Monday, 20 August 2018

Fred Flintstone, Age 111

Alan Reed landed a TV role in fall 1960. It went nowhere. He was picked to play an agent in the sitcom Peter Loves Mary which, by the way, included a maid played by Bea Benaderet. Fortunately for Reed, he got another role on a different show that season. You know what it is.

As hard as it is to believe, Reed was not the first or second choice to provide the voice for Fred Flintstone. Reed was perfect for the role. He gave it humour and gave it warmth. Reed’s Fred was a three dimensional character, quite a feat for a cartoon character.

For the fans who don’t know, Daws Butler used his grumpy Jackie Gleason-style voice in a short reel put together when the series was still known as The Flagstones in development in early 1960, but Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera felt he was being overused by the studio. Bill Thompson came out of cartoon retirement (he was working for Union Oil at the time), recorded five soundtracks as Fred, but had troubles with the low end of his voice, so he was let go (returning to the studio later as Touché Turtle). Reed was next and the part was his until his death at age 69.

Like pretty much all cartoon voice actors (including the main cast of The Flintstones), Reed came from radio. He was a star back in 1930 on a CBS show called Henry and George. Above you see him from Big Sister when he was using his original name. He adopted Alan Reed (the first two names of his youngest son) to get more dramatic roles and in 1939 decided just to stick with the one name.

Reed would be 111 if he were with us in person today. Here is a newspaper interview with him from when The Flintstones was still in production. This is from the Chicago Tribune syndicate, February 12, 1961. As a side note, the “Finnegan” role spoken of was originated by Charlie Cantor, who used it on Fred Allen’s radio show. If you’ve heard Sid Raymond as Baby Huey, that’s the voice. The “Falstaff” voice was the voice Reed used in the Flintstones episode where he becomes the snooty “Frederick.” And “Daddy” on the Snooks show sounded very Flintstone-ish.

The Real Fred Flintstone
By Larry Walters

IN A FEW short months the Flintstones have become the “first family” of television. After all they’re cavemen right out of the stone age. And the head of the house is Fred Flintstone, a sort of early Fibber McGee with some overtones of a latter day Jackie Gleason.
He’s sort of a lovable jerk as he goes about his problems via animated cartoons [at 7:30 p.m. Friday on channel 7] and for several weeks we couldn’t figure out who was doing his gooney voice.
Finally, we pegged it. The possessor of this voice is none other than Alan Reed, who used to play the classic lovable jerk Finnegan in the old Duffy’s Tavern series, and Clancy the Cop, another jerk from the same show.
But perhaps his best remembered role of the radio heyday was that of Falstaff Openshaw, the poet of Fred Allen’s Alley. He did that more than 10 years. He also was the voice of David Rubinoff, Eddie Cantor’s violinist. There were many laughs in Rubinoff’s mangling of the Queen’s English [it was the King’s English then] but Dave got the credit instead of Reed. Alan also played the original Daddy to Fanny Brice’s Baby Snooks.
After the Allen years Reed went to Hollywood where he worked in the TV versions of Duffy’s Tavern and Life with Luigi. Meanwhile, he had joined Fox studios under a long term contract. He made around 50 feature pictures, among them “Viva Zapata,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” and “Desperate Hours.”
A few years ago he decided to get into some business that would protect him in his old age. He heads Alan Reed Enterprises, a firm that distributes specialty and executive gifts. Going great, too, says Reed.
Reed recalls his days with Fred Allen as his best. This wry wit was a constant joy to be with and to work with, he recalls. Allen, who was one of the easiest touches on Broadway, gave away a lot of money. When NBC moved him from an east side studio to one on the west [Allen lived on Manhattan’s west side] Reed once asked how he liked the new place.
“It’s all right,” said Allen, “and it’s three less ‘touches’ walking here than it was to the other place.”
But Reed is having a fine time today. He’s got his money making business going well, and he enjoys “living” with his TV wife in Bedrock and riding around in his own convertible which has Stone wheels. He has a fine piano, naturally a Stoneway. He’s a joiner; one of his favorite associations is the Y.C.M.A., the Young Cave Men’s association. Occasionally he goes out on the town. His favorite night spot: the Rockadero Hilton.
But the nicest thing about his new TV career, is the hours.
“It used to take us three or four days to make a show,” he recalled. “But now we do a Flintstone show in three hours. And we do them in the evening, so it doesn’t even interfere with my business career.”
What a life!


  1. Thanks for the story on Alan Reed. Whenever I see him on a sitcom or movie, I quickly call people into the room and ask " Who's voice is that ? ". They get this ear to ear grin and say kind of I'm giving them an important test or something....."..Er...Fred Flintstone ? " Liked him in " Life with Luigi ". He DID bring much more to Fred Flintstone than just reading the lines.

  2. I used to get a kick out of seeing Reed in movies I hadn't known he was in, such as "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

  3. Re-watched "No Help Wanted" just the other day, and the back-and-forth between Reed and Blanc during the scene in Fred's living room, is, to me, one of the highlights of the entire series. Note-perfect line readings by Reed, who also manages to convey several different moods and emotions during those few minutes. It's damned funny, too.

  4. Interesting that he took his professional name from his son... Alan Reed Jr. also became an actor, mainly doing small roles in TV shows.


    The autobiography of the voice of Fred Flintstone is brought to life by veteran radio-theater producer Joe Bevilacqua and Alan Reed Jr., featuring rare interviews with Alan Reed himself, an interview with Joe Barbera, and clips from Reed's radio, TV, and film career, including The Fred Allen Show, The Shadow, The Life of Riley, Life with Luigi, Duffy's Tavern, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Viva Zapata, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Flintstones.

  6. Wouldn't it be interesting if a PRESENT day version of the Flintstones (or for that matter, of the Jetsons) was available on TV or some other entertainment media.

    1. Couldn't happen...the cast is unmatched and the radio era's Michael Maltese, Joanna Lee, Warren Foster, or the other.s.though Tony Benedict at least is alive and the (Curtin) stock music wouldprobaly be replaced by some high budget modenr film scoring (especially if the current HB owners Warner Bros., or WarnerMedia as they're now known now, produce it..):)SC

    2. I was thinking about if the Flintstones (or for that matter, the Jetsons)lived stories SET in the present (either 2018 or in the mid-1960's)!

    3. I meant a VERSION of the Flintstones (or the Jetsons).