While I was traveling to New York and Canada last week, I had the opportunity to catch up on several new books – including a trio of biographies about three of my favorite classic cartoon voice actors, Paul Frees, Walter Tetley and Jack Mercer.
All three are published by small independent publisher Ben Ohmart of BearManor Media out of Albany Georgia. Ohmart has devoted himself to publishing books based on his favorite performers from old time radio, movies and classic television. His book on Daws Butler (written with Joe Bevilaquca) is highly recommended. The BearManor books are less indepth biography, and more a celebration of the professional careers of each subject; enthusiastic compilations of available facts and rare photos with great anecdotes and quotes.
Welcome Foolish Mortals… The Life and Voices of Paul Frees (by Ohmart, with a foreword by June Foray and an afterward by Keith Scott) was fascinating. I never knew much about the man behind the voices (Ludwig Von Drake, Boris Badanov, the Haunted Mansion, The Beary Family, Super President, etc.), and this career survey by Ohmart does a lot to explain who he was and his eccentricities. I come away with even more admiration for Free’s talents and insight into his offbeat, off-mike character.
Walter Tetley: For Corn’s Sake (by Ohmart and Charles Stumpf) presents all available information on the mysterious Mr. Tetley (voice of Walter Lantz’ Andy Panda and Sherman, of Jay Ward’s Peabody & Sherman) and his acting in numerous radio shows and movies. After a promising start in radio and movies in the 1930s, his career was hit or miss through the early 60s. His final years were particularly depressing.
He Am What He Am! Jack Mercer, The Voice Of Popeye (by Fred M. Grandinetti) relies on conversations and correspondence with the surviving Mrs. Mercer, and in-depth interviews with Mercer himself by Mike Barrier and Tom Hatten (both reprinted here, in full). Great illustrations including trade ads, rare photos and correspondence from Fleischer and Famous Studios highlight the book. Grandinetti spends a little too much time indexing the exact characters Mercer voiced in hundreds of cartoons… a thankless task, to be sure. Mercer is long overdue for recognition of his animation contributions (as an artist, an animation storyman, and the voice of Popeye and Felix the Cat). This book is a small step in the right direction.
All three books contain in-depth filmographies, credits and appearence listings. If you are interested in these performers you might find them of great value. For more information check the BearManor website.