Oregon Cartoon Institute

Posts Tagged ‘Porky Pig’

Katie Schneider Nails Mel Blanc’s Portland Years

In News on July 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm

In this beautifully written article for Tablet, Portland author Katie Schneider reports on her visit to Oregon Jewish Museum’s current exhibit That’s All Folks! The Mel Blanc Story. As she walks the reader through Mel Blanc’s early life, Schneider uses her novelist’s eye for detail to pick out the milestones which also served as touchstones of Jewish identity.

His first foray into voice artistry:

Among the first people (six year old Mel Blank) befriended were the elderly Jewish couple who ran the local grocery; they spoke Yiddish, and the boy became fascinated with the strange dialect and its intonations. He learned to imitate it. It was, by his own admission, the first voice he ever performed.

His first time on stage:

Some of his earliest gigs were with the South Parkway Minstrels, an amateur vaudeville club in Portland. The Minstrels were part of Neighborhood House, founded by the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women to help South Portland’s immigrants.

Getting married:

He married Estelle Rosenbaum in a secret civil ceremony before finally having a Jewish wedding on Lag B’Omer.

His Warner Brothers breakthrough:

Leon Schlesinger, Warner’s head of animation, asked him to voice one of the studio’s newest animated stars, a bow-tie wearing pig named Porky.  “You want me to be the voice of a pig?” Blanc replied. “That’s some job for a nice Jewish boy.”

His most famous creative achievement, Bugs Bunny:

When Blanc came on board, the famous hare was named “Happy Rabbit.” That, Blanc believed, was too bland. The bunny needed personality, and that personality, in Blanc’s mind, took the shape of a fast-talking tough Jew from Flatbush Avenue.

A fast talking tough Jew from Flatbush Avenue who had never actually set foot in New York, that is. Mel Blanc writes in his book that as a young man he longed to travel to New York, but that he never had the bus fare.

He did make it to LA. Schneider quotes Judy Margles’ observation that Mel Blanc’s journey, from South Portland to Southern California, “mirrored the life of the Jewish community Portland at the time, spanning tradition and assimilation. He was like his friends. They wanted to get out. They wanted to be part of the larger world.”

This tension, between tradition and assimilation, is one of the engines which drove Mel Blanc’s creativity. What does it mean to be a Jew in the West? How do we construct our identities? How much of the past comes with us into the future?  What is essential? Who decides?

I believe Mel Blanc’s engagement with these deeper questions is the source of his strength as an artist. His early life in a multilingual immigrant community provided the seedbed for this lifelong fascination. But questions which deal with identity are not limited to the Jewish community. These are questions all Americans explore. We are a nation of immigrants.

The essence of our national character is that it doesn’t know itself, that it has no core — that it consists of one long negotiation between heterogeneous elements that resist synthesis.  That is, of course, what makes American culture so alive and dynamic and fertile — its improvisatory nature, its fundamental instability, which is also a fundamental openness to anything. Lloyd Fonvielle

Is there a better description of Mel Blanc’s stable of voice characterizations, from wide eyed Tweety Bird to bombastic Foghorn Leghorn, from perpetually enraged Daffy Duck to perpetually bewildered Barney Rubble, from hungry Wile Coyote to amorous Pepe LePew to good natured Porky to “ain’t I a stinker” Bugs, than “one long negotiation between heterogeneous elements that resist synthesis” ?

Fonvielle, himself a Hollywood screenwriter, goes on to defend pop culture as a crucible of American identity, particularly when it comes to the pleasures and the responsibilities of freedom.

Liberty, in a political sense, would have no “legs”, would close on Saturday night, if it weren’t reflected in this liberty of the everyday imagination — and this liberty of the imagination could probably not have survived if we were required to take it too seriously, to think it through . . . if it weren’t dressed up in shameless, unadulterated hokum.

Do  Americans use pop culture to wrestle with/explore/come to our own understanding of “e pluribus unum” ?

Jon Stewart seems to think so.

Plurality is at the heart of the American promise of freedom. We don’t all have to be the same. A natural consequence – we have to live with the conflicts and tensions which come with difference. Freedom is no free lunch.

Freedom, it turns out, is a long slog.

That’s where comedy comes in. Katie Schneider identifies herself as having been “raised on Warner Brothers cartoons.” Lloyd Fonvielle’s argument takes that claim seriously.

