Mel Blanc

Active - 1933 - 2012  |   Born - May 30, 1908 in San Fernando, California, United States  |   Died - Jul 10, 1989   |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American entertainer Mel Blanc, who would make his name and fortune by way of his muscular vocal chords, started out in the comparatively non-verbal world of band music. He entered radio in 1927, and within six years was costarring with his wife on a largely adlibbed weekly program emanating from Portland, Oregon, titled Cobwebs and Nuts. Denied a huge budget, Blanc was compelled to provide most of the character voices himself, and in so doing cultivated the skills that would bring him fame. He made the Los Angeles radio rounds in the mid-1930s, then was hired to provide the voice for a drunken bull in the 1937 Warner Bros. "Looney Tune" Picador Porky. Taking over the voice of Porky ("Th-th-th-that's all, Folks") Pig from a genuine stammerer who knew nothing about comic timing, Blanc became a valuable member of the "Termite Terrace" cartoon staff. Before long, he created the voice of Daffy Duck, whose lisping cadence was inspired by Warner Bros. cartoon boss Leon Schlesinger. In 1940, Blanc introduced his most enduring Warners voice -- the insouciant, carrot-chopping Bugs Bunny (ironically, Blanc was allergic to carrots). He freelanced with the MGM and Walter Lantz animation firms (creating the laugh for Woody Woodpecker at the latter studio) before signing exclusively with Warners in the early 1940s. Reasoning that his limitless character repetoire -- including Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety Pie, Pepe Le Pew, Yosemite Sam and so many others -- had made him a valuable commodity to the studio, Blanc asked for a raise. Denied this, he demanded and got screen credit -- a rarity for a cartoon voice artist of the 1940s. Though his salary at Warners never went above $20,000 per year, Blanc was very well compensated for his prolific work on radio. He was a regular on such series as The Abbott and Costello Show and The Burns and Allen Show, and in 1946 headlined his own weekly radio sitcom. For nearly three decades, Blanc was closely associated with the radio and TV output of comedian Jack Benny, essaying such roles as the "Si-Sy-Si" Mexican, harried violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the parrot, and the sputtering Maxwell automobile. While his voice was heard in dozens of live-action films, Blanc appeared on screen in only two pictures: Neptune's Daughter (1949) and Kiss Me Stupid (1964). Extremely busy in the world of made-for-TV cartoons during the 1950s and 1960s, Blanc added such new characterizations to his resume as Barney Rubble on The Flintstones (1960-66) and Cosmo Spacely on The Jetsons (1962). In early 1961, Blanc was seriously injured in an auto accident. For weeks, the doctor was unable to communicate with the comatose Blanc until, in desperation, he addressed the actor with "How are you today, Bugs Bunny?" "Eh...just fine, Doc," Blanc replied weakly in his Bugs voice. At that miraculous moment, Blanc made the first step towards his eventual full recovery (this story sounds apocryphical, and even Blanc himself can't confirm that it took place, but those who witnessed the event swear that it really happened). In the 1970s, Blanc and his actor/producer son Noel -- whom Mel was grooming to take over the roles of Bugs, Daffy and the rest -- ran their own school for voice actors. Mel Blanc continued performing right up to his death in July of 1989; earlier that same year, he published his autobiography, That's Not All, Folks.

Movie Highlights

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  • Played the bass, violin and sousaphone.
  • One of the first voice artists to receive screen credit.
  • Gave voice to Gideon the Cat in Disney's 1940 animated film Pinocchio, but producers later decided to render the character mute.
  • Appeared on-screen in only two live-action films, Neptune's Daughter (1949) and Kiss Me, Stupid (1964).
  • Had hits with the novelty tunes "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat" and "The Woody Woodpecker Song".
  • Was involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1961 and received 15,000 get-well cards, many addressed simply to Bugs Bunny.
  • In the 1970s, he ran a school for voice artists with his son Noel.
  • Published his autobiography, That's Not All, Folks, in 1989.
  • Tombstone is adorned with the phrases That's All Folks and Man of a 100 Voices.
  • Was the honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades, CA.