Saturday, 12 December 2015

Fox, Crow, Wolfie—Frank Graham

You’ll burn holes with your eyes through the film of a Columbia Fox and Crow cartoon before you find any screen credit about who provided the voices for either character. Same with the narrator in Car of Tomorrow, one of Tex Avery’s spot gag shorts at MGM. Or Wolfie whistling at Red in a bunch of Avery cartoons. Or the voice rhyming like Dr. Seuss in Horton Hatches the Egg at Warner Bros. That’s because Frank Graham never got his name on the screen for any of the cartoons featuring his voice. And there were a lot of them, once you start to add them up.

Update: Keith Scott, who is more well-versed on this than anyone on the planet, tells me Graham received screen credit on Disney’s The Three Caballeros.

Graham ended his life at the age of 35 in 1950. We’ve written about it in this post. Let’s post something a little more pleasant, and give you a bit of an idea about Graham’s non-cartoon career. Like almost all the professionals who lent their voices to cartoon characters, Graham’s real work was in radio. Unlike television, where endless rehearsals and memorisation translate into an actor being on one show, radio actors ran (literally) from programme to programme, network to network, racking up all kinds of work (and money) in a week. Graham was one of them. He later went into producing shows with Van Des Autels. Here’s a little profile of his radio career to date from Radio Life magazine, January 14, 1945.

Thank Your Lucky Stars
By Peggy Carter

Frank Graham and Lady Luck Haven't Missed Yet He Likes To Take It Easy and Does
FRANK GRAHAM is not only on the good side of Lady Luck herself, but possesses the rare touch of Midas. Fifty percent of that winning combination plus fifty percent of perspiration have landed Mr. Graham on the top of that radio heap labeled "actor-announcer." He boasts that there is just enough ham in him to enjoy his dual role.
When Radio Life recently called upon Frank we found him reluctant to talk about his past experiences. ("People won't be interested," he said.) He would much rather talk about his present chores. He is very pleased with the seven or eight shows of which he is a "regular." He is fond of his home. He is fond of his wife. In fact he likes to talk about everything but his beginnings in show business.
Frank Graham is a slight man to possess such a big voice. During the course of our conversation he would lapse into a Brooklyn accent, then quickly switch to the broadest of "A's" and perhaps finish in his best pear-shaped tones. He talks quite animatedly, constantly gesticulating to emphasize a point. He immediately captures one's attention and holds it.
How He Started
At fourteen, Frank insisted on a dramatic career. Against Papa's wishes he joined the Seattle Repertory Playhouse, which he now regards as the best training ground an actor could have. By the time he was seventeen his fanatic love for the theater had not passed (as Papa had hoped it would). Unfortunately, the Grahams' business was transferring them to California. Young Frank abandoned his southward-bound family and chose to stay in Seattle. From then on he was on his own and thus was born the "no-dough" days.
Frank, who was coining no money at the theater, made a deal with Seattle's two leading hotels. In exchange for washing dishes at one, he was given his meals. In exchange for washing windows at the other, he was given a place to sleep. For over a year and a half, he recalls, he never got enough sleep and always smelled of chicken grease.
If radio hadn't entered his life at that point poor Frank thinks he might still be carrying on the hotel routine. Through his connections with the Repertory Players he landed an announcing -acting spot for a local station. "Ah, ha," he laughs, "the dough started rolling in." He was making three dollars a week. But the "dough" kept rolling and pretty soon he was making the phenomenal sum of nine dollars a week and even reached the staggering proportions of nine dollars for a single radio appearance.
Then to Hollywood
After a successful career as Seattle's first free -lance announcer, he was "lured" to Hollywood. He really came down for a week -end visit. He has never gone back. That was in 1937.
He became a staff announcer for Station KNX and in 1938 his "Night Cap Yarns" were born. This (his favorite program) lengthened into 730 stories in which he acted every part. Then came the "Professor Cosmo Jones" series. An outgrowth of this was the Republic picture of the same name in which Frank starred.
Today his conservatively-garbed figure can be viewed at the mike as announcer on the Nelson Eddy program, and the Ginny Simms half-hour. As one of radio's most demanded character actors he can be heard on "Cavalcade," "Man Called X," "Stars Over Hollywood," and "This Is My Best."
He is thoroughly engrossed in his radio career, which takes up more than half of his waking hours. Another good -sized hunk of his time is devoted to his hobby, which is the legendary golden egg come to life.
At mention of this, his blue eyes twinkled and he talked freely about the International Service Corporation "the golden egg." Eight years ago Frank and several other gentlemen dreamed up the Service Corporation, but it wasn't until last June that it became a reality. The Corporation is a manufacturers' sales agency specializing in post -war household items, producing commercial motion pictures, and serving as real estate brokers and publishers' representatives. At present Frank and his co-workers are busily planning for its post-war expansion.
Leisure Time
Asked if he liked to read, go to movies, or night clubs, listen to records. cook or swim, he replied, "Are you kiddin'? When would I have time to do all of those things?" But he does take time out in the kitchen to prepare three things, egg sherry, bachelor's toast, and chicken liver omelets. He and his wife, Dorothy, have a new home in Nichol's Canyon where they spend all of their spare time. They don't go night-clubbing, but they do entertain their friends in their outdoor living room.
As for his "golden eggs," either Frank doesn't pay any attention to them or else he takes them for granted. At any rate he's an easy-going chap with no apparent worries. In regard to his being a shrewd business man, as one would naturally assume he is, he informed us that he recently hired a business manager. He doesn't know a sou from a shilling—he just watches them roll in.

Anyone who has watched the Snafu shorts wonderfully restored by Steve Stanchfield’s company Thunderbean Animation will have heard Graham. Here’s one of my favourites.


  1. I've heard Graham on episodes of "Romance of the Ranchos," which aired on CBS' West Coast stations in the early '40s, where he was the narrator, "the Wandering Vaquero."

  2. That's the first picture of Frank Graham that I can recall seeing. Now I wish that someone would come up with a picture of Gus Wickie.

  3. Mark, all the stuff I've found about Gus was passed on to Dave Gerstein a while but, unfortunately, a picture was not amongst it.
    Radio Life has a number of pictures of Graham with Des Autels but they're scanned at very low resolution. This was the best of them.