Wednesday, 21 March 2012

June Foray

There might be a debate over who is the best cartoon voice actress of all time, but I’ll bet you there would be almost unanimous, universal consent over who is the most beloved.

Can it be anyone else but June Foray?

I have decided, for no particular reason other than I love her work, to declare this June Foray Day on the Tralfaz and Yowp blogs. You’ll be able to read old newspaper clippings about June on both, stories written before she was tipsy-fied by Jay Ward and Bill Scott into accepting what’s probably her most popular role as Rocket J. Squirrel in 1959.

Newspapers before 1950 mentioned June on rare occasion, generally in radio listings for a show called “Smile Time.” It was a daily, 15-minute comedy broadcast that debuted December 31, 1945 on the Mutual network and starred Steve Allen and Wendell Noble. Soon after the show started, one radio column noted (no doubt assisted by a network handout):

June Foray, star of “Smile Time”, can do most anything with her vocal chords—she has been the parrot in Spike Jones’ “Chloe”, the hiccup of Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake, and can imitate every animal sound imaginable.

Earlier in the year, one newspaper noted her role on “A Man Called Jordan” as “an exotic German spy” (Hmmm. Shades of Natasha?) and as a 13-year-old Arab boy. And, the following year, she was hired to play a pain-in-the-butt tenant of Stu Erwin in the long-forgotten “Phone Again Finnegan” on CBS radio.

Like almost everyone else in radio, June made the jump to television. Oddly enough,
Steve Allen didn’t use her on his television show; maybe it was due to the late hours. June did appear on an early Johnny Carson show (April 20, 1953) based in Los Angeles. The big-name guest was Fred Allen.

Syndicated columnist Al Morton had this cute little biography of June on August 6, 1953. The reference to little old ladies is interesting, given her later career at Warners.

One of the most surprising voices in show business belongs to a pint-sized, throaty girl who says she always wanted to be a leading lady but ended up a character.
She’s June Foray, who can deliver any one of a thousand voices, human or animal, at the drop of a cue. She’ll be exhibiting her vocal talents over ABC-TV on Saturday, Aug. 22, when “Smilin’ Ed’s Gang” makes its debut.
Her own description of her unusual talent range is “anything that walks or crawls.” It all started when June was six. Her mother thought her voice was too low and marched her off to a dramatic school to “elevate her sounds to a more ladylike pitch.” This instigated, instead, such an interest in the theater that June is still with it.
Throughout her schooling, June did summer stock. By the time she reached her early teens, she has tried every role from the town moppet to Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth—with a specialty of being very good in portraying “little old ladies.”
June has done voices for many cartoons and juvenile record albums. She was a cat in Walt Disney’s “Cinderella,” and imitated two mermaids and an old squaw in “Peter Pan.”
June, dark-eyed, size eight and four feet 11 inches tall, is an apartment dweller whose favorite companion is Katrina, a two-year-old Daschshund. June says Katrina has a fairly man-sized bark, but not “half as good as mine.”
Incidentally, one of her favorite pastimes is barking at the neighborhood dogs before she leaves home in the mornings. More than once she has had the whole canine' populace of her block in an uproar—not to mention the neighbors.

The United Press concentrated on her film work in this 1951 story.

Screams for Living
HOLLYWOOD, March 26 (U.P.)— Tiny June Foray, who screams for a living, recommended screaming today for anybody desiring a sexy voice and a slim tummy.
Miss Foray, a “voice specialty” actress, is never seen on the screen. But when the celluloid heroine lets loose a blood-curdling yell, it’s often Miss Foray on the sound track, not the star.
By now, she says, she has “a very firm diaphragm.” Her own voice isn’t husky, but she says a certain kind of screaming can make anybody’s that way.
Lauren Bacall got her boudoir voice by screaming on orders from her discoverer, Howard Hawks.
“You can get a husky voice by screaming incorrectly, with your throat,” she explained. “You strain your throat muscles, what I call ‘stroking the glottis.’
“When I scream I keep an open throat and yell from the diaphragm. That’s good exercise for the stomach.”
Miss Foray has the job of making movies “shriller than ever” because, she said, movie stars are too embarrassed to.
“When a movie actress screams, out comes a little ‘eek.’ They never let loose, so their scream has to be redubbed on the sound track,” the pretty screamer said.
“I guess movie stars are afraid of straining their voices or embarrassed. You have to be be uninhibited to scream.”
June looks like she’d never got more than a whisper out of her pert four feet 11 inches. But she’s hollered on movie sound tracks for glamour queens like Paulette Goddard, Joan Caulfield and Veronica Lake.
She’s also sneezed for Constance Collier, made whooping cough noises for a boy in “Shepherd of the Hills,” sobbed for Olivia De Havilland’s baby in “To Each His Own,” and is now doing seven different children’s voices in Walt Disney’s “Peter Pan.”
On the radio she’s an actress who screams for herself. For NBC’s “Smilin’ Ed McConnell” children’s adventure program she plays everything from a space siren to a horrible witch to a cat, sometimes all on the same program.
“I use different types of screams to register fright, surprise, anger and pleasant surprise,” she said. “The hardest was for a movie, ‘Burma Surgeon.’ I screamed for one hour and got a headache.”

