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Blanc, Mel

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on January 30, 2004

(né Melvin Blank, 1908-1989)

    “The Man of a Thousand Voices” -- a title he and Freleng parodied in Curtain Razor (1949) with the vocalist turtle. Blanc, from his first work for the studio in 1936, right through to his death in 1989, provided a staggering variety of voices for cartoons. His vocal characterizations of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Porky, Tweety, Pépe le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Henery Hawk, and others define the way we think about these characters, and went a long way toward giving the spark to these characters that made them so successful.

    Blanc made the boast that he could do them all, and with the exception of Arthur Q. Bryan’s Elmer Fudd, and a handful of other, lesser characters, Blanc really did do them all. Blanc did voice Fudd -- reluctantly, by his own account -- after Bryan’s death, as in Pre-Hysterical Hare (McKimson, 1958).

    Blanc was also a standout on radio as a virtual one-man rep. company, starring on the Jack Benny radio and television programs as the Maxwell, Professor LeBlanc, Carmichael the Polar Bear, a parrot, the railroad station announcer -- originator of the famous Cucamonga gag -- and the Si/Sue “Little Mexican”. Blanc also worked on a number of other radio programs, including the Joe Penner radio program as the voice of Goo-goo the duck, the Judy Canova show, and, for a while in the late 40s, his own radio show. Blanc borrowed his Happy Postman character for use in Easter Yeggs (McKimson, 1947).

    Blanc also created Woody Woodpecker’s distinctive laugh, which the proto-Bugs does a version of in Elmer’s Candid Camera (Jones, 1940), and provided the voice of Woody until he signed an exclusive contract with Warner’s in the 1940s. Blanc sued Lantz over the use of his voice, eventually settling out of court. Blanc also supplied the dialogue for Gideon, the cat in the Disney feature Pinocchio (1940); however, except for a hiccup, all of his dialogue was deleted in the final cut.

    Blanc wrote an autobiography entitled That’s Not All Folks! Some of the statements in the book are open to question, such as whether Blanc supplied the voices for Schlesinger and Mike Maltese in You Ought to Be in Pictures (Freleng, 1940), whether Sylvester was modeled on the jowly John Burton, and whether the phrase “I tawt I taw a puddy tat” was an ad-lib. Be that as it may, Blanc was a one-of-a-kind, and undeniably a key player in WB’s greatness.

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• The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion is © (copyright) 1996 E. O. Costello. All rights reserved.

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