Thank you, Katie Schneider, for your guided tour of  the Oregon Jewish Museum’s wonderful exhibit. This exhibit is the first ever, in all time, to examine Mel Blanc as an Oregonian and as an artist.

Here are the amateur radio performers who first coached an extremely talented Portland teenager to professional success. These are the men, who, in their explorations of the lively, dynamic, and fertile new artform called radio, gave Mel Blanc the key to his future.

Go see for yourself the life journey of this American artist.

The Oregon Jewish Museum exhibit, which has multimedia interactive elements, draws on family photos and heirlooms loaned by the Blanc family. It will be up until September 11, 2011.

Oregon Jewish Museum

1953 NW Kearney, Portland, Oregon

(503) 226 -3600

http://www.ojm.org

“Despite what some might term the “frivolous” nature of my job, I consider myself an artist, and cartoons, art.” Mel Blanc
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The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Join the Portlanders who plan to deepen their Mel Blanc knowledge by attending a walking tour of Mel Blanc’s Portland, held on Saturday July 23 and on Saturday July 30. Led by Bill Crawford and Dennis Nyback, the tours leave from the Hollywood Theatre at 1:00 PM.


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Mel Blanc’s Portland Years: Craig Adams Explains It All For You

In News on June 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm
Portland radio historian Craig Adams and  Live Wire Radio producer Robyn Tenenbaum will give the fourth and final Mel Blanc Lecture on Wednesday, June 29, in PSU’s Lincoln Hall, at 7:30 PM.
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This event is free and open to the public.
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CRAIG ADAMS’ MEL BLANC TIMELINE can be found in its entirety on his wonderful website, www.pdxradio.com.
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CHILDHOOD
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On May 30, 1908 Melvin Jerome Blank was born in San Francisco to Frederick and Eva (Katz) Blank.  Mel had a four year older brother Henry Charles.
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In 1915 the Blank family moved to Portland when Melvin was six years old and lived at 225 1/2 Sherman St.  Mel grew up in a diverse area of South Portland where  he spent his boyhood listening to conversations between people of various nationalities.  Those conversations would later become the genesis of his mastery of dialects and accents.  Mel attended Shattuck Elementary School, Commerce High School & Lincoln High School.
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On Dec 14, 1917 Mel participated in the “Winter Swimming & Diving Meet” at Couch School tank.  Eight year old Melvin Blank was part of the 60 foot dash event.
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By 1920 the Blank family had moved to 543 S.W. 5th Ave.
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This image is from http://www.pdxhistory.com.
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On April 2, 1923 Melvin Blank was admitted into the “Keep Growing Wiser Order of Hoot Owls” along with nearly 200 others from all over the United States & Canada.
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TEEN AGE MEL EXPLORES HIS TALENTS
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On June 23, 1923 Mel was first featured on the KGW program “Stories By Aunt Nell” from 3:30 to 4pm.  Here’s Mel’s first write up:  “For the entertainment of the children, this afternoon Melvin Blank, a boy with a good voice, will sing a number of solos, accompanied on the piano by his brother, William Blank.  Aunt Nell will read additional chapters from Allen Chaffee’s story of “Sitka, The Snow Baby.”  Children love the story of the little Polar cub and his adventures and messages come in daily asking for another story about him.”
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On Nov 2, 1923 Mel participated in the semi-annual “Frosh Frolic” to the delight of the freshmen: Violin selections, Melvin Blanc with Clara Tasker accompanying: recitation, “Daddy” by Estelle Weinstein.
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On Feb 29, 1924 Melvin Blank was a guest on KGW’s “Hoot Owls.” 15 year old Mel performed two numbers he had carried out at Lincoln High’s Commerce Vaudeville show, the same night.
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This  1926 news photo is from  www.pdxhistory.com .
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On April 29, 1925 Melvin Blank was part of the supporting cast of “A Single Man” presented by “The Council of Jewish Juniors” held in the Woman’s Club building (12th & Taylor Sts.) at 8:15pm.  H.H. Davis wrote the amusing comedy.
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On Nov 22, 1925 Melvin Blank was a part of the “South Parkway Club Minstrel Show” held at the Neighborhood House (2nd & Woods Sts.).  Featuring Max Rosumny performing the song “Goin’ South.”
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On April 29, 1926 Melvin Blank participated in the four act play “Disraeli” held at the Heilig Theater by The Center Players.
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On Oct 13, 1926 Mel was teaching the ukulele at “The B’nai B’rith Center” in preparation for the Winter season.  “Twenty-Five have signed for the Ukulele Club which will start its practice at 8 o’clock under the direction of Melvin Blank.”
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On Oct 23, 1926 Mel entertained at “The B’nai B’rith Center” Sport Party. “About 45 couples attended.  Several features were given and among them Melvin Blank entertained the guests with several selections on the ukulele and some song hits.”
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PROFESSIONAL RADIO DEBUT
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In 1927 Melvin Blank became a regular member on Portland’s KGW Hoot Owl broadcasts.
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MEL LEAVES PORTLAND & RETURNS, Part ONE
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In 1928-29?  With his deep bass tooting and his Yiddish stories, Mel won enough fame to land a job at San Francisco’s KFWI.  However, Mel couldn’t save the station from going bankrupt.
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This  photo is from www.pdxhistory.com.
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On Nov 8, 1929 Mel Blanc returned to the KGW Hoot Owls with a Milt Gross story of his own about the goose that laid the golden eggs.
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On March 26, 1931 Mel Blanc officially became “Musical Director” of the 11-piece “RKO Westerners” orchestra at Portland’s “RKO Orpheum Theatre”.
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MEL LEAVES PORTLAND & RETURNS, Part Two
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On May 17, 1931 it was announced Mel was leaving Portland  (again) for NBC San Francisco (KGO).  It was “Mel’s work on NBC Orange network broadcasts originating at KGW on the Hoot Owls that won him some fame in radio circles in California.”
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On June 3, 1931 Mel Blanc made his NBC Orange “Pacific Coast Network” debut on the program “The Road Show”.  Mel sang in dialect the song “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and telling the story of “George Washingcohen at Wally Fudge.”  The program was not carried on KGW.
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On June 23, 1931 KGW listeners had their first opportunity at 9:30am to hear Mel Blanc since he moved to NBC San Francisco.  He was featured on the program “The Entertainers.”

