Sunday 28 April 2024

He Was Zin

John Stephenson lasted only five episodes before being replaced as Doctor Benton Quest on Jonny Quest in 1964. But another actor on the show got shoved out of a role even faster.

The evil Dr. Zin was played by Vic Perrin. Perrin was constantly in demand on network radio, even into the dying days. But when he was hired in 1947 for the starring role in the Mutual network's The Zane Grey Show, he was fired after the first broadcast. The trade papers said he sounded more like a villain than a hero, so they brought in Jim Bannon.

You can tell from the first sentence that this year marks 60 years since Quest debuted in prime time. I’m an old guy so, yes, I watched it (on a black and white TV) during its original broadcast. I hope to have a post on the debut anniversary. For now, I thought I’d do a post about the man who made four villainous appearances on the show.

I’m not a huge fan of Wikipedia, but in the case of Vic Perrin the entry is very good. It looks like the writer got his information from Perrin’s obit in the Los Angeles Times or the Hollywood Reporter. What you read below comes from other sources.

Victor Herbert Perrin was born on April 26, 1916 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. His father was a travelling hardware salesman. At the age of 19, he was employed at WHA radio in Madison, Wisconsin and a member of the WHA Players. He emceed events and appeared in stage productions including “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Merry Widow.” Newspaper clippings reveal he was still at WHA as late as May 1940.

Next it was off to Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. Broadcasting magazine of May 16, 1942 reported he first found work as a parking lot attendant, then as an NBC page, then joined the announcing staff of the Red network. In July of 1941, he was on the NBC Blue network, where he introduced Hank McCune in a 15-minute weekly show called Pacific Coast Army Camp News and stayed with the network when it was spun off by NBC, eventually being named ABC. Promotion was quick. The trades reported in January 1943 he had replaced Army-bound Dresser Dahlstead as chief announcer of the network. When Dahlstead returned, Perrin quit ABC in October 1945 to freelance.

Perrin did a pile of shows on radio, even into the 1960s. A list would be pointless, though we point out he was a particular favourite of Jack Webb, and cast a number of times on Dragnet, and co-starred with Raymond Burr on CBS' Fort Laramie. There was acting work in television, too; Perrin appeared in both the radio and TV versions of Gunsmoke, among many things. A weekly role on television for a number of seasons was uncredited. His voice was the one you heard at the beginning of Outer Limits. Almost all his work was on the dramatic side, though he did appear in one episode of the sitcom I Remember Joan.

Perrin's first connection with animation I can find was a few years before Jonny Quest. In September 1957, he was the host of the fifth annual Screen Cartoonists Guild's Cartoon Festival.

You wouldn’t find Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry at this showing. This was a showcase for studios that made animated commercials. For the record, the studios were: Animation, Inc.; Cascade Pictures (home of Tex Avery); Churchill-Wexler; Fine Arts Productions; Graphic Films; Ray Patin Productions; Quartet Films, Inc.; Shamus Culhane Productions, Sherman Glas Productions; Song Ads, Inc., John Sutherland Productions; Telemation; T.V. Spots, Inc. and Le Ora Thompson and Associates. It would appear Perrin was providing voice-overs for animated spots. To the right is a trade ad from Dec. 29, 1958. (Dick Le Grand and Virginia Gregg were also radio actors; see Mike Tiefenbacher's note in the comments about Gregg's Hanna-Barbera connection).

We briefly pause from our Perrin story to post frames from some of the ads that appeared at the Festival; another one was the famous Jell-O Chinese Baby from Ray Patin Productions. I cannot tell you if he voiced any of them.

The Hollywood Reporter of Nov. 2, 1960 mentions that Perrin was recording seven cartoon spots for Pacific Telephone Yellow Pages, directed for Playhouse Pictures by Pete Burness. The same page revealed on March 16, 1962 that Playhouse's Bill Melendez had Perrin voicing five spots for the Interstate Building Assn. A week later, the Reporter blurbed that Playhouse hired him and Dick Tufeld (the "brought-to-you-by" announcer on The Jetsons) to voice a pair of animated commercials for Southern California Gas, directed by Melendez. And on Nov. 2, 1962, the paper squibbed that Perrin, Lucy Ann Polk and Dick Cathcart were providing voices for Ralston and Foremost commercials; the animation director wasn't revealed.

Unfortunately, information isn’t available about his hiring at Hanna-Barbera and when he recorded the Jonny Quest voice tracks. The episodes he appeared as Dr. Zin were:

● Riddle of the Gold, October 16, 1964.
● The Robot Spy, November 6, 1964.
● Double Danger, November 13, 1964.
● The Fraudulent Volcano, December 31, 1964.

