Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Another John Stephenson video clip...

I'm often on the look for video of voice actor, John Stephenson, and once I come across something I share it. I came across this YouTube video clip the other day...in several of his biographies it makes mention that he hosted an early outdoors series titled Bold Journey. I don't know why I never thought to look up videos of the series until recently but I came across several episodes but only one, so far, did I come across featuring John Stephenson as host and here it is...



Some of the film/audio at the beginning jumps around a little...but it's watchable. John appears on camera introducing that episode's guest and then he appears again near the end after the guest is finished describing his nature film.

I post this because of John's largely obscure early career on TV. He appeared on many episodic television programs of the '50s and '60s...often in dramatic anthology programs and occasionally on sitcoms...but it's often impossible to find the specific episodes of television programs that he actually appeared on. Sometimes one will pop up on-line. If you've seen any of the late '60s episodes of Dragnet, you'll hear John Stephenson's voice often reading the results of the trial.

If you're familiar or a fan at all of a certain cartoon franchise it's impossible to separate that voice from many, many, many Scooby-Doo cartoons (1969-1991). I often cite that series first but he had been providing voices for Hanna-Barbera since at least 1960...that's the year The Flintstones debuted...and John Stephenson voiced Mr. Slate and other authority figures. In the middle part of the '60s he became one of the regular voice artists in the Hanna-Barbera circle providing vocals for authority figures and villains. His natural speaking voice, as you hear in the video clip, is heard often in those cartoons but he would also elevate it into a higher or lower tone (depending on the character's personality) for various other characters. Very seldom did he have 2 characters speaking to one another...unless the vocalizations happened to be drastically different from one another...given the distinction of his natural voice sprinkling through his characterizations.

Most often his characters were interchangeable given their authoritative demeanor.

In one series for Hanna-Barbera in the mid '60s spotlighting characters by the name of Breezly Bruin and Sneezly Seal, Stephenson provided the voice of additional characters but his main role happened to be that of Col. Fusby...always fussing about Breezly's mayhem and rule breaking at a military camp. Howard Morris voiced the Bruin and Mel Blanc, in a cold in the nose vocal, played the Seal. In another series, Squiddly Diddly, Stephenson voiced the perpetually put upon Chief Winchley of the tourist attraction, Bubble Land, and Paul Frees provided the voice of the starring character. One of John Stephenson's truly vicious, evil, snarling, and amoral characters happened to be Captain Leech in the cartoon series, The Adventures of Gulliver. He not only had the distinction of voicing the evil Captain Leech but the scatterbrained King Pomp. There are several episodes of that series on YouTube.

In another series, Arabian Knights, John provided the voice of the comical genie, Fariek, and the evil Bakaar. That animated series is also on YouTube. I'm embedding this one, specifically, due to John Stephenson having some pretty hefty vocal work in this particular episode.

You'll also hear the vocals of Jay North, Sherry Lewis, Henry Corden, Frank Gerstie, Don Messick, and Paul Frees...



Later on, in various Scooby-Doo episodes, John Stephenson demonstrated his skilled mimicry of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Joe Flynn. Still later he did impressions of Paul Lynde (Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics) in the role of co-host, Mildew Wolf. Lynde had originated the vocal performance in an earlier cartoon series (a segment called "It's the Wolf!!" on the Cattanooga Cats series) but he didn't return for the Laff-a-Lympics series. In the same Laff-a-Lympics series, Stephenson did a Jimmy Durante impression...becoming the new voice of Doggy Daddy (a character that Hanna-Barbera originally produced in the early '60s and voiced by Doug Young). Around the same point in time (mid '70s), Stephenson began voicing numerous villains and secondary characters in the Dynomutt, Dog Wonder series. One such villain, The Blimp, allowed Stephenson to do a vocal impression of Alfred Hitchcock.