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On August 13, 1931 it was announced NBC’s San Francisco based “The Road Show” had been canceled.  Mel returned to KGW in Portland where they immediately debuted a new show in which Mel was the main character, entitled “De Inside Dope On Heestery”.  The program was heard at 9pm every night except Wednesday’s and Sunday’s.  The show also featured Rita Bell & Albert Gillette and ran until Sept 12, 1931.  Mel was also back on The Hoot Owls and featured on other KGW shows.
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On Sept 24, 1931 (Follow-up) “The Road Show with Mel Blanc as master of ceremonies made a hit last Summer and many and bitter were the complaints when due to the terrific expense of the production, NBC saw fit to side track it.”
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MEL LEAVES PORTLAND & RETURNS, Part THREE
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On March 1, 1932  “Mel Banc left for Los Angeles. On April 6, 1932 Mel Blanc began on KNX Los Angeles at 3pm.  Mel would also be heard later over “The Don Lee Columbia Network”, serving CBS’s West Coast affiliates only.
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On Oct 25, 1932 it was announced Mel Blanc was working at KHJ Los Angeles.  The station was the flagship of the West Coast “Don Lee Broadcasting System,” DLBS.  Mel was a regular on the networks “Merrymakers” program, heard on KOIN in Portland.
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On Feb 17, 1933 Mel Blanc appeared on the DLBS Network program  “Happy-Go-Lucky Hour” at 2:15pm, doing one of his Yiddish stories.  This show was heard on KOIN.  Another appearance on March 7, 1933.
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On May 24, 1933 it was announced Mel Blanc was just married a few days ago and the couple were moving to Portland.
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On June 1, 1933 “Mel Blanc and bride were both heard over Portland’s KEX at 9:30pm on “Circus Court of The Air.”
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On June 14, 1933 Mel Blanc and wife began the program “Cobwebs and Nuts” on KEX, running Monday through Saturday 11 to midnight.  “To describe it, is too much trouble, but it can be said the thing will be conducted by Mel Blanc.”  [Mel was one of the first disc jockey’s, spending part of the program talking back to recordings.  This mentioned on 4-7-49.]
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On Nov 29, 1933 Mel launches an additional program called “Hi-de-ho-ho Corporation” on KEX at 9pm. This program is 15 minutes long and runs Monday’s, Wednesday’s & Friday’s.  It lasted until December 27, 1933.
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MEL LEAVES PORTLAND, Part FOUR
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On June 15, 1935 the last “Cobwebs and Nuts” program aired on KEX. Mel and Estelle Blanc move to LA.
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On Feb 7, 1937 Mel Blanc was heard for the first time in a “Looney Tunes” animated short, released from Warner Bros. on this date, “Porky’s Road Race” with cast Joe Dougherty & Billy Bletcher.  [Porky’s Road Race Copyright – July 3, 1937]
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On Sept 30, 1937 Mel Blanc is already referred to in print as “The Man of a Hundred Voices”.
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The  June 29 Lincoln Hall lecture  celebrating Mel Blanc Day is a six way panel discussion between Dennis Nyback, Anne Richardson, Craig Adams, Robyn Tenenbaum, Sean McGrath and Courtenay Hameister on the topic of Portland radio: past, present and future.
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For Mel Blanc scholars who want to bone up before June 29, Craig Adams published a timeline of Mel Blanc’s Portland career on his website, http://www.pdxradio.com.
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The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.