My recollection from the Jonny Quest documentary on-line is series creator Doug Wildey opposed the idea of a regular villain. As it turned out, Dr. Zin was only in four of the twenty-six episodes, though he did return—as did Perrin—when the series was retooled in the 1980s. Perrin played other parts in the original series as well. A sentimental favourite is Perrin as the scheming Dr. Ahmed Kareem in “The Curse of Anubis” simply because at the climax, my sister got so scared, she ran out of the living room vowing never to watch the show again.

We’ll spare you another shopping list of animated accomplishments at Hanna-Barbera and elsewhere, other than to mention his work ranged from comedy (The Hair Bear Bunch and several series with a gangly Great Dane) to action-adventure (Space Ghost). His voice was in a Lutheran-made animated Christmas special with a fine cast that included Don Messick, the wonderful June Foray, Hans Conried, Jerry "We're-not-hiring-you-as-Pebbles" Hausner and Colleen Collins, who was heard in a number of Tex Avery cartoons at MGM. Perrin did a number of live-action religious-based films. Click here for his narration on a half-hour for the Franciscans, with "Good Clean Fun" and other cues from the Impress library in the background, and a role for Pat McGeehan, who voiced a noise-hating bear and other characters for Avery.

Perrin was apparently not interviewed in the popular press about his animation career—he did talk his work on Jonny Quest to Starlog magazine in an issue not available on line—but spoke about commercial acting. Several stories showed up in newspapers in early 1967; I suspect they were releases that came out of the office of his agent, Jack Wormser.

Actor Makes Handsome Sum As TV 'Voice'
VIC PERRIN is one actor who makes more money when he's not seen on camera than when he is.
He belongs to that exclusive breed in show business that has hit it big as the anonymous voices on TV commercials.
Last year Perrin earned in excess of $100,000 of which 80 per cent was from TV (and radio) commercials.
Vic, who has appeared on such TV shows as “The Big Valley,” “FBI Story,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Have Gun, Will Travel,” is never seen in TV commercials on purpose.
"MY BELIEVABILITY as an actor is reduced in direct proportion to how often I'm seen in a commercial," he explains.
Perrin is a serious actor and maintains that an acting background is the No. 1 essential to success in the lucrative commercial field.
"I try to give a TV pitch reading the same serious treatment that I would give to a speech by Henry V,” he maintains.
Some professional TV critics maintain that many commercials are better than the program in which they are inserted. Perrin agrees.
"I think there is more creativity going into commercials these days than into many of the programs," he says.

Wormser, by the way, represented a who’s who of cartoon voice actors who worked in commercials, including Mel Blanc. Perrin and Blanc have another connection; as The Hollywood Reporter of Aug. 29, 1972 stated Perrin had been hired as a teacher at the Mel Blanc School of Commercials.

Perrin and Blanc died six days apart. Perrin was 73 when he died of cancer on July 4, 1989.


  1. Notes on some other actors you mentioned:

    Virginia Gregg was also a "Dragnet" regular and made her way to H-B, first as Tara in "The Herculoids" and then in various other series, including some "with a gangly Great Dane." She and Perrin may even have been in some of the same episodes.

    Dick Cathcart, primarily known as a trumpeter, was a friend of Jack Webb, supplying music for "Dragnet" and both the film and TV versions of "Pete Kelly's Blues." He spent many years on "The Lawrence Welk Show" and married Peggy Lennon (of "da luffly Lennon Sisters").

    Dresser Dahlstead may be best known for his work as the assistant on Bob Barker's "Truth or Consequences," one of his duties at his post-"retirement" job at Ralph Edwards Productions.

    1. I had forgotten Gregg was in The Herculoids. Thanks for the note.
      All I know about Dahlstead was someone (I can't remember who) was told he had to change his name to get an announcer's job at NBC, and he replied "But you have a guy named Dresser Dahlstead!"

  2. Thanks for this excellent profile. When I was 10 years old, I was a religiously faithful viewer of "The Outer Limits" and "Jonny Quest." The two greatest surprises of my adult life: Vader is Luke’s father and Dr. Zin is the Control Voice.

  3. Vic Perrin voiced two of my favorite classic Scooby-Doo villains: Pietro/the Phantom Puppeteer and Carl the Stuntman/the Ape man.

  4. Vic Perrin, and Virginia Gregg( mentioned above )were versatile behind the microphone, and in front of the camera. Great list of credits.

  5. Perrin also had a memorable role in Star Trek (TOS) as the leader of the peace-at-any-cost Halkans in "Mirror, Mirror".