June helped in the war effort in Korea. The United Press wrote about her travails in a story for newspapers of December 16, 1954, revealing how a star’s life is different than ours’.

USO Troupers Head Overseas
HOLLYWOOD — (U.P.) — Terry Moore and other stars get most of the glory when Army planes take off today and next week to overseas, but there is many an unsung heroine in the troupe.
At no pay, a loss in salary and considerable expense, singer June Foray, for example, had to do the following to get ready for the USO trek that brings Yuletide cheer to GIs far from home;
Take tetanus, typhoid, small pox, diphtheria and cholera shots; get a passport, do her Christmas shopping, mail Christmas cards, rehearse her act for two weeks with other members of the 71-performer troupe, do her regular work at Capitol Records, attend Army briefings, leave her cat at cat motel, make her costume, buy winter underwear, pay her bills, insure her fur coat, postpone work dates until she gets back in three weeks, make out a will, and get her hair bleached.
Typical of Most.
“But it’s worth it,” laughed June as she packed her suitcase before stepping on the plane en-route to Iceland, France and Germany.
“When the Army told us the boys appreciate our giving up our Christmas to entertain them, we felt kind of happy to do something good for them.”
June, a little-known singer and mimic who records cartoon voices for records and movies, is typical of most of the show people making the trip. She's a veteran of
10 years of “Tom and Jerry” movies, radio, TV and “Woody Woodpecker” records, and was asked by USO to work up a comedy-imitations act.
To Look Feminine.
The troupers get $10 a day expense money and their board and room, but, except for the union musicians, no salary. Terry, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope and other stars have received headlines for their trips to Army bases. But June and other troupers wade through snow, work two or three shows a day, travel by Jeep and get little sleep with no recognition.
“Forrest Tucker, the star of our group, won’t let us girls wear slacks,” June added. “He thinks the GIs will want us to look feminine.”
Disc Jockey Johnny Grant, another unsung hero of the USO troupe, left today on his seventh overseas trip to entertain homesick GIs at forgotten bases in the Orient.

Why did June get into voice acting in the first place? Let’s hear from her in her own words, written in the Pasadena Independent of July 9, 1959.

Girl Behind Voice Likes Her Calling
A small number of people in Hollywood earn their living in what amounts to a really offbeat fashion. I’m one of them.
I specialize in imitating all sorts of voices for TV and radio commercials, motion picture cartoons and sometimes for big-name stars whose dialogue, for some reason or other, did not record well. My voice is heard by millions of people daily and to them I’m more vocal than visual as I seldom appear before the cameras.
From time to time, I have been seen on the Jack Benny and other television shows, but principally my work is confined to doing all types of voices—from babies to witches and then some.
Why have I specialized in this field? Well, for one reason I’m rather short to play leading roles. And another is that I have developed an ability to imitate all sorts of people am in this area, there isn’t as much competition as in the straight acting field. Economically, too, it has its rewards and I’m frank to admit that money is always desirable when you earn it by delivering an effective and conscientious job.
My voice has been heard, impersonating all sorts of characters, on such cartoons as
“Woody Woodpecker,” and “Bugs Bunny.”
I have worked with the great Stan Freberg on practically all of his records and radio shows. A lot of people remember “St. George and the Dragonette” for example and, more recently, the “Best of Freberg,” album.
I’m practically a voice detached from a body, but I love my work—and its financial rewards. And another good angle is the fact that in the far distant future, I won't have to worry about my appearance—only my voice which, from all indications, is holding up well despite its constant use, professionally, that is.
I dare you to turn on your radio or TV set without hearing me.

These days, perhaps you can find her on TV constantly, but you can on video-sharing web sites with endless cartoons. Let’s end our June Foray Day post with a fan-made video of a few of June’s most famous animated roles.


  1. I forget who said it, but someone said that June Foray was the female Mel Blanc. "No", the person corrected "Mel Blanc is the male June Foray!" .