Beginner’s Guide To Mel Blanc

In News on May 24, 2011 at 1:55 am

Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Beginner’s Guide to Mel Blanc was compiled to provide basic information.  Think of it as a first aid kit to fight complete ignorance. It is available to all, just return the kit back to the wall when you are through using it.

Q: Who was Mel Blanc?

A: Mel Blanc ( 1908 – 1989) was the premier voice artist of Hollywood’s Golden Age of Animation. The first voice artist to receive screen credit, he is widely viewed as the first truly professional voice artist.

Q: What did he do?

A: He provided voices for hundreds of cartoon characters. The majority of Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes characters were voiced by this one man. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck are three of his most famous characterizations.

Caricature by Martinus Van Tee

Q: Is that his real name?

A: No. His birth name was Melvyn Jerome Blank. He was born May 30, 1908 in San Francisco to Frederick and Eva (Katz) Blank.

Q: How did he come to be a voice artist?

A: He began imitating voices at an early age. He made his radio debut in 1927, at age nineteen, when he was recruited by an early  Portland radio show, the KGW Hoot Owls, to sing a novelty song.

Q: The voice of Bugs Bunny came from Portland, Oregon?!

A: Correct. The Blank family moved to Portland in 1915, when Mel was five and a half.

Q: When did Mel Blanc go Hollywood?

A: He moved to Los Angeles in 1935, and was hired by Leon Schlessinger to provide the voice of a drunk in Picador Porky in 1937, his first Warner Brothers cartoon.

Q: Why are you celebrating his life and career with the Mel Blanc Project?

A: You are showing signs of advancing to the next level of Mel Blanc scholarship.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend Mel Blanc: The Portland Years, our upcoming lecture series.

For people who can’t wait until the lecture series,  and want to get right down to it, we recommend you attend the Mel Blanc Project Screening Series at The Secret Society, throughout May.

Top Five Myths About Mel Blanc

In News on January 1, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Myth #1. Mel Blanc graduated from Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon.

False! Lincoln High School has no record that Melvin Jerome Blanc ever graduated. He did attend.

Myth #2. Mel Blanc moved to Los Angeles in order to become a voice artist.

False! Mel Blanc already was a voice artist when he arrived in Los Angeles. His first professional gig was here in Portland, on KGW radio, in 1927.

Myth #3. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig formed the center of Mel Blanc’s professional universe.

False! Mel Blanc’s first love was radio, and he worked steadily in radio throughout his entire life.

Caricature by Martinus Van Tee

Myth #4. Mel Blanc’s phenomenal talent was a freak of nature.

False! Mel Blanc worked hard to develop his talent. He conducted two parallel careers from 1927 to 1935: he was both a musician and  a radio performer. As a musician, he had front row seats (in the orchestra pit) to study the comic delivery of the nation’s top vaudeville comics, a group which included Jack Benny, with whom he would eventually work. As a radio performer, he spent five years performing on a one hour weekly show at Portland’s KGW, one year emceeing a radio program in San Francisco, and two years doing his own daily one hour show – which he wrote, produced, and starred in – on Portland’s KEX. He was eight years into a show business career when he moved to Los Angeles.

Myth #5. Matt Groening, Oregon’s other animation supernova (who did graduate from Lincoln High School), idolizes Mel Blanc.

Not sure! Matt Groening has gone on record stating that Bill Plympton is God.