Notable Oregonians: Mel Blanc - Voice Actor and Comedian
Melvin Jerome Blank was born to Jewish parents in San Francisco, California on May 30, 1908. He grew up in Portland, Oregon and attended Lincoln High School. As a youth, Blanc began developing his unique vocal style, entertaining his classmates and teachers with the piercing laugh that would later develop into Woody Woodpecker's signature call. He changed his surname to Blanc at the age of 16, apparently after a teacher told him that, like his last name, he would amount to nothing. Still in his teens, Blanc started his career as a voice actor on Portland's KGW radio station in 1927 and produced and hosted his own program on KEX beginning in 1933.
Blanc moved to bigger opportunities in Southern California in 1935, eventually working on CBS and NBC radio programs, including regular appearances on the popular Jack Benny Program in the late 1930s and later on Benny's television show. His deadpan delivery regularly left Benny fighting to keep a straight face. The two were close friends in real life. Blanc's popularity led to his own radio show in 1946 and 1947 that featured him as a jinxed owner of a fix-it shop. His show's regular actors included future television stars Jim Backus and Bea Benaderet.
Blanc's most memorable work was providing voices and vocal effects for the classic Warner Brothers cartoons beginning in 1936 with his work for Leon Schlesinger Productions. Soon, America was familiar with the vivid, outrageous, and unique personalities of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the cat, Yosemite Sam, Pepé Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, Henery Hawk, and countless other characters. The high jinks and wisecracks perpetrated by his characters made the competition's Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse seem tame in comparison. When his exclusive contract with Warner Brothers expired in the early 1960s, Blanc extended his art to the Hanna-Barbera cartoons where he was a regular as Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons.
Charming audiences of all ages with his humor and extraordinary range of characterizations, Blanc spanned generations of fans. He performed the voices of Daffy Duck and Porky Pig for over 52 years and Bugs Bunny for nearly 49 years. He was the original voice of nearly all of the his animated characters and almost certainly performed voices in more cartoons that anybody in history.
Mel Blanc died on July 10, 1989 in Los Angeles, California. His gravestone reads "that's all folks." Yet, for future generations of Warner Brother's cartoon fans, his creative genius will live on in the characters he brought to life.