Mel Blanc: The Legendary Voice of Famous Cartoon Characters

Updated on September 30, 2019
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Mel Blanc
Mel Blanc

You've heard him doing one of his famous voices if you've ever watched a Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoon. Mel Blanc was the voice of such well-known cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, and others. During his career, he also voiced such legendary cartoon characters as Barney Rubble on The Flintstones. He also worked for a while at Universal Pictures. This is where he was the original voice of Woody Woodpecker. MGM's Chuck Jones directed Mel Blanc during the creation of the Tom and Jerry Cartoons. Blanc provided the vocal effects for the show and more. Mel Blanc provided some of the most popular character voices in America during the golden age of animation.

Early Years

On May 30, 1908, Melvin Jerome Blank was born in San Francisco, California. When he got older, the Blank family moved to Portland, Oregon. Even as a young child, Blanc had a desire to learn different voices and dialects. When he was 10 years old, Blanc began doing his funny voices to the delight of friends. At the age of 16, he changed the spelling of his name from Blank to Blanc. This was done because one of his teachers said he wouldn't amount to anything having the name Blank. When he was young, Blanc joined Order of DeMolay. An organization dedicated to developing a young person's leadership and to make them better sons. Blanc eventually was inducted into the Order of Demolay's Hall of Fame. He graduated from high school in 1927. When he was 19, Blanc was leading an orchestra as the youngest conductor in the United States. He was also busy performing in vaudeville shows and traveling to Oregon, Washington as well as northern California towns and cities.

Young Mel Blanc
Young Mel Blanc

Radio Work

Mel Blanc started working in the radio industry in 1927. His radio acting debut occurred when he was 19 years old. It was on a program called The Hoot Owls. It was broadcast on radio station KGW. This is when his ability to do various voices for different characters got him recognition. In 1932, he moved to Los Angeles and met Estelle Rosenbaum. The two were married. They both moved back to Portland and worked for KEX radio producing as well co-hosting a show created by Blanc. It was called Cobweb and Nuts. It was a popular program on six days a week from 11:00 pm to midnight. The show lasted for two years. Blanc's wife encouraged him to go back to Los Angeles. He did this and in 1935 was hired by KFWB radio, which was part of Warner Brothers. He worked on The Johnny Murray Show. The next year he was hired by CBS Radio and worked on The Joe Penner Show.

Radio Work

Mel Blanc started working in the radio industry in 1927. His radio acting debut occurred when he was 19 years old. It was on a program called The Hoot Owls. It was broadcast on radio station KGW. This is when his ability to do various voices for different characters got him recognition. In 1932, he moved to Los Angeles and met Estelle Rosenbaum. The two were married. They both moved back to Portland and worked for KEX radio producing as well co-hosting a show created by Blanc. It was called Cobweb and Nuts. It was a popular program on six days a week from 11:00 pm to midnight. The show lasted for two years. Blanc's wife encouraged him to go back to Los Angeles. He did this and in 1935 was hired by KFWB radio, which was part of Warner Brothers. He worked on The Johnny Murray Show. The next year he was hired by CBS Radio and worked on The Joe Penner Show.

Jack Benny Show

Mel Blanc began working for The Jack Benny radio program in different types of roles. He did voices for Benny's Maxwell automobile, Benny's pet polar bear Carmichael, Benny's violin teacher known as Professor LaBlanc and more. It all started with a mistake. Producers on the show were recording automobile sounds. Some of them didn't play on cue. Blanc took the microphone and improvised an automobile sound. The audience liked Blanc's improvisation, they then only used Blanc's voice. Jack Benny liked Blanc's comedic timing. The two worked together until 1955. They last appeared together during a 1974 episode of Johnny Carson's the Tonight Show.

Mel Blanc
Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc Show

Mel Blanc had worked in supporting roles with more than 15 radio programs by 1946. His popularity on the Jack Benny Program led to CBS Radio Network offering Blanc his own radio show. From September of 1946 to June of 1947, The Mel Blanc show was heard on the radio network. On the show, Blanc played a hapless fix-it shop owner. He also provided the voice for his character's cousin Zookie. During this time, he was in other well-known radio programs like Burns and Allen, The Abbott and Costello Show and others. During World War II, Blanc was on many different radio shows as Private Sad Sack.

