Saturday 4 May 2019

Whistle, That's My Work

We know so little about people who lent their voices to animated cartoons in the Golden Age. Unless their name was Mel Blanc, they were rarely credited before 1950.

Here’s a story about a woman I had never heard of before. It’s from the Santa Cruz Sentinel of August 10, 1939. She worked for a number of studios, in shorts such as Flowers and Trees, and features such as Bambi.
Talented Whistler Captivates Audience At Caroline Swope School; Whistled 'Snow White'
By Laura Rawson
Dainty, petite and graceful as the feathered friends she so perfectly imitates, is Marion Sevier Darlington, who captivated the hearts of the Caroline Swope Summer school assembly period yesterday morning and again at the faculty banquet last evening, in Hotel Palomar.
In a little chat with the charming whistler I learned she has always loved music, but most decidedly did not like to practice her piano lessons when a small girl. So her mother secured a good whistling teacher for her (as she loved to whistle) and she showed such decided talent, that her gift was recognized by those seeking entertainment of this type. It was while she was concert whistler over the radio with Raymond Paige's orchestra that invitations from the big moving picture companies came to her. Since then she has been in great demand for radio and sound effect artist in addition to her concert engagements.
"Snow White" Whistler
She took the solo part of the little bird in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and whistled in all of the groups of bird songs in the same picture. She also whistled the bird sound effects for Walt Disney's first color cartoon and academy award, Flowers and Trees" and in many others of his cartoons. She was also soloist on the Disney Mickey Mouse Radio Show.
Mrs. Darlington whistled bird sound effects for Harmon-Ising's "Chinese Nightingale" [frame to the right]. She also gave the radio adaptation of the "Chinese Nightingale" for the same company over a national hook-up.
She did the bird work in the Charles Mintz cartoons, "Dr. Blue Bird," "The Blue Bird's Baby," etc., and whistled in many other cartoons and feature pictures for Warner Bros., Universal, M.G.M., Iwerks, etc., including Bing Crosby's vehicle, "Dr. Rhythm."
Mrs. Darlington presented a program on Treasure Island at the California state convention of the California Federation of Music Clubs.
Accompanying the whistler yesterday was Onalee Repp Arey of Long Beach, who provided a lovely piano background for the sweet whistler.
Besides the lovely bird calls, Mrs. Darlington is called upon to imitate crickets, bees, bluejays, grouse and other tiny beasties needed to complete accurate true-to-life pictures. The talented little artist goes happily whistling through life, giving much pleasure to all fortunate enough to hear her.
Marion Sevier Darlington really was a whistler; the 1930 U.S. Census lists that as her occupation. She also taught music. She married Keith Darlington in 1930, he left her a widow in 1937. She married again in 1942. Her throat was evidently much in demand, as the Los Angeles Times published a story in 1943 referring to her as a “concert bird singer” and the star attraction of a show at the Redlands Bowl. The same year, she warbled “White Christmas” at a party at the Long Beach City Hall.

Marion packed up and moved to Arizona and that’s where the Christian Science Monitor caught up with her on January 22, 1965.
Marion Pratt Whistles