Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Bugs!

Melvin was the kind of kid who struggled in school.

He was smart enough, but often bored stiff.

Once when skipping class, he found the halls of Lincoln High School had the perfect echo. He started doing cackles just to see how they echoed. Then he ran straight into the principal.

A fidgety type, Melvin had a hard time paying attention in class, often disrupting the concentration of other students with his wisecracks. The typical "class clown", he had a way of getting attention by imitating different ethnic voices all around him, especially the Japanese grocery clerk who lived around the corner.

He was also allergic to carrots.

But, that's not important right now.

Growing up in Portland, Oregon, attending Lincoln High, he changed the spelling of his last name after being told by one of his teachers that he would never amount to anything. The teacher went on to say that, Melvin would turn out just like his name - a complete blank.

And that's how a 16-year old went from from “Blank” to “Blanc”.

Decades later, a respected columnist in the L.A. Times would write, "For the majority of us, the sassiness of our childhood, muttered alone in bed or nursed in sullen silence at the dinner table, had a secret champion in the voices of Mel Blanc".

Those voices would be frozen in our childhood memories with lines like the bewildered, "I tawt I taw a putty tat", the lamenting "SSSSSsssuffering SSSSSuccotash" and the bureaucratic "Train leaving on Track 5 for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc-a-monga".

Perhaps the best known one-liner of them all was the straightforward, "What's up doc"?

On this day, in 1938, the character known as Bugs Bunny made his on screen debut in a Warner Brothers cartoon entitled "Porky's Hare Hunt". And to get the sound just right, Mel would nibble on a raw carrot before using the signature, "What's up doc?" line and then spit out the vegetable before swallowing.

Known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices", Mel also graced us with characters such as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, Barney Rubble and hundreds of others.

And while that wascally wabbit could never seem to follow directions, Mel certainly did.

His own.

"Bugs Bunny represents the suppressed desire of what men would like to do that don't have guts enough to do"


East Coast Gal said...

One of my favourite memories from my Vancouver days was attending "Looney Tunes at the Symphony". Mel Blanc had already passed by this time, but Chuck Jones, who did the cartooning, gave a great talk about the good old days and how they loved to mix in classical music into some of the most famous of the Bugs Bunny cartoons. We were treated to big screen airings of cartoon with the VSO playing "The Barber of Seville", "Ride of the Valkyries", and many more. What a night! What genius!

冠伶 said...