Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc Headshot

Voice Actor • Comedian

Birth Date: May 30, 1908

Death Date: July 10, 1989

Birth Place: San Francisco, California

Known as "the man of a thousand voices," prolific voice actor Mel Blanc gave life to countless classic animated characters over the span of his remarkable career. Starting out as a musician and radio personality, Blanc broke into animation in 1937 at Leon Schlesinger Studios, home of the Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" shorts.

After making a star of the stuttering Porky Pig, Blanc proved instrumental in the creation of the wise-cracking rabbit Bugs Bunny. Even as he lent his voice to the creation of such cartoon characters as Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam, the voice actor continued to work in radio, primarily as an ensemble player on "The Jack Benny Program" (NBC, 1932-1948).

Blanc broke new ground in his long underappreciated profession when in the mid-1940s, he negotiated onscreen credit for all of his voice work and for years remained the only voice actor accommodated with such recognition. With the end of his exclusive Warner contract in 1960, Blanc branched out and began working with up-and-coming animation studios like Hanna-Barbera on such hit shows as "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66), while still voicing Warner's stable of cartoon stars well into the 1970s and beyond.

Late-career efforts like the voice of the robot Twiki on the space adventure "Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century" (NBC, 1979-1981) and several voices in the smash hit feature "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988) found Blanc's unique talents as in demand as ever. As much as any matinee idol, Blanc remained a true Hollywood icon whose gifts were appreciated with each new generation of fans.

Born Melvin Jerome Blank on May 30, 1908 in San Francisco, CA, the future voice actor was the son of Jewish parents Frederick and Eva Katz Blank, who managed a women's clothing store business. After the family, which included older brother Henry, relocated to the north, Blanc grew up in the Portland, OR area.

An astute mimic from an early age, he was also a proficient musician, playing the bass, violin and sousaphone. Upon leaving Portland's Lincoln High School, Blanc - who changed his name from "Blank" after an unfeeling teacher had told the boy that was just what he would grow up to be - went to work with several orchestras and comedy vaudeville acts up and down the Northwest Coast.

Blanc's career in radio began in 1927, when he joined the ensemble as a voice actor on "The Hoot Owls" show, aired on Portland radio station KGW. Various short-term jobs on stage and radio followed until Blanc at last succumbed to the siren call of Hollywood, arriving in Los Angeles in 1932 and looking for voice work. A year of making the rounds yielded little professionally, although Blanc did meet Estelle Rosenbaum, who he would marry one year later.

Back in Los Angeles in 1935, Blanc was already improving his track record from the previous visit. Soon he was working on shows like KFWB's "The Johnny Murray Show" and "The Joe Penner Show" at CBS Radio. With that particular medium facing increasing competition, a savvy Blanc looked to film animation for the next stage of his career. Blanc managed to land a substantial voice role as the drunken cat in Walt Disney's "Pinocchio" (1940) - still several years away from release - although it was quickly cut down to little more than a single hiccup at the instruction of Disney.

Then, after more than a year of unsuccessful attempts to audition for Leon Schlesinger Productions, the in-house company that supplied Warner Bros. with cartoons, Blanc at last was given an audience with such legendary animators as Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Fred "Tex" Avery and Chuck Jones. Tickled by his drunk routine, Avery put him in the Porky Pig short "Picador Porky" (1937) and soon after, it was suggested her take over the role of the stammering pig from voice actor Joe Dougherty, beginning with "Porky's Duck Hunt" (1937). The same short film also marked the debut of another character whose vocal characterization was entirely a Blanc original - Daffy Duck.

Over the years that followed, both characters would evolve through Blanc's portrayals. Although Blanc did not create the pig's constant stutter, his trademark sign off of "Th-th-that's all, folks!" was entirely his. And while Daffy may have started off as a madcap troublemaker, under Blanc's influence he would later morph into the weak-willed attention seeker audiences came to know and love.

