — delightful, times 10.


  1. June Foray did an extensive amount of voice work for Hanna-Barbera Records in the mid 60's. She played Boo-Boo and Little Red Riding Hood on the Yogi Bear album, and Creepella Gruesome as well as Gobby, Granny Witch, and Blabber Mouse on the "Monster Shindig" album. She also played all of the female parts plus one of the meeces in the "Mr. Jinks Tells the Story of Cinderella" album.

    Of course she is best known for "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and justly so. Her Natasha Fatale voice later morphed into the voice of Tanya the lady spy in "The Man Called Flintstone". She used a similar voice for Magica De Spell in "Duck Tales."

    She appeared on camera in "Green Acres" and it's amazing how small she was! She was a very tiny person, something one wouldn't know from the filmed interviews, where only her face and shoulders were shown.

    She played roles on my personal three favorite adult sitcoms--"I Love Lucy," "The Flintstones," and "Bewitched" as well as making many guest voice "appearances" over the years. She was definitely the go-to gal for cartoon female voices. Along with Janet Waldo, Jean Van der Pyl, Bea Benaderet, Julie Bennett, Joan Gardner, Joan Gerber, Verna Felton, Eleanor Audley, Penny Singleton, Ginny Tyler, and anyone else I may have left off this list, she was one of the most memorable female voice artists of all time. I would say that out of all of these gifted ladies mentioned above, June Foray is the stand out, and probably did more cartoons and other incidental voices over the years than any of them.

    Her caliber of talent was rare and unique. She will be missed.

    1. Thanks for mentioning that. I tend to gloss over the HB records and concentrate on the cartoons.

      Bea was versatile (more so on radio than cartoons) and a very fine actress; she even sang on radio in the late '20s. Sara Berner was great at dialects but her animation career lasted maybe six years. But June was in demand to do all kinds of work. On top of that, she was involved with ASIFA, SAG (she struck against HB in 1987) and the Motion Picture Academy. What a career.

    2. If she had lived longer Benaderet could have bested Foray as the most in demand voice actress. Felton, Audley, Elvia Allman and Betty Lou Gearson were undoubtedly very talented actresses, but they were way more active in film voice acting than television. Foray, Waldo, Vander Pyl and Gerber were all over the place in every field of voice over from the early 1960s until the late-1980, when more actresses began showing up. It is interesting to note that many of those who came to H-B in the 1970s were fine actresses, but not nearly as versatile as Benaderet and the aforementioned five. Actresses like Pat Parris (a student of Daws Butler), Julie Mcwhirter and Kathy Gori did in a decade what the earlier generation did in a day.

    3. YOWP Taking into consideration the 1940s voice overs that imbd erroneously credits Foray and Benaderet, Sara Berner has done cartoon voices for about 16 years. she had been doing cartoons since the late 1930s.

    4. Berner had petty much given up on cartoon shorts during the war and was concentrating on radio.
      Bea was on camera on a regular series pretty much the last 17 years of her life; no wonder she gave up voice work except for The Flintstones.
      Gerson was doing a little work on camera ('The Fly' being one) but recorded an awful lot of commercial voiceovers
      in the '50s and '60s. Cartoons are only a tiny fraction of the work that was available. The big money wasn't in cartoons, it was in national commercials. And they paid residuals (and still do).

    5. Benaderet did guest star on ''Mister Magoo'' and ''Top Cat'' (one of my favorite roles - Mother Ball) She also acted in a couple of great movies likes 1962's ''Tender is the Night''.
      Since this is a June Foray topic, let me just say, it was a shame that there isn't one interview where she gave credit or even mentioned Bea Benaderet. If there was some kind of feud then it was darn shame.

    6. Re: longtime female voice artists, don't forget (or overlook) Mae Questel, whose nearly 60 years as a cartoon voice (1931 through 1988's WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT) for Betty Boop, Olive Oyl and Little Audrey, among many others, at Fleischer, Famous-Paramount and King Features probably puts her second only to June.

  2. Isaaw the June Foray piece yesterday but wasn't sure se was still alive..RIP..joined Janet Waldo and the others..Larry Storch, though he seldom worked for HB and a few others from the -pre-1966 era are stilll with us..RIP agian.

    1. Is Doug Young still with us?

    2. Georgi, yes he is. Doug Young is very much alive and he is only 87 years old and he lives in Seattle, Washington to this day and he is now retired and he is doing very well.

    3. Correction: Doug Young is only 97 years old and I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you very much.

  3. June Foray:
    May her memory be eternal!

  4. RIP June Foray. She was truly a phenomenal voice actress. With all due respect towards her, it was kismet that she lost the role of Betty Rubble to Bea Benaderet. For two reasons, first - Bea did a phenomenal job as Betty. I'm not saying that June wouldn't have been terrific in the part, but it just seems a shame to imagine anyone else except Benaderet in that role.
    Second - June had taken over the roles of Granny and Witch Hazel from Bea Benaderet under undisclosed circumstances. Both were great great actresses. However, I suspect in years to come their relationship will be analyzed in such a way that the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford feud will pale in comparison.
    I think Vladimir Nabokov's theory on literature could likewise be used for animation: It must be taken and broken to bits, pulled apart, squashed—then it’s lovely reek will be smelt in the hollow of the palm, it will be munched and rolled upon the tongue with relish; then, and only then, its rare flavor will be appreciated at its true worth and the broken and crushed parts will again come together in your mind and disclose the beauty of a unity to which you have contributed something of your own blood

  5. This voice actress was nothing short of amazing. You can probably count on one hand how many are left. With her passing brings back a thousand memories of running down stairs, waiting for the television tube to warm up,( and before solid state tubes, that's exactly what we had to do-Ha!!) and enjoying those long gone days of Saturday morning cartoons. I remember her on screen appearance as the Spanish telephone operator in " Green Acres ".RIP June You will be missed.