Saturday, 20 September 2014

Danny Webb

In the beginning was Mel Blanc. Well, that’s how it seemed.

If you were a kid who watched Warner Bros. cartoons on TV in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, you knew he was the voice of all the characters. The cartoons themselves said so in writing at the beginning. No one else.

A few of those kids grew up to write about the cartoons and pretty soon discovered Mel Blanc wasn’t the only one. They revealed in books there were people named Arthur Q. Bryan and Billy Bletcher and Robert C. Bruce and Stan Freberg and someone you heard on TV cartoons named Daws Butler—and that they were in some of those cartoons, too.

And Danny Webb was another.

Keith Scott, Hames Ware and Graham Webb spent some time unravelling the Webb story, back in a pencil-and-paper day when there was no internet so research meant going to libraries and archives, or doing interviews with old-time animation people. Webb’s career in cartoons was comparatively short and, like fellow Warners and Lantz voice man Kent Rogers, ended when the war came along. Webb emerged from the service and embarked on a new career.

Webb was born David Weberman in New York City, apparently on May 24, 1906, the third child of Herman and Lena (Rubin) Weberman. His father, a mere 5-foot-4, emigrated to the U.S. from Budapest in 1887 and was in the fur business as a cutter and a salesman. When Webb arrived in Hollywood, he was using the name Dave Weber. Daily Variety of October 1, 1938 took note of the change in billing:

Danny Webb Set
Danny Webb signed at Columbia for lead in series of 12 short subjects. First of group is 'Behind the Eight Ball.' Webb was formerly known as Dave Webber, voice dubber for animated cartoons.


Radio Daily first takes notice of him in its edition of April 7, 1937:

Dave Weber, who did the radio star impersonations on the Burns & Allen anniversary show [Feb. 17, 1937], has been signed as comic for Superio Macaroni's half hour variety show with Jimmy Tolson, m.c, going into its third week on KFAC. Studio audience sits at sidewalk cafe tables, eats spaghetti.

Variety began reporting on him soon after. Here are the shorties that only deal with his animation work. Not all of these blurbs are complete. The radio show is intriguing.

Weber's Voice Disguises In Mintz's Short
Charles Mintz’ newest Screen Gem cartoon short subject for Columbia, 'Sing Time,' has gone into production with Joe De Nat handling musical direction and Dave Weber doing a series of vocal impersonations of screen celebs. Short is based on the radio community sing idea and Weber impersonates the voices of such air names as Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Eddie Cantor, Andy Devine and others. (July 2, 1937)

Dave Weber Works
Tregg Brown has engaged Dave Weber, radio comic, for voice effects in Leon Schlesinger cartoons. (Oct. 9, 1937)

Dave Weber to Produce Looney Tunes’ Airer
Dave Weber, who is dialect advisor on Metro's The Girl of the Golden West,' has been signed by A. M. (Doc) Howe to co-produce the radio program of Leon Schlesinger's airing of 'Looney Tunes.' Deal was closed yesterday and program is planned to hit the ether early next year. Charles Isaacs is here to write the programs. Howe is dickering with two important radio advertisers as possible sponsors. (Nov. 13, 1937)

Weber Dialogs Cartoons
Dave Weber has been retained by Sam [Charles] Mintz to record dialog for the new series of cartoons now being animated. (Dec. 2, 1937)

Weber Voices Cartoon
Dave Weber, dialect expert and voice characterizer, has just been signed for the second series of Leon Schlesinger Cartoon Travel-Talks. Weber also did the voices in ‘Pingo Pongo,’ which was held at the Warners Hollywood for four weeks. As yet untitled, this next will be a sequel to ‘Pingo Pongo’ ... (June 6, 1938)

Weber Voice for Metro
Dave Weber has been signed by Milt Gross to do voices in 'Captain and Kids' cartoon at Metro. (June 14, 1938)

Weber Ends Tales
Dave Weber has finished recording comedy voices in first of Krazy Kat's Fairy Tales cartoon series at the Mintz [studio]... (July 9, 1938)

This week is a busy one for Danny Webb, signed to appear in Columbia's 'Wreckage' with Jack Holt. Webb is also under contract to Columbia for series of shorts. In addition, Webb, who until recently was known as Dave Weber, has drawn comedy narrator spot for Walter Lantz cartoon, 'Birth of a Toothpick,' for Universal and will also dub in voice of Jimmie Fidler in a 'Looney Toon' short for Leon Schlesinger. (Oct. 20, 1938)

Andy Panda is mute. So are Krazy Kat and Scrappy. Their collective voice, Danny Webb, is making a noise like a soldier for Uncle Sam. (May 16, 1941)


Webb enlisted five days after that last story and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He was soon working on short films at Ft. Monmouth before going overseas.

A story in the March 26, 1939 Brooklyn Daily Eagle states that Webb had been providing voices in animation for three years (“Lionel Barrymore and Herman Bing, Chinaman, Russian and Swede, Oswald the Rabbit, Pete the Pup and Scrappy”). Keith Scott points out his first job at Warners was in the 1936 cartoon “The Coo-Coo Nut Grove.” He also mentions that Webb never appeared in “Pingo Pongo.” The “sequel” is likely “A Day at the Zoo” (which did feature Webb).

