One of my more achievable dreams is to own one of the limited edition animation cel lithographs produced in memory of Mel Blanc when he passed away. Painted on it are Sylvester, Sam, Foghorn, Daffy, Bugs, Porky and Pepe standing with heads bowed on a white field. They are set back on the left side. Center is a spotlight on a microphone, with no one standing at it. The caption is simply Speechless and Mel's dates. It will hang next to the similar memorial cel issued commemorating the work and passing of Friz Freleng.

Mel Blanc was born in San Francisco in 1908 and went on to become the famous voice of many popular and beloved animated cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Pie, Sylvester, and many others.

He was known as The Man of 1,000 Voices although it's unlikely that he actually did 1000 different ones - however, what made Mel Blanc special was that he could also actually act. This was no mere impressionist. Blanc's voice as these cartoon characters became instantly recognizable to generations of children starting with the golden era of Merrie Melodies cartoons by Warner Brothers.

Among the many catchphrases he created were Bugs Bunny's "Eh, what's up, Doc", "I tawt I taw a putty tat", from the sarcastic canary Tweety, the Road Runner's "Beep, beep", Sylvester the Cat's "Thufferin' thuccotash", Woody Woodpecker's signature laughter and stuttering Porky Pig's "Th-th-th-th-that's all f-f-f-folks."

He began his career in show business as a musician and a radio performer in 1927, when he sang and performed on a Portland radio show called The Hoot Owls.

His first Warner Bros. character was a drunken bull in the 1937 Looney Tunes short Picador Porky. As legend has it, the actor playing Porky Pig in that short actually did stutter. A few months later, Mel took over the role in Porky's Duck Hunt, stuttering intact, and created Daffy Duck at the same time.

He went on to invent the voices of other well-known cartoon figures, such as Elmer Fudd, Speedy Gonzalez, Pepe Le Pew, the Tasmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn, Heathcliffe the cat and Yosemite Sam.

His last acting performance was in the hugely successful 1988's animation-live action film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in which he did the voices of Daffy, Tweety, Bugs and Sylvester. He died in 1989 at his home in Los Angeles.

Although Melvin Jerome Blanc is remembered today for his voice characterizations for Warner Brothers, he arguably was the man of 1000 voices not for the cartoons, but for his work on radio.

Although he started as a musician (An talented violinist, bassist and sousaphone player, Blanc played in the NBC Radio Orchestra and conducted the pit orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre in Portland), a local radio show he hosted with his wife lacked the funds to hire a cast of actors, so he filled in. Soon Blanc began to appear on network radio in 1934 with a regular appearance on The Joe Penner Show as a duck. You can also hear him on various episodes of The Abbot and Costello Show, The Adventures of Ellery Queen, The Al Jolson Show, Al Pearce and his Gang, Baby Snooks, Baker's Broadcast, The Bob Hope Show, Blondie, The Camel Comedy Caravan, The Chesterfield Supper Club, Fibber McGee and Molly, G.I. Journal, Icebox Follies, Meet Mr. McNulty, Nitwit Court, Point Sublime, and The Tommy Riggs & Betty Lou Show. His character work on these radio shows got him his audition and contract with Warner Brothers. The success of these sent him back to radio, where he leveraged his success into featured parts on the top network shows: He played the Happy Postman on Burns and Allen, Professor LeBlanc on The Jack Benny Program (as well as various animals and Jack's car); Mexican handyman Pedro on The Judy Canova Show (also Roscoe P. Wortle); Pancho on The Cisco Kid opposite Jack Mather; and Floyd Munson the Barber on The Great Gildersleeve. He had his own show on CBS in 1946, The Mel Blanc Fix-It Shop (which, considering his talent, is surprisingly unfunny).

Of all the characters he did, only one of his voices was not original.

Sources: Anthony Tollin, Program Notes to Old Time Radio's Greatest Shows. Radio Spirits, 1997.
Mel Blanc Voiceography, Voicechasers,
Los Angeles Times Obituary, July 11, 1989.

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