Monday, August 10, 2009

June Foray: The Autobiography

This book about the first lady of voice acting, called Did You Grow Up With Me, Too?, chronicles the life and times both on and off the air of June Foray. There are quite a collection of pictures of June and her voice acting that caught my eye right away, given that it was the first picture in the book, is a glorious picture of June surrounded by 5 amazingly talented people in the animation business. They're all standing side by side. There are pictures of June during the 1940's and 1950' of her, Stan Freberg, and Daws Butler and pictures of character's she gave voice to. It's a nice balance between her career and personal life, which of course is what an autobiography is. The epilogue section was written by June and it's dated July, 2009. Leonard Maltin wrote the forward...and do you know the story behind June Foray having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? You'll find out within the pages of this book.

A lot of the book is broken up into chapters that follow a theme. Near the end of the book there's a chapter dedicated to a few people June knew that are no longer living. Bill Scott, Jay Ward, Paul Frees, and a few others. She tells the intricate details of what "looping" means and she explains that it's wise to be punctual because it pays by the hour. Chapter Eight, called "My Rocky Life" is dedicated to her being cast in the Bullwinkle series, once known as Rocky and His Friends. This is where she remembers much of the Jay Ward era and offers pictures that were taken in the studio with her and Bill Scott and there's a picture of her, Bill, and Jay Ward; and a picture of her and Paul Frees. There are cartoon stills of the characters. In Chapter seven, called "Chuck Who?" for comical purposes, is about her association with Warner Brothers director, Chuck Jones. The chapter was called that because June didn't know who Chuck Jones was. In a lot of her interviews she admits to not being much of a cartoon watcher so she didn't really know who made the cartoons. Chuck cast her as Witch Hazel, the name of another witch that the Disney studio cast her as.

Legal acrobatics enabled Warner Brothers to continue using the Witch Hazel name. Bea Benaderet, the prominent female voice on mostly all of the Warner Brothers cartoons before June came along, was the original voice of Witch Hazel and was the original voice of Granny...Bea had did the Granny voice for almost 15 years before June took over the role in the top of my head I believe Bea started voicing Granny somewhere around 1943 or 1944. It was Bea's on-camera work in Burns and Allen plus her other on-camera assignments that led to her cartoon roles being re-cast in the mid 1950's. Her workload had become too hectic to continue and so she concentrated more on the TV sitcom's she appeared in.

June's been the voice of both characters, Witch Hazel and Granny, ever since...her most recent assignment as Granny was the Baby Looney Tunes series a few years back. There is an interesting story that June talks about when it came time to cast the voice actors for the Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries series in 1994/1995. According to June, the producers were wanting her to come in an audition for the role of Granny...whoever was in charge apparently wanted the Granny voice to resemble the one provided by Bea Benaderet. June recalls how outraged she felt but then lets us in on how she came about being cast as Granny on the Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries after all.

This brings me to a small little rant that I have about such things. When a voice actor or actress plays a role for a good number of years, he or she pretty much know the in's and out's of the character{s} they voice and the producers or casting directors should give the voice actors and actresses associated with the role automatic casting because of the proven track record. I feel the only time a character's voice should be re-cast is if the voice actor/actress can no longer do an adequate job...meaning they've lost their voice. I don't think a voice artist loses their natural whether someone is 21, 41, 61, 81, or 91, if he or she is still capable of doing their job they should be given the first shot and THEN if the producer isn't satisfied then a re-cast should happen. This notion that you have to audition voice actors for roles they've played for decades is ludicrous and offensive to the voice artist, as you'll see when you read June's thoughts about it.

In the "Chuck Who?" section she talks about how she was called on to do the voice of an Irish lady from the waist down on Chuck's version of Tom and Jerry plus she talks about the various witch characters she has performed. It is also in this chapter where she relates a story about cigarette smoking and how it was a big advertising sponsor at one time. There's a priceless story about how she gave up smoking but a lot of others didn't and she tells about a recording session in the mid 1980's during the revival of The Jetsons and it involves Mel Blanc. It's a cute little story about Mel's smoking in the studio. There's a picture of June and Mel in the studio, too.

As I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few pictures...and there's one on page 129 of June and some friends at the 1974 Annie Awards. Before any can ask, the Annie Awards is short for the Animation Awards...a gala where animation big-wigs and voice actors and actresses gather. It's much like the typical awards programs you see but cartoons are being honored and celebrated instead of live-action.

One of the things you may or may not notice is that the chapter's are short...well, a lot of them are. "Chuck Who?" is a rather lengthy chapter as is "My Rocky Life". There's a section called "The War Years" where she talks about her career doing radio shows and offers a picture of her as part of a dance group. She makes a lot of jokes about her short stature and reflects that her short stature must have been a good reason she clicked so well with Daws Butler in the recording studio.

It's really a great look at June's life and career.

If you do much You Tube searching, be sure to look up some clips of Ma and Pa Kettle. The clips will feature an actress, Marjorie Main, in the role of Ma Kettle. This is the voice that June based a lot of the older lady types on...the voice is heard prominently in Fractured Fairy Tales, a segment in the Rocky and Bullwinkle series. June usually gave fairy godmothers or witches that voice. In the Disney cartoons, Duck Tales and Gummi Bears, June gave the Ma Beagle and Grammi Gummi characters the Marjorie Main vocal characterization.

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