Oregon Cartoon Institute

Posts Tagged ‘Steven Lowenstein’

Intermediate Guide To Mel Blanc

In News on January 14, 2012 at 6:06 am

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

 Mel Blanc’s autobiography contains every sign that he was quite engaged with current events.  He sold newspapers as a child on street corners, tuned into far away radio news programs as a teenager, and commented on the news in his comedy routines as an adult. His audition piece for Warner Brothers was a riff on the news, using many voices and accents. It is unlikely that he remained oblivious to political and social tensions of his own city as he was growing up. Carl Abbott’s book is a clear, concise portrait of the Rose City.
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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, in exploring 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 the South Portland neighborhood, 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 German 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!

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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.

“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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