As his reputation at Leon Schlesinger grew, more opportunities presented themselves to Blanc. In 1939, he became a regular on radio's top-rated "The Jack Benny Program" (NBC, 1932-1948). Almost upon arrival, Blanc proved himself to be indispensable, providing not only a number of character voices for the show, but memorable sound effects as well.

Originally cast as a polar bear named Carmichael, later Blanc routines included the laconic train conductor ("Train now leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc... amonga.") and even the sounds of Benny's sputtering automobile, The Maxwell. In the years to come, the increasingly in-demand Blanc also managed to find time to appear on dozens of other radio programs including "Burns and Allen" (CBS, 1937-1948) and "Abbott & Costello" (NBC, 1942-47; ABC, 1947-49).

Blanc also had a radio program of his own briefly - the short-lived "Mel Blanc Show" (CBS, 1946-47). Back on the Warner Bros. lot at the animation studio affectionately known as "Termite Terrace," Blanc was an essential component in creating one of the studio's most iconic characters. In 1940, Blanc was shown rough sketches for a new creature he was to voice, tentatively named Happy Rabbit. At Blanc's suggestion, the wise-cracking, carrot-chomping troublemaker was rechristened Bugs Bunny and made his debut in the Looney Tunes short "A Wild Hare" (1940) opposite sad sack hunter Elmer Fudd (originally voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan).

Throughout the 1940s and '50s, Blanc kept up a hectic pace with work on the radio and at Looney Tunes, where he helped establish several more of Warner Bros.' most famous cartoon characters. Endlessly inventive and intuitive, the voice actor brought something distinctive to each creation, such as Tweety Bird, the childlike yellow canary ("I tawt I taw a puddy tat!").

One of the roughest on Blanc's throat was Bug's fiery arch enemy, the rip-roaring Yosemite Sam ("You'll pay for this, varmint!"). Far more subtle was his take on the alarmingly amorous French skunk, Pepé le Pew ("Ahh...le belle femme skunk fatale..."). Blanc once joked that his co-stars needed to wear raincoats whenever he performed the sloppy, lisping Sylvester the Cat ("Sssthufferin' sssthuccotash!").

Other beloved characters included the barnyard good ol' boy Foghorn Leghorn ("That's a joke, I say, that's a joke, son.") and the quavering Marvin the Martian with his small weapon of mass destruction, the "Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator." Keenly aware of the fact that he had significantly contributed to the creation of a vast majority of the studio's stable of popular cartoon characters, Blanc attempted to negotiate a raise with Leon Schlesinger in 1944.

When the studio head refused, a compromise was reached: from that point forward Blanc would receive a "vocal characterizations by" credit for his work. It was a first in the industry and a key development for the generations of future voice actors that would follow.

In 1960, Blanc's exclusive Warner contract expired, and while he would continue to work for the studio voicing Bugs, Daffy and the other beloved characters, he was now a free agent. In what became a second lengthy and profitable working relationship, Blanc began voicing animated characters for Hanna-Barbara Studios.

The first significant contribution came with the primetime animated series, "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66), on which Blanc played Fred's good-natured neighbor Barney Rubble. In addition, Blanc also provided the frenzied yapping of the Flintstone's family pet, Dino. When "The Flintstones" scored big in the ratings and established Hannah-Barbara as a key player in television animation, Blanc found himself riding high and more sought-after than ever.

Elation suddenly turned to tragedy, however, when a horrific Sunset Boulevard car crash nearly put an end to Blanc's career and his life. Having been hit head-on by a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, the voice actor lay in a coma at the UCLA Medical Center for three weeks. Increasingly desperate to elicit a verbal response from Blanc, a doctor was inspired to ask the previously unresponsive patient, "How are you today, Bugs Bunny?"

In the years that followed, Blanc loved to recall his immediate response - "Eh, just fine, doc. How are you?" Once home, he continued to record his lines for "The Flintstones" from his bed, via a makeshift recording booth studio technicians had assembled.

Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Blanc expanded his repertoire of Hanna-Barbara voices with memorable characters like George Jetson's bellicose boss Mr. Spacely, the bushy-tailed spy Secret Squirrel, and the anthropomorphic Speed Buggy. At the same time, Blanc ventured out into the world of television commercials, voicing such iconic pitchmen as Toucan Sam for Kellogg's Fruit Loops cereal.

While keeping busy with his ongoing Hannah-Barbara work and frequent Looney Tunes revivals, Blanc also lent his voice to a live-action series as the diminutive robot Twiki on the sci-fi adventure "Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century" (NBC, 1979-1981). And although he continued to work relentlessly, by the 1980s Blanc had become rather disappointed with the quality of most contemporary television animation.

His final original voice characterization was created for neither Warner nor Hannah-Barbara, but for the Ruby-Spears Saturday morning cartoon "Heathcliff" (ABC, 1980-82), on which he voiced the titular orange feline.

Realizing that even his prodigious voice would not last forever, Blanc began preparing for his inevitable retirement. Having already handed off a few of the more vocally demanding characters like Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn to other voice actors, Blanc had also been grooming his son, Noel, since childhood in the hope that he might carry on the family business.

After more than 60 years in the business, Blanc contributed to the highest-profile feature film of his career with director Robert Zemeckis' animation/live action hybrid "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). Blanc provided the voices to several of his classic characters, including Bugs, Daffy and Tweety for the technological breakthrough.

A smash, the feature was released by Walt Disney's Touchstone Pictures, making it one of the few Disney ventures Blanc would ever work on. One year later, shortly after filming a television commercial with his son, Blanc suffered a stroke and later died at Los Angeles' Cedar Sinai Hospital on July 10, 1989 at the age of 81.

In fitting tribute, Warner Bros. artist Darrell Van Citters created "Speechless," a famous lithograph depicting Bugs, Daffy, Porky and a score of other classic characters voiced by the incomparable Blanc, each with their head bowed in a show of respect and mourning.

The irreverent Blanc himself had the final word, however, with a gravestone inscribed with the timeless catchphrase, "That's All Folks!"

By Bryce P. Coleman

Credits

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume 3

Voice
Show
2014

The Tom and Jerry ShowStream

Voice
Tom Cat/Jerry Mouse
Series
2014

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume 2

Voice
Show
2012

Daffy's Rhapsody

Voice
Daffy Duck
Movie
2012

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection

Voice
Show
2011

A Man called Flintstone

Actor
Barney Rubble
Show
2008

Flintstone Frolics

Actor
Show
2001

Totally Tooned In

Voice
Series
1999

Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics

Voice
Captain Caveman
Show
1994

Jetsons: The MovieStream

Voice
Mr. Spacely
Movie
1990

Rockin' With Judy Jetson

Voice
Cosmo Spacely
Movie
1988

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters

Voice
Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny/Butler/J.P. Cubish/Porky Pig/Birdbath owner/Asylum collector/Drunk/Coyote/Sylvester/Tweety/Mr. Hyde/Hugo the Abominable Snowman
Movie
1988

Sparky's Magic Piano

Voice
Movie
1988

Jetsons Meet the Flintstones

Voice
Barney Rubble / Dino / Mr. Spacely
Movie
1987

Heathcliff: The Movie

Voice
Heathcliff / Spike
Movie
1986

The New Scooby Doo MysteriesStream

Voice
Various
Series
1984

Heathcliff

Voice
Heathcliff
Show
1984

Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island

Actor
Movie
1983

Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Porky Pig/Tweety/Sylvester/Yosemite Sam/Speedy Gonzales/Taz/Foghorn Leghorn
Movie
1983

Yogi Bear's All Star Comedy Christmas CaperStream

Voice
Barney Rubble / Bulldog / Security Guard #1
Special
1982

Los 1001 Cuentos de Bugs

Voice
Movie
1982

Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales

Voice
Character cartoon
Movie
1982

Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Tweety/Yosemite Sam
Show
1981

