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Bugs Hardaway WWI letters found


Unusual article in today’s L.A. Daily News about a cache of letters dating from 1918, sent by future animation director (Woody Woodpecker voice and Bugs Bunny namesake) Ben Hardaway (above right). The article points out something even more interesting — Ben’s son Bob (above left) is still alive and was a musician with Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Who knew?

(Thanks, Mark Kausler)

  • If Bob Hardaway is still with us, I bet he has some stories to tell about his dad. I hope someone follows up this.

  • So…Mel Blanc gave Hardaway’s nickname to the rabbit? First time I’ve heard that variation.

  • My understanding is Bugs Bunny got his name because the original model sheet said [Bugs’ Bunny] on the top.

  • BunnyFan

    OMG I want that Bugs plushie!

  • What a great story! Cool to hear a jazz connection with Hardaway’s son.

    Didn’t Mel Blanc originally do the voice of Woody Woodpecker followed by Walter Lantz’ wife, Gracie?

  • Excerpted from The Walter Lantz Story by Joe Adamson: “Mel Blanc was no longer supplying Woody’s voice; an exclusive contract with Leon Schlesinger to provide the voice for Bugs, Daffy, Porky and nearly every other character at the Warner Studio . . . prevented him from working for any other producer. Woody’s voice was a sped track anyway . . . so the matter of who provided the voice was academic: Almost any voice, raised to that pitch, produced the same effect. After experimenting with one or two other actors, Walter finally settled for the nearest warm body with an inherent understanding of the character, and that was Bugs Hardaway, who proceeded to do Woody’s voice until the end of the decade. (Except the maniacal laugh. That piece of film on which Blanc recorded that … was the source for every laugh the bird uttered until the fifties.)” That is where Grace (Stafford) Lantz took over. Since the Woody Woodpecker cartoons on volume 1 of the DVD set are in chronological order, you can pretty much pinpoint where Mel Blanc stopped and where Hardaway took over. There’s one voice in there that sounds a bit like Pinto Colvig to me. If you can find a copy of Adamson’s book its well worth getting, especially as a supplement to the DVD sets.

  • Mr. Semaj

    We should get him to post here. He’ll probably clear up a few mysteries behind Bugs’ conception.

  • Bob Hardaway is easy to reach and perfectly pleasant as I last spoke with him. I tracked him down easily with a simple phone search some years ago as I had become interested in the story of Bugs Hardaway. Bob is a highly acclaimed musician who is able to play several different instruments. He still lives in the home that Bugs purchased.
    It was Bob that told me about his father having suffered the health consequences of having been gassed by the Germans and he was suprised to hear that I knew something of the “Dizzy D”. He seems, to me, willing to take phone calls and discuss his memories of Bugs

  • Jennifer Hardaway

    This is Bob’s daughter, Jennifer!

    Yes, my dad is still alive and can tell stories about his dad. (Ben “Bugs” Hardaway). I never met my grandfather. He died at age 62.

    My grandfather was the original drawer of the bunny, who was originally gong to be named, “The Happy Rabbit.” Mel Blanc said, “Why don’t you name him after the cartoonist, Bugs Hardaway. Call him Bugs’ Bunny. And the rest was history. My grandfather got the name “Bugs” because he was a political cartoonist and would sign his name with little bugs following after it. He was a storyboard artist and “director” I think (of cartoons). He also drew Woody Woodpecker.

    My dad still lives in the home my grandparents bought in and around the 1940s. (It was $4500 for the home…yikes).

    The letters from WWI arrived from a relative of my dad. I sat read them aloud to him. It was really cool.

    They didn’t have contracts in those days, so Ben was just a hired cartoonist for Warner Bros.

    If you want to ask my dad anything, I am happy to. (He gave up e-mail..it was too frustrating for him).


  • Seattle Chef’s blog on Mr.Hardaway linked me here…

    First, Jennifer, nice to meet a relative of one of the old time employees. Correct, about Ben-his birthdate was given by at least one reference book at 1892-1957. Jen, was Bob quite fond of Bugs’s shorts?

    Thank you Seattle Chef for linking here.
    Other posters here: Yes, Mel Blanc’s sped voice could be replicated [and, seemingly, any other sped voices—as the countless post-Ross Bagsdarian, Sr. – Chipmunks have proven], and there were several temporary voices for Woody during the 1940s. They were: Jennifer’s grandfather/Ben’s father, possibly Frank Graham, and also possibly Jack Mather [though Blanc recalled in 1988 that he was still doing the voice for animation and didn’t have an exclusive WB contract till 1949 -“That’s not all books”, written the year before his death}.
    Daniele Rossi, indeed….Bob did work with at least one bandleader, Benny Goodman, concurrently with the career of Bob Crosby–brother of Bing.
    Mr.Semaj is right that Bob, if still alive, should post here.:)