Melvin Jerome "Mel" Blanc (May 30, 1908 — July 10, 1989), a.k.a. "The Man of a Thousand Voices", was one of the most prolific voice actors of all time, as well as one of the best. Originally working in commercials and radio shows, Blanc was hired by Warner Bros. in the late 1930s to do voices for cartoons. And the rest is history.
Blanc is most notable for voicing most of the cast of Looney Tunes (among other cartoons), which frequently saw him Talking to Himself. What's amazing is that most people probably wouldn't be able to tell that, most, if not all, of the characters in each Looney Tunes short were being done by the same guy (Leonard Maltin once put his talent into perspective by marveling that Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam were the same man). He was that good. It even got to the point that his knack for doing many voices was lampshaded in the Porky Pig short Curtain Razor. He was also one of the only voice actors in his day to ever get a credit for his work in any theatrical shorts (which led to a variant of Misattributed Song when voices done by Daws Butler, Stan Freberg, or Arthur Q. Bryan were also assumed to be Blanc).
His wide range of work gave him the cool nickname, "The Man of a Thousand Voices", hence he is the Trope Namer (it should be noted that this is an exaggeration; he admitted in his autobiography that he's done around 850 voices [which is still very high, but only 150 away from 1000]). Blanc was also something of a Humble Hero, calling himself "the male June Foray", a rarity in a time when no one would have criticized or even thought twice about ignoring the accomplishments of women around him.
Needless to say, Blanc is a legend among voice actors and fans. His voice work is considered the milestone that marks the Golden Age of animated comedy, and his characters' catchphrases are still remembered nearly a half-century later. It ought to also be remembered that Blanc essentially won voice actors the honor of being credited cast members. He had become so indispensable to Leon Schlesinger's studio that the only way the cheapskate could avoid giving into Blanc's demands for a raise was to guarantee him sole on-screen credit as a voice actor, which gave Blanc the notability to be sought after for work by name. Later, other voice actors followed suit, and within a few years it was unthinkable to not credit a voice actor.
Blanc died in 1989 (presumably from exhaustion), and, to this date, it seems not many voice actors, if any at all, can really match his wide range of voices. Warner Bros. now has a whole staff of voice actors to cover what was once done by a single man. Some of his roles include:
- Bugs Bunny - He even chewed raw carrots to get the sound right... and immediately spat them back out, because he couldn't swallow them fast enough since he hated the taste of them. He admits in his autobiography, That's Not All, Folks. that they tried a myriad of other vegetables for him to crunch, but unfortunately nothing else sounds like a carrot. There is a popular urban legend that he was allergic to carrots, but this is false.
- In 1961, Blanc had a case of "I Am Spock" after a near-fatal car accident which left him in a coma for three weeks. After many attempts to wake him up from his coma, a doctor thought of saying, "How are you today, Bugs Bunny?" at which point he replied (obviously, in Bugs Bunny's voice) and went on to have a full recovery.
- Daffy Duck - Basically, this was just his voice for Sylvester the Cat sped up.
- Porky Pig - his first major role, as well as one of his last. Originated by Joe Dougherty (who actually had a stutter which was hard to control); Blanc replaced him in 1937.
- Pepe Le Pew - based on French actor, Charles Boyer (though thanks to Blanc's take on Boyer for Pepe Le Pew, many generations wouldn't know that).
- Sylvester the Cat - The character who sounds the closest to Blanc in Real Life. It was slightly exaggerated and a lisp was added. You can hear him speak his appearance on the Johnny Carson show.
- Tweety Bird
- Foghorn Leghorn - based off of Kenny Delmar's Senator Claghorn character from radio (and, much like Pepé Le Pew, has succumbed to the "Weird Al" Effect).
- The Tasmanian Devil
- Speedy Gonzales
- Marvin the Martian
- Yosemite Sam - One of two of his classic characters he didn't portray in Who Framed Roger Rabbit because his voice was, by that point (1987-88), too weak to handle Sam's gruffness. There was also an extended Foghorn Leghorn sequence cut from the film which was done by Joe Alaskey, at Blanc's request.
- Elmer Fudd - Actually, Blanc was not the regular voice of Elmer Fudd. Elmer's actor was one Arthur Q. Bryan, who was just about the only actor besides Blanc (excepting occasional guest voices) to ever contribute to the Looney Tunes canon.note Blanc reluctantly did Elmer's one line in "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" though, as it was easier than bringing in Bryan for so little work, and he did Elmer's bellowed "SMOG!" in "What's Opera, Doc?", when Bryan couldn't quite get his voice powerful enough. Blanc did voice Fudd in a few cartoons in the 1970s and 1980s, but couldn't do Elmer's voice to his satisfaction, which is why Elmer is not included in the "Speechless" lithograph.
- Woody Woodpecker: He briefly voiced the character in his first three cartoons, but was immediately forced to step down from the role once he gained an exclusive contract for the Looney Tunes series—but the famous Rat-A-Tat laugh that he gave Woody would be recycled well up into the 1950's, even after Woody found other actors. His voice for Woody landed somewhere between a mix of his voices for Porky Pig and Daffy Duck (but obviously sped up), with his laugh being derived from a rejected laugh he used for the rabbit in "Porkys Hare Hunt".
- Most curiously, Woody's very first line in "Knock Knock" is Mel Blanc's normal speaking voice, which is not sped up at all.
- Barney Rubble - While Sylvester was closest to Blanc's normal speaking voice, Barney got Mel's laugh, just a bit more forceful (Daws Butler voiced Barney Rubble when Blanc was in the hospital. One episode even had Barney's voice change from Daws Butler's to Blanc's right in the middle of the episode).
- Mr. Spacely - also very close to his real voice (and sounds similar to Yosemite Sam's when he gets angry). His final performance before his death was for Jetsons: The Movie.
- Secret Squirrel
- The Bully Brothers, Chugaboom and Yak-Yak
- Speed Buggy
- Various minor characters in Wally Gator
- Captain Caveman
- Heathcliff - his last "new" character, first assumed in 1980 (more than four decades after his debut as a voice actor).
- Mr. Postman from the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio show
- A number of minor characters on The Jack Benny Program, including Jack's parrot, Jack's polar bear, and Jack's car.
- Also Benny's violin teacher, Professor LeBlanc; the little Mexican guy that always triggered the "Si, Sy, Sue" routine; the put-upon store clerk that Benny always drove to insanity (sometimes, even suicide!) in the annual Christmas show; and the train station announcer who always intoned the "Anaheim, Azusa, and Cuc.... amonga!" schtick and its variations.
- There's a story that he took over doing the car when, during an early rehearsal, he noticed that the tape recorder with the prerecorded tape of a failing car was unplugged. Not wanting to miss the cue, he stepped up to the microphone and quickly "stepped in" for the car, which was such a hit with those present that it was decided to give up on the tape and permanently appoint him car-in-chief.
- And as an "English Horse"
- Occasionally appeared as "himself" as an out-of-work actor, trying to get Jack Benny to let him do his Al Jolson imitation on his show.
- A sometimes-mentioned running gag on the Jack Benny Show was that all of the various characters, animals and objects played by Mel Blanc bore a striking resemblance to each other...
- Private Snafu: Basically the same voice he uses for Bugs Bunny (who happens to cameo in a short alongside the bumbling solider).
- Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
- Alfred E. Neuman on the comedy song "What, Me Worry?"
- And a whole lot more, including a number of secondary and one-time characters. Many have tried to make a complete list and failed. Even That Other Wiki admits that its list of Blanc's roles is incomplete.
"Th-th-th-that's all, folks!"