Bugs Bunny : All American Hero

Voice
Movie
1981

The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie

Voice
Bugs Bunny, King Arthur, Sir Osis of Liver, Sir Loin of Beef, Yosemite Sam, etc.
Movie
1981

Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over

Voice
Show
1980

Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam/Porky Pig
Show
1979

A Looney Tunes Thanksgiving

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Porky Pig/Wile E. Coyote
Show
1979

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Actor
Twiki
Series
1979
38%

Bugs Bunny's Valentine

Voice
Movie
1979

Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone

Voice
Barney Rubble/Dino
Movie
1979

The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Porky Pig/Marvin the Martian/Wile E. Coyote
Movie
1979

A Connecticut Rabbit in King Arthur's Court

Voice
Bugs Bunny/King Arthur/Merlin
Show
1978

Captain Caveman and the Teen AngelsStream

Voice
Series
1977

Bugs Bunny, Superstar

Voice
Movie
1975

Journey Back to Oz

Voice
Crow
Movie
1974

A Very Merry Cricket

Voice
Tucker the Mouse/Alley Cat
Show
1973

Speed Buggy

Voice
Speed Buggy
Show
1973

A Cricket in Times Square

Voice
Show
1973

Curiosity Shop

Voice
Show
1971

Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm

Voice
Show
1971

The Perils of Penelope PitstopStream

Voice
The Bully Brothers
Series
1969

The Generation Gap

Self
Show
1969

The Phantom Tollbooth

Voice
Officer Short Shrift/The Word Speller/The Dodecahedron/The Demon of Insincerity
Movie
1969

Mike and the Mermaid

Actor
Show
1968

The Mothers-in-LawStream

Guest Star
Series
1967

Sampson and Goliath

Actor
Goliath
Show
1967

Off to See the Wizard

Actor
Cowardly Lion
Show
1967

The Man Called Flintstone

Voice
Barney Rubble / Dino
Movie
1966

Alice in Wonderland

Voice
The Talking Caterpillar/Barney Rubble
Movie
1966

Go Go Amigo

Voice
Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales
Movie
1965

Gilligan's IslandStream

Guest Voice
Parrot
Series
1964
90%

The Peter Potamus Show

Voice
Sneezly Seal
Series
1964

Porky Pig and Friends

Actor
of Sylvester
Show
1964

Dumb Patrol

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam/Porky Pig
Show
1964

The Magilla Gorilla ShowStream

Voice
Series
1964

Ricochet Rabbit & Droop-a-Long

Voice
Droop-a-Long Coyote
Show
1964

Much Ado About Mousing

Voice
Tom/Jerry/Bulldog/Puppy
Movie
1964

Hey There, It's Yogi Bear

Voice
Grifter
Movie
1964

Kiss Me, Stupid

Actor
Dr. Sheldrake
Movie
1964

Arthur Godfrey Loves Animals

Self
Show
1963

The Beverly HillbilliesStream

Guest Star
Series
1962

The Jet Cage

Voice
Sylvester/Tweety/Blackbird
Movie
1962

Adventures of the Road-Runner

Voice
Wile E. Coyote
Movie
1962

Gay Purr-ee

Voice
Bulldog
Movie
1962

The Bugs Bunny ShowStream

Voice
Bugs Bunny
Series
1960

The FlintstonesStream

Voice
Series
1960

The Many Loves of Dobie GillisStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

The Unchained Goddess

Voice
Hail/Rain
Movie
1958

Bewitched Bunny

Voice
Show
1954

The Best of This Is Your Life

Guest
Show
1952

Operation: Rabbit

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Wile E. Coyote
Movie
1952

The Super Snooper

Voice
Daffy Duck
Movie
1952

A Hound for Trouble

Voice
Charlie Dog / Pizzeria Owner
Movie
1951

The Jack Benny ProgramStream

Actor
Series
1950

Mutiny on the Bunny

Actor
Show
1950

8 Ball Bunny

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Hobo/Man Drinking Mint Julep in New Orleans/Natives
Movie
1950

What's Up Doc?

