Bear Manor Books

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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.


  • http://inklingstudio.typepad.com/chronicles David Nethery

    Great links , Jerry. Thanks . All of those books look to be of interest.

    Another of Walter Tetley’s credits: he contributed great voice work on several of Stan Freberg’s recordings , including “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America: Volume One”

  • Al Smith

    Paul Frees was a close pal of Elvis Presley, who was amused by his vocal prowess. Imagine the sounds of Frees’ many voices and Elvis choking on burned bacon during laughing fits when he was over.

  • Christopher Cook

    I saw Jack Mercer on “To Tell The Truth” around 1975 as one of the teams of challengers in a particular game. Had I been the querying panelists I would have disqualified myself as Jack’s regular voice gave himself away–it’s the same voice he uses at the end of the first part of the Felix The Cat cartoons that says “What will happen to Felix in the next exciting chapter of ‘The Adventures Of Felix The Cat’?”

    And at the end of the game, Jack regaled one and all with a chorus of “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man.”

  • RAB SMITH

    Didn’t MAE QUESTEL ‘double in’ for JACK MERCER as the voice of ‘POPEYE’ when Jack had to enlist during WWII?—–apparantly, she was such a consumatte artist, that no-one noticed at the time……..

  • Bill Field

    I wish they would just squeeze all 3 together in one Volume! I’m hoping they’ll eventually show up at Half-Price Books. Amazing thing about Jack, HE WAS ALL THE VOICES IN THE FELIX ’58-’59 SERIES!
    That never ceases to amaze me.

  • http://www.filmbuffonline.com Rich Drees

    I’ve always enjoyed Walter Tetley’s work on the old PHIL HARRIS/ALICE FAYE radio show. Is there much space in the book given to his work there?

  • http://www.otterslide.com Bryon Carson

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Harris/Faye and Gildersleeve radio shows show lately and developed more than a passing interest in Walter Tetley’s work. The web has precious little info on him and I see now why. He was great at what he did both on the radio and in cartoons.

  • http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/ booksteve

    While you’re all over at Bear Manor Media’s website, check out the just-published book, WELL! REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JACK BENNY. There’s a piece in it co-written by my friend Derek Tague that details Jack’s surprisingly many appearances in cartoons over the years! There’s also a piece by me interviewing the great Batton Lash about the Benny issue of WOLFF AND BYRD!

  • Ken Layton

    I also saw Jack Mercer on that episode of “To Tell The Truth”. It was broadcast sometime between July 12 and August 1 of 1974. I recorded it on an audio cassette back then and those are the two dates I wrote on it. I still have the cassette and it’s still in great shape. I listen to it once in a while.

  • http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com Kliph

    I too am a big fan of the work that Ben Ohmart and the work that his Bear Manor Media do. They do a great job of publishing books on great subjects who have, sadly, very little information about them in print form. However, I often find the books poorly written and full of typos, but they are obviously the lowest of low budget publishing houses so I cut them some slack. They are definitely filling a void.

    For those who have trouble finding their books in stores or don’t want to put forth a lot of dough, I recommend signing up fer your local library’s “inter-library” loan service. I got the Paul Frees book sent to me from Seattle and the Daws Butler book sent my way from St. Louis free of charge – and I live in Vancouver.