The cast of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies was largely voiced by one person who may be the best vocal actor in history.
Mel Blanc was born in San Francisco, California in 1908. He was a performer since he was a teenager and he performed shtick in Vaudeville shows before he was 20, not only using his voice but conducting music (the youngest conductor in the country at the time).
He actually began his radio career when he was 19 years old in 1927, first showcasing his skill for performing many different kinds of voices on the KGW program The Hoot Owls.
He produced his own radio show in 1933 at KEX in Portland, Oregon called Cobweb and Nuts which he co-hosted with his wife Estelle and that show lasted two years. Following his success in local radio, his wife encouraged him to seek a show business career in Los Angeles and it was there that Mel Blanc worked with Warner Bros. for the first time.
Mel Blanc performed on Fibber McGee and Molly, The John Murray Show, The Joe Penner Show and most famously on the NBC radio show The Jack Benny Program where he had various roles such as a train announcer, a violin teacher, a parrot and an automobile (the sound effect from an actual automobile would not play on cue and so Blanc was prompted to imitate the sound of an automobile and it got such a positive reaction from the audience that Jack Benny kept Blanc on the show as a regular).
Blanc performed on the show until it ended in 1955 and continued in his various roles when The Jack Benny Program made the jump to television in 1950.
His success working with Jack Benny led to appearances on other radio shows like Abbott and Costello and Burns and Allen, and he even got his own show called The Mel Blanc Show which ran from 1946 to 1947.
Blanc got his start voicing animated characters when he was hired by Leon Schlesinger as a cartoon voice actor. Tex Avery, Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett were all fans of his work and they used him for miscellaneous characters in their films, the first one being a drunken bull in the 1937 film Picador Porky.
Soon Mel Blanc would voice Porky Pig himself as Porky’s original voice actor Joe Dougherty had an actual stutter that was not as easy to control in takes as Mel Blanc’s phony stuttering.
Blanc first voiced Porky in the 1937 film Porky’s Duck Hunt, which is also the cartoon in which Blanc voiced Daffy Duck for the first time. Blanc was also chosen to voice Bugs Bunny beginning with the 1940 film A Wild Hare, which made Mel Blanc the voice actor behind all of WB’s most famous cartoon stars.
He not only voiced WB characters but in 1940 he voiced the manic Woody Woodpecker and continued voicing the character for Walter Lantz in the next two Woody Woodpecker shorts until Blanc signed an exclusive contract with WB, although Blanc’s famous Woody Woodpecker laugh would be archived and used in the series until 1951.
Mel Blanc would go on to voice many other well-known characters mostly for Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera until his death in 1989. They include:
Pepé Le Pew
Hubie and Bertie
Marvin the Martian
Hardy Har Har
No matter if I were watching Mel Blanc on Jack Benny or listening to him voice cartoon characters, he was always super talented because he always exaggerated for perfect comedic effect and he gave all of his performances a 110% energy level, which was perfect for animation. The WB animators in particular were great at utilizing his talent to the highest degree with the artistic talent to plus it.
Mel Blanc is highly regarded as the most important figure in the profession of voice acting and he was one of the most prolific vocal artists in the film industry. He voiced some of the most famous characters but he himself is a respected actor. At a time when voice actors didn’t even receive screen credit in Hollywood, Blanc was the first to receive the honor.