Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Duck Who Wasn't

Everyone knows Frank Milano was the voice of Donald Duck. Well, he was. Just not the way you think.

Clarence Nash portrayed Donald in the Disney cartoons and, I presume, on Disneyland Records. But another record company released children’s 45s and 78s featuring cartoon characters, and it generally didn’t get the original cast members, more than likely for contractual reasons. So Golden Records in New York made do with radio actors Gil Mack and Frank Milano imitating Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear and Donald Duck with varying degrees of success—or lack thereof, if you’ve heard the records.

That isn’t taking away anything from Mack and Milano. They were excellent radio actors and they both did some cartoon work on the East Coast. But they simply weren’t Mel Blanc or Daws Butler and their versions of the Warners and Hanna-Barbera characters sounded inept at times.

We wrote a post about Milano over at the Yowp blog some time ago. This post features a different biography on Milano, from the front page of the Chatham Courier of February 1, 1951. The writer remains anonymous.

Versatile Frank Milano Is Donald Duck’s Voice:
Hillsdale Farmer is TV’s Top-Animal Noise Maker
When television and movie studios want anything from cricket sounds to lion roars, airplanes, bus, train, wind, and trick voices, as well as special effects, there's only one person they can call on and that's Frank Milano, a resident of the Town of Hillsdale.
Frank, a robust, locquacious, pipe-smoking young man in his middle 30's, moved to Columbia County in May, 1949. He and his wife, a mechanical engineer, wanted to “get away from it all” and purchased the former Silas Jones home where, this summer, they will farm 300 acres. We visited the Milanos last week and found Frank waiting for us at the end of a lane on the Philmont-Craryville road.
His love for animals and animal noises began when he was a youngster in his native Wilmington, Del. His father, an avid botanist and astronomer, took the boy out into the woods and by the time he was seven, when his father died, young Frank was well versed in the science of woodlore.
After his father's death young Milano went through Wilmington's schools and when his heart and mind turned to the stage, like all young hopefuls he headed for New York. This was in 1941 and Pearl Harbor clashed his immediate hopes for a theatrical career. He was turned down by the Armed Services and returned to Wilmington to work in the ship yards as.a morale director. The management evidently thought morale was high enough and the job was abolished. Frank soon found himself bound for Europe with Raymond Massey's U.S.O. troupe in the stage production "Our Town." The thespians toured the soldier circuit through England, France and Germany. Playgoers may recall that "Our Town" was done without scenery using only the stage walls as backdrops. In the production there was need of chicken sounds, train whistles and dogs howling. Frank filled the bill perfectly and "barked for cash" each time he wasn't on stage.
When the war ended, he headed for Hollywood but by this time he decided that a career of eating one week and starving the next was not for Milano. His career now would be NOISES—nothing, else.
With this in mind, he returned to New York and his success was immediate. He appeared on the Milton Berle radio show, the Lux Radio Theatre, Admiral TV show and filled in with his cricket-to-lion noises on a dozen more programs.
Along with Mel Blanc, Milano is probably the top cartoon voice man in the business. He's the voice of Mighty Mouse in the popular Paul Terry "Terrytoons", but most of his time is taken up as "Little Nipper" on the Rooty Kazooty program, a children's puppet show, televised over NBT each Saturday morning and sponsored by RCA.
Rooty is a typical American boy! He loves baseball, football and boxing, and his constant companion is "Little Nipper", a tiny dog, supposedly the son of the famous Victor trademark, the forlorn-looking white canine who has been listening for "His Master's Voice" for the last half century.
Milano does the voice or "Nipper", as the little dog and Rooty stage a weekly war against a villainous character, "Poison Zoomac." On Rooty's side, too, is "Pepito Mosquito", who though unseen, creates plenty of trouble on the video screen.
"How does Pepito sound?", we inquired innocently. Immediately the room was filled with buzzing, which reached a crescendo and ended up with a Boinnnng! The ‘Boinnng’ was the sting.
Along with "Nipper", Milano portrays El Sqeeko, a Mexican mouse who is a "catador" and Madame Gizzi Gazizzi, an opera singer. To do the half hour show, the Hillsdale farmer-noisemakcr puts in several hours work each week.
In the near future he'll do the voice of Donald Duck and Pluto the Pup on a new children's record album, and only recently he and Bob Smith completed the waxing of Howdy Doody's Laughing Circus in which Milano was "Charlie the Chattering Chimpanzee."
Between these shows he sandwiches in a few extra noises with Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders on the Mutual Broadcasting System. That Milano is versatile is proven by the fact that he does Bobby's horse Amigo, a dog named "Hero", and a pet' skunk. "Honeysuckle", without flubbing a decibel.
We asked Frank what he did when he wasn't in a recording studio or at his Hillsdale farm. "You'll find me at the Bronx Zoo", was the prompt reply, "I like to listen to animals.

Milano died in New York on December 15, 1962, age 64.


  1. And here all this time I thought that Tommy Morrison was the speaking voice of Mighty Mouse and Roy Hallee was the singing voice. Thanks for the learning experience, Yowp.

  2. Of course, it wasn't just the non-studio record divisions that did these subsitutions, with HBR records and Disneyland records using replaced c asts (Allan Melvin as Yogi, Daws Butler as Top Cat, Disneyland storyteller Robie Lester doing a number of Pooh siode characters with Sam Edwards as Tigger and Owl though rest-assured Sterling Holloway's always there as the silly old poem intended.) The near forgotten Lux (Soap) Radio shows did this too..Steve

  3. Millano was really hacking years off his age for the Chatham scribe, if they say, "Frank, a robust, locquacious, pipe-smoking young man in his middle 30's, moved to Columbia County in May, 1949..." and he passed away 15 years later at age 64.