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RIP Mel Blanc, 20 years ago today

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On this day in 1989, Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and countless other Warner Bros. cartoon characters, died from complications of heart disease.

Blanc was born in San Francisco and as a child moved to Portland, Oregon, with his parents, who ran a women’s clothing business. Blanc began performing as a musician and singer on local radio programs in Portland before he was 20. In the late 1920s, he and his wife, Estelle, created a daily radio show called “Cobwebs and Nuts,” for a Portland radio station, which became a hit.

In the late 1930s, Blanc and his wife moved to Los Angeles, where Blanc tried repeatedly to land a job with Warner Brother’s Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons. After more than a year of rejection, Blanc was finally hired. He made his Warner Bros. debut in 1937, providing the voice for a drunken bull in a short cartoon called “Picador Porky.” Another actor provided the pig’s voice, but Blanc later replaced him. In 1940, Bugs Bunny debuted in a short called “A Wild Hare.” To make the wisecracking rabbit sound tough and streetwise, Blanc created a comic combination of Bronx and Brooklyn accents. Other character voices that Blanc created for Warner Bros. included the Road Runner, Sylvester, and Tweety Bird. He lent his voice to 850 cartoons for Warner Bros. during his 50-year career. For other studios, he provided the voices of Barney Rubble and Dino the Dinosaur in The Flintstones, Mr. Spacely for The Jetsons, and Woody Woodpecker’s signature laugh.

Blanc also became a regular on Jack Benny’s hit radio show, providing the sounds of Benny’s ancient car and the voices of several uproarious characters.

In his 1988 autobiography, That’s Not All Folks, Blanc described a nearly fatal traffic accident that left him in a coma. Unable to rouse him by using his real name, a doctor finally said, “How are you, Bugs Bunny?” Mel replied in Bugs’ voice, “Ehh, just fine, doc. How are you?”

Blanc continued to provide voices until the late 1980s, most memorably voicing Daffy Duck in a duel with Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). After Mel Blanc’s death, his son Noel, trained by his father, provided the voices for the characters he’d helped bring to life.

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Quite the legacy. I remember seeing a poster a few years ago that had all the looney tune characters on it all standing together with mouths closed and sad looks on thier faces and at the bottom it simply said; "Speachless" Mel Blanc 1908-1989. It was really very touching.

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