I hope you all continue to enjoy the marvelous work of the elusive legend, John Stephenson!!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Guiding Light: 1937-2009...Part 10

I don't know how long these classic Guiding Light clips are going to remain on-line...but for now they're available on YouTube. The first clip is an episode from March 4, 1953 and it includes commercials...but these aren't your ordinary 10 or 20 second commercials which are commonplace today...these happen to be longer and much more detailed commercials and there's only one commercial spot per break. This means that there isn't half a dozen or so commercials flashing up on the screen.

For those not familiar with early television or, particularly, traditional daytime drama, these episodes are going to be a bit of a novelty due to the limited physical acting and the dramatic line readings. The episode centers around the Kathy Roberts Grant court trial...she's on trial for murder...



This episode, featuring James Lipton as Dick Grant, is from April 9, 1953...



This is the era of the soap that featured the step-daughter/step-mother rivalry of Kathy and Meta. In those early years Meta Bauer was married to Joe Roberts (Kathy's father). Prior to this, Meta had been married to a man named Ted White. He later turned up dead and, of course, Meta was the prime suspect of murder...and after a lengthy murder trial there was never an outcome. The judge declared the entire thing a mistrial given the unethical behavior and apparent personal vendetta against Meta by the prosecutor.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Casey Kasem: 1932-2014

I held off doing a blog about the death of Casey Kasem due to the fact that there are literally hundreds of thousands and probably millions of blogs out there (both professional and amateur) detailing his life and career and the gossipy final months of his life. I also am not one to follow the gossip and rumor mills of Hollywood but in order to find out some facts about his career I had to search a lot of the Hollywood blog sites and news sites. I knew of his children and of his wife...years earlier I learned 3 of his 4 kids are from a previous marriage. As I've often commented, I am rarely interested in the personal lives of a celebrity and so I rarely read any of the gossip magazines and celebrity story publications. I first heard of Casey Kasem in the 1980's...I had heard his voice for years on Scooby Doo cartoons...but at that point in time I had no idea the names of the people that voiced cartoon characters. I heard a broadcast of one of his American Top-40 radio programs that my sister had been listening to. She told me to come in her room and hear 'this guy' and that he sounded like Shaggy (from Scooby Doo). That is how I learned the name of the voice of Shaggy...by hearing Casey on the radio for the first time. 

I later seen Casey on the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon. However, aside from Shaggy, the biggest impact Casey had on my youth came throughout the 1990's. He hosted the annual Nick-at-Nite Rerun Countdown each New Year's Eve for many years. Later, as the Super Friends cartoons started to air in reruns again, I learned that Casey voiced Robin...and in many episodes Casey voiced the Justice League computer. I had assumed that Casey had voiced Robin only once in the Scooby Doo meets Batman special...but little did I know that Casey's involvement in voicing Robin went back further...to the late 1960's! It didn't take me long to figure out that Casey was just as busy voicing cartoon characters as he was on the radio. Years later I discovered that he had once hosted a long running syndicated TV series. It never aired in my area...otherwise I may have found it...but it was called American Top-10. I posted a clip of him hosting the series in my previous blog. It ran for 12 years (1980-1992). In addition to that he also voiced promotional advertisements for NBC-TV's line-up of programming. Ernie Anderson and Danny Dark (the latter the voice of Superman in the Super Friends cartoons) did voice over promo's during the same era.

So, yes, Casey Kasem had his greatest impact on me by way of cartoons. I've long since learned about his vast career in radio and TV and each Saturday and Sunday morning I listen to the classic AT40 countdowns. On Saturday mornings it's AT40 Flashback: The '80s and on Sunday mornings it's AT40 Flashback: The '70s. Since his death on June 15th I don't know if those programs will continue for much longer or if they'll continue to air as a lasting memorial to his radio legacy. I hope they continue to air. Each program aired this past weekend (June 21 and June 22) and if they air this coming weekend I'll make the assumption that the programs are here to stay...for the time being.

Casey Kasem: 1932-2014