Weekly Variety of November 29, 1944 had this cute story of Webb during the war:

Inside Stuff—Radio
Danny Webb, XGI, currently being offered as the radio voice of “Sad Sack,” figured in an unusual incident some months ago in Algiers. Happened when Humphrey Bogart was oversees on an entertainment tour and was unable to make a broadcast skedded for the Army station in Algiers. Rather than drop the program. Major Andre Baruch, in charge of the station, called Webb and had him do his Bogey imitation, using the same script latter was to have read. GI audience took the imitation for the real thing. Prior to induction two years ago, Webb did mimicry act billed “The Man of 100 Voices.” Also did cartoon voices for Columbia and Walt Disney.


Weekly Variety was based in New York City and that’s where ex-G.I. Webb had returned after his medical discharge in October of ‘44. No more animated cartoons for him. Instead, he plunged into radio. He was signed to host the quiz show “Guess Who,” replacing Peter Donald on May 12, 1945. He walked off the show in August when, according to Walter Winchell, his sponsor wouldn’t send a show to a veterans hospital.

Television was slowly expanding in New York. Webb made the jump into TV in August 1947, when what networks there were broadcast only sporadically. Billboard announced he would host a comics show on WABD (DuMont) with an eight-year-old girl co-starring. It aired once. He was at WPIX the following June with “Comics on Parade,” where he would read newspaper comics on the air while the camera showed the panels. Here’s a story from the Eagle of April 3, 1949, the closest thing to a biography on Webb I’ve found. Either the reporter evidently couldn’t distinguish “Bugs Bunny” from “being in a Bugs Bunny cartoon” or Webb was padding his resume.

Video Reader Of Comics Puts Accent on Fan
Danny Webb never says “cop.”' He says “policeman.” For “gorilla” he substitutes “big monkey.” He reads the comics on a television program daily and he doesn't want any scared kids listening to HIS program.
“It’s not necessary,” says Danny. “Make them understand that the comics are just kidding anyhow, all in fun, and they can get a kick out of them without any disturbing after-effects.”
Danny Webb lives at 474 Brooklyn Ave. “with my folks,” who are Mr. and Mrs. Herman Webberman. He signed the first five-year contract for a television show with WPIX, does 15 minutes of comics interpretation every night, beginning at 5.
He's a bachelor, in his mid-thirties, loves kids.
“Always have. All the neighborhood kids are my pals. The little ones come running down the block when they see me coming, yell “Danny, Danny!” Folks who don't know me think they’re saying “Daddy, Daddy!” Embarrassing, a little, but nice.”
Danny Webb, besides interpreting comics, is a bonafide comic himself. He was born at 163 Hewes St., took off from there after a suitable interval in which he acquired sufficient schooling, and has been heard over a period of years by the movie-going public as the voice of “Bugs Bunny” and other cartoon characters. He was with MGM and later Columbia, where he was the voice of “Krazy Kat.”
“That’s not all,” said Danny. “I came back to Brooklyn and started out again, this time on the borscht circuit. I wanted a fling at vaudeville.”
About this time the war came along and Danny went into the army in the Signal Corps.
The Original Sad Sack
“I was the original Sad Sack,” he boasted. “Nothing fitted me.”
He is a short man, can look doleful without effort. He got to Algiers. So, it will be recalled, did General Eisenhower. He found Danny the number one entertainer in those parts, gave him the title “Comedy Commander.” Danny went on from Africa to tell his jokes throughout most of the ETO.
On his television program, Danny has a young assistant, 12-year-old Toby Sommers, another Brooklynite, who lives at 142 S. 9th Street. It’s Toby’s role to be read to on the program, but she gets to do considerable acting herself.
Danny writes his own scripts, does “an Edward G. Robinson impression” if there’s a gangster character, does a Humphrey Bogart impersonation if there are two. “Kids recognize these characters, get a laugh out of something with which they are already familiar in the movies,” said Danny. “A gangster isn’t terrifying, they know everything will come out all right, if he’s talking with a Robinson or a Bogart voice.”
On Sundays Danny has a half-hour show, on which he features guests representing youth organizations, such as Boy Scouts (of which he is an honorary member), PAL, Camp Fire Girls and other groups.


In September 1951, Webb broadcast a 15-minute weekday show called “The Big ‘n’ Little Club Party.” It disappeared on December 21st and, apparently, so did Webb. The only reference I can find to him after that is a squib in Variety of March 13, 1957 wherein it explains the ex-vaudevillian is a production assistant on the show “Wide Wide World.” Ironically, there was a Warner Bros. cartoon spoof of that show called “Wild Wild World” released in 1960. By then, Webb’s career at the studio 20 years earlier was forgotten until dug up years later by animation historians.

The New York Times of September 21, 1983 reported his death and burial took place on September 16th. Just four perfunctory sentences. Nothing about his career. Considering he was a pioneer in many ways, that’s sad. But we’ve been able to rectify it a bit with this post.

7 comments:

  1. “…to co-produce the radio program of Leon Schlesinger's airing of 'Looney Tunes.'”?

    I have no idea what this might mean. Was there actually a “Looney Tunes Radio Program”?

    I’m completely at a loss…

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  2. There was a mooted radio show to be based on the characters appearing in Looney Tunes, but it didn't eventuate. It was going to be a competitor to Disney's radio series for Pepsodent, THE MICKEY MOUSE THEATRE (January to May 1938). I suspect the fact that Disney's show only lasted 20 weeks meant that potential sponsors couldn't be convinced to pay for another cartoon based radio show.

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  3. He also had a talent show for kids on tv

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    Replies
    1. Yes..I was on it

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    2. Do you have copy of tv guide type magazine that had article about his show?

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  4. Do you have mag articles?

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