Theatrical Cartoon Shorts

It was December of 1936 when Mel Blanc joined Leon Schlesinger Productions. They were involved in a project producing theatrical shorts for Warner Brothers. This was the beginning of Mel Blanc's cartoon-voice career. The company's soundman was Treg Brown. He was in charge of getting people to do voices for the cartoons. Brown introduced Blanc to the directors of the project, and they instantly loved Blanc's voices. Blanc's first cartoon was in 1937 for Picador Porky. Blanc did the voice of a drunken bull. Soon after this, he got a starring role as the voice of Porky Pig in Porky's Duck Hunt. This was also when Daffy Duck was introduced into the world of cartoons with a voice created by Blanc.

The Wild Hare Cartoon With Voices By Mel Blanc

Prominent Vocal Artist

After the success of these cartoon characters, Blanc was considered a prominent vocal artist for Warner Brothers. He did many Looney Tunes characters. This included the legendary Bugs Bunny. Blank did the Bugs Bunny voice for the first time in 1940 in a cartoon called A Wild Hare. The Bugs Bunny character was known for eating carrots and often saying “Eh, what's up doc?” To make it sound as real as possible Blanc would bite into a carrot and chew it up. He would immediately spit the carrot into a spittoon.

Woody Woodpecker

Woody Woodpecker was a theatrical cartoon created and produced at Universal Pictures by Walter Lanz. Blanc was the voice of Woody Woodpecker for the first three cartoon shorts featuring this character. After this, Blanc signed with Warner Brothers with an exclusive contract and was no longer able to be the voice of Woody Woodpecker. The laugh Blanc provided for Woody Woodpecker as well as the character's signature line “Guess Who?” was used until the cartoon series stopped being produced in 1972.

Mel Banc ad Barney Rubble
Mel Banc ad Barney Rubble

End Of Exclusive Contract

Blanc's exclusive contract with Warner Brothers ended in 1960. Blanc still did work for the studio but was now able to provide voices for other TV cartoon characters. He started working for Hanna-Barrera. His most famous voice for them was as Barney Rubble of the Flintstones. Blanc did the voice of Cosmo Spacey in the Jetsons cartoons. He also did other Hanna-Barbera voices like Secret Squirrel, Captain Caveman, Wally Gator in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and others. Blanc was also the original voice of Toucan Sam in commercials for Fruit Loops cereal.

Mel Blanc in Hospital
Mel Blanc in Hospital

Car Accident

Mel Blanc was severely injured in a car accident on January 24, 1961. He collided head-on with a car on Sunset Boulevard. Blanc had a triple skull fracture. As a result, he was in a coma for two weeks. He also had fractures to his pelvis and both legs. After being in a coma for two weeks, his neurologist decided to try something different to get Blanc out of the coma. He asked Blanc, “How are you feeling today, Bugs Bunny?” This is when Blanc answered in a soft voice sounding like Bugs Bunny and said, “Eh, just fine, Doc. How are you?” During this time, the neurologist also asked if Tweety was also there. Blanc responded, “ I tawt I taw a puddy tat.” Blanc eventually recovered and went back to work.

Gravestone of Mel Blanc
Gravestone of Mel Blanc

Death

Mel Blanc was a lifelong smoker. In 1977, he received a diagnosis of emphysema. This caused him to quit smoking at the age of 77. Blanc checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 19, 1989. Blanc did this because he had a bad cough when shooting a commercial. His health turned worse when doctors discovered Blanc was suffering from coronary artery disease. Mel Blanc died at the age of 81 at Cedars-Sinai on July 10, 1989. He is buried in Hollywood at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In his will, Blanc wanted to have an inscription placed on his gravestone. It was to read “That's All Folks.” This is a phrase made famous by Blanc's character known as Porky Pig.

Mel Blanc Biography

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Readmikenow

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      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        7 weeks ago

        Cheryl, thanks. I am amazed one person could do so many different cartoon voices.

      • Cheryl E Preston profile image

        Cheryl E Preston 

        7 weeks ago from Roanoke

        Thank you for this in-depth look at a great man. I continue watching Looney Tunes to this day. My favorites. Mel was a tenuous.

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