For those who have progressed beyond the Beginner’s Guide To Mel Blanc, here are some of the books we can recommend for deepening your Mel Blanc knowledge.
That’s Not All Folks: The Story Of Mel Blanc, by Mel Blanc and Philip Bashe
Mel Blanc covers his early Portland years, his breakthrough at Warner Brothers, his long radio career, his volunteer efforts during WWII, the automobile crash which nearly ended his life, and his transition to television animation. He leaves out mention of scandal and/or discord in his private life, most probably because there wasn’t any, as all sources seem to agree.
Portland In Three Centuries: The Place and The People, by Carl Abbott
Pioneer Mikes: A History of Radio and Television in Oregon, by Ronald Kramer
This is the book which will elevate you from Beginner Level to Intermediate Level Mel Blanc knowledge in a jiffy. Kramer devotes an entire chapter to the Hoot Owls, the extraordinary group of Jazz Age Portland businessmen who, as they explored a new medium, helped invent the radio variety show. This group of first adopters, who were also amateur entertainers, tapped a young gifted Portland teenager for their show, and in so doing, launched the career of the Man With A Thousand Voices.
The Jews Of Oregon, 1850 – 1950 by Steven Lowenstein
Portland is a city German Jewish pioneers helped found, and govern. But South Portland, during the period of time Mel Blanc grew up there, was a community of new immigrants, including many Jews from Eastern Europe. Neighborhood House, where he learned to play the violin, was a settlement house run by Portland’s established Jewish community as a support to the newcomers. Lowenstein fills his book with archival photos and eyewitness accounts.
The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, by Robert Johnston
Robert Johnston does a precinct by precinct analysis of Portland’s voting records at the beginning of the 20th century, and comes up with some questions. Where do we find the line between working class and middle class? Is there one? Frederick and Eva Blank, Mel Blanc’s parents, moved to Portland in 1915, in the middle of what Johnston finds to be an unusually populist era. They themselves were shopkeepers, members of the petite bourgeoisie he puts under the microscope.
Johnston doesn’t address the possibility of a relationship between Portland’s populism and the Mel Blanc’s pop artistry in his book. But he generously has agreed to sit down and explore the topic in conversation.
And you are invited!
For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.
“Despite what some might term the “frivolous” nature of my job, I consider myself an artist, and cartoons, art.” Mel Blanc