The Mel Blanc Show

The Mel Blanc Show

Mel Blanc

Born on May 30, 1908 in San Francisco, California

Died on July 10, 1989 in Los Angeles California of heart disease


THE MEL BLANC SHOW

CBS, 1946-1947


Blanc began his radio career in 1927 as a voice actor on the KGW program The Hoot Owls, where his ability to provide voices for multiple characters first attracted attention. He moved to Los Angeles in 1932, where he met Estelle Rosenbaum, whom he married a year later, before returning to Portland. He moved to KEX in 1933 to produce and co-host his Cobweb And Nuts show with his wife Estelle, which debuted on June 15. The program played Monday through Saturday from 11:00 pm to midnight, and by the time the show ended two years later, it appeared from 10:30 pm to 11:00 pm.


With his wife's encouragement, Blanc returned to Los Angeles and joined Warner Bros.-owned KFWB in Hollywood, California, in 1935. He joined The Johnny Murray Show, but the following year switched to CBS Radio and The Joe Penner Show. Blanc was a regular on the NBC Red Network show The Jack Benny Program in various roles, including voicing Benny's Maxwell automobile (in desperate need of a tune-up), violin teacher Professor LeBlanc, Polly the Parrot, Benny's pet polar bear Carmichael, the tormented department store clerk, and the train announcer (see below). The first role came from an mishap when the recording of the automobile's sounds failed to play on cue, prompting Blanc to take the microphone and improvise the sounds himself. The audience reacted so positively that Benny decided to dispense with the recording altogether and have Blanc continue in that role.


One of Blanc's most memorable characters from Benny's radio (and later TV) programs was "Sy, the Little Mexican", who spoke one word at a time. The famous "Sí...Sy...sew...Sue" routine was so effective that no matter how many times it was performed, the laughter was always there, thanks to the comedic timing of Blanc and Benny.


At times, sharp-eyed audience members (and later, TV viewers) could see Benny struggling to keep a straight face; Blanc's absolute dead-pan delivery was a formidable challenge for him. Benny's daughter, Joan, recalls that Mel Blanc was one of her father's closest friends in real life, because "nobody else on the show could make him laugh the way Mel could."


Another famous Blanc shtick on Jack's show was the train depot announcer who inevitably intoned, sidelong, "Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga". Part of the joke was the Angeleno studio audience's awareness that no such train existed connecting those then-small towns (years before Disneyland opened). To the wider audience, the primary joke was the pregnant pause that evolved over time between "Cuc.." and "...amonga"; eventually, minutes would pass while the skit went on as the audience awaited the inevitable conclusion of the word. (At least once, a completely different skit followed before the inevitable “...amonga” finally appeared.)


Benny's writers would regularly try to "stump" Blanc by asking him to perform supposedly impossible vocal effects and characterizations, such as an "English horse whinny" and a goldfish. For the latter, Mel walked up to the microphone and pursed his lips several times, making no noise.


By 1946, Blanc appeared on over 15 radio programs in supporting roles. His success on The Jack Benny Program led to his own radio show on the CBS Radio Network, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, to June 24, 1947. Blanc played himself as the hapless owner of a fix-it shop, as well as his young cousin Zookie (who sounded quite a bit like Porky Pig). Many episodes required Mel to impersonate an exotic foreigner or other stranger in town, ostensibly for carrying out a minor deception on his girlfriend's father, but of course simply as a vehicle for him to show off his talents. Other regular characters were played by Mary Jane Croft, Joseph Kearns, Hans Conried, Alan Reed, Earle Ross, Jim Backus, Bea Benaderet and The Sportsmen Quartet, who would supply a song and sing the Colgate Tooth Powder commercials. (Blanc would later work with Reed and Benaderet on The Flintstones.) Shows usually adhered to a predictable formula, involving a date with his girl Betty Colby (Mary Jane Croft) and trying to either impress her father or at least avoid angering him. However, Mr. Colby (Joseph Kearns) usually had occasion to deliver his trademark line, "Mel Blanc, I'm going to break every bone in your body!" The show was the inspiration for the real Mel Blanc Fix-It Shop, a small hardware store in Venice, so his parents could have something to do. It garnered a lot of publicity, due to the long lines of people wanting to meet Blanc.


Blanc appeared frequently on The Great Gildersleeve, uncredited, often voicing two or more supporting characters in a single episode: deliverymen in "Planting a Tree" and "Father's Day Chair" also "Gus", a petty crook in the latter; a radio station manager and a policeman in "Mystery Singer", and many others.


Blanc also appeared on such other national radio programs as The Abbott and Costello Show, the Happy Postman on Burns and Allen, and as August Moon on Point Sublime. During World War II, he appeared as Private Sad Sack on various radio shows, most notably G.I. Journal. The character of Sad Sack was a bumbling Army private with an even worse stutter than Porky Pig. ("I'm Lieutena-eh-Lieutena-eh-Capta-eh-Majo-eh-Colone-eh-p-p-Private Sad Sack.")


Blanc also had hit recordings throughout the 1940s and 1950s, including his biggest hit song, "Big Bear Lake." Due to the immense popularity of Blanc and the song, the city of Big Bear Lake, California made Blanc an honorary mayor for 33 years.


For his contribution to radio, Mel Blanc has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard.