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Mel Blanc

1908 - 1989

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03 Life Stories

Mel Blanc
1908 - 1989

What’s up, Doc? I tawt I taw a puddy tat. Th-th-th-that’s all f-f-folks! Maybe not the most eloquent of orations, nor the most enriching of lexicon samples, but certainly, in vocal circles, the most animated. In the rich arena of cartoon vocalists, none approach Mel Blanc in terms of diversity, spirit, and outright fame.

Melvin Jerome Blanc was born on June 30, 1906, in San Francisco, California, to Frederik and Eva Katz Blanc, who together managed a women’s clothing business. Despite being highly involved in their work concerns, the Blancs took great care in raising their son with a sense of joy and enthusiasm, making life fun and creative. Little Mel would learn these lessons, and well.

His professional career began as a musician with NBC radio – quite diverse, he played three instruments: tuba, violin, and bass. His big break (and, ours as well) came in 1937, when he joined the cartoon department of Warner Bros., as a voice specialist. From that point on, sheer madcap wonder emerged, as Blanc brought to vocal life such characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, The Road Runner, Sylvester, Tweety, and birdie’s dear Granny, just to name a few. Over 3,000 mostly ten-minute cartoons were graced by that marvelously gymnastic voice.

Blanc appeared on-camera sporadically, in television variety shows of the 1950s, but also on the big screen, notably in the story of swimmer Annette Kellermann, Neptune’s Daughter (1949), costarring Esther Williams. Another television highlight on his resume was his involvement in the first successful animated primetime sitcom, The Flintstones -- Blanc was the voice of Fred’s pal, Barney Rubble.

In the midst of all of his activities, Blanc always made time for the medium that gave him his start: radio. On The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, he played the Happy Postman, a marvelous character who would talk in an extremely depressed voice about the most joyous things, always sounding as if on the verge of tears. On The Jack Benny Program, he was the sound of Benny’s Maxwell automobile, as well as playing Professor LeBlanc, violin teacher to Jack (and Benny was famous for his attempts at violin mastery).

The year 1989 saw many pioneering stars pass from this life – John Cassavettes, Lucille Ball, Lawrence Olivier, Irving Berlin, and Bette Davis, to name a few – sadly, added to that list, on July 10, was Mel Blanc. The voice that earned him a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard, was stilled, but not silenced. Granted, his grave marker, in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, does read, “That’s All, Folks,” but as long as those glorious Warner Bros. cartoons are rerun, and enjoyed, the artistry of Mel Blanc will be far from over.