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Al Jolson/Eddie Cantor/Director
Movie
1950

Often an Orphan

Voice
Porky Pig/Charlie Dog/Charlie Dog's Master/Others
Movie
1949

For Scent-imental Reasons

Actor
Pepe Le Pew
Movie
1949

So Much for So Little

Actor
Johnny Jones
Movie
1949

Neptune's DaughterStream

Actor
Pancho
Movie
1949
100%

Wet Blanket Policy

Voice
Movie
1948

Private Snafu Presents Seaman Tarfu in the Navy

Voice
Movie
1946

Walky Talky Hawky

Voice
Foghorn Leghorn / Henery Hawk / Barnyard Dog / Henry Hawk
Movie
1946

Of Thee I Sting

Voice
Marching Band
Movie
1946

In the Aleutians

Voice
Movie
1945

The Unruly Hare

Voice
Movie
1945

Hare Conditioned

Voice
Bugs Bunny/Gildersleeve
Movie
1945

Suddenly It's Spring

Voice
Show
1944

Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike

Voice
Movie
1944

Snafuperman

Voice
Movie
1944

A Lecture on Camouflage

Voice
Movie
1944

Going Home

Voice
Movie
1944

Censored

Voice
Movie
1944

Voting for Servicemen

Director
Movie
1944

Daffy the Commando

Voice
Daffy Duck / General Von Vulture / Hitler
Show
1943

A Corny Concerto

Voice
Show
1943

Yankee Doodle Daffy

Voice
Daffy Duck / Porky Pig / Sleepy Lagoon
Show
1943

Super-Rabbit

Voice
Show
1943

To Duck... or Not to Duck

Voice
Daffy Duck
Show
1943

The Infantry Blues

Voice
Movie
1943

The Goldbrick

Voice
Movie
1943

Gripes

Voice
Movie
1943

Spies

Voice
Movie
1943

The Home Front

Voice
Movie
1943

Fighting Tools

Voice
Movie
1943

The Dizzy Acrobat

Voice
Woody Woodpecker
Movie
1943

Greetings Bait!

Voice
Wacky Worm
Movie
1943

Scrap Happy Daffy

Voice
Movie
1943

Falling Hare

Voice
Bugs Bunny/The Gremlin
Movie
1943

The Hungry Wolf

Voice
Show
1942

Fox Pop

Voice
Fox; Crow; Trapper; Dogs
Movie
1942

Ace in the Hole

Voice
Movie
1942

Porky's Pooch

Voice
Show
1941

The Haunted Mouse

Voice
Cat
Show
1941

The Field Mouse

Voice
Movie
1941

The Little Mole

Voice
Professor Primrose Skunk
Movie
1941

The Lonesome Stranger

Voice
Show
1940

The Bookworm Turns

Voice
Show
1940

Pinokio

Voice
Gideon (hiccoughs)
Movie
1940

A Wild Hare

Voice
Bugs Bunny / Skunk
Movie
1940

Romeo in Rhythm

Actor
Movie
1940

You Ought to Be in Pictures

Voice
Porky Pig / Daffy Duck
Movie
1940

Confederate Honey

Voice
Movie
1940

Art Gallery

Voice
Show
1939

Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur

Voice
Daffy Duck
Show
1939

Detouring America

Voice
Mr. Butterfingers / Cow Puncher / Full-Grown Papoose / Mosquito / Prairie Dog / Prospector / Fawn
Movie
1939

Peace on Earth

Voice
Grandpa Squirrel
Movie
1939

Jitterbug Follies

Actor
Contestant
Movie
1939

Seal Skinners

Actor
John Silver, Radio Announcer
Movie
1939

Petunia Natural Park

Voice
Car Motor / Drunk Fawn
Movie
1939

The Captain's Christmas

Voice
Show
1938

Buried Treasure

Voice
John Silver
Movie
1938

Porky Pig

Voice
Porky Pig/Dodo Bird
Show
1935

Happy Harmonies

Voice
John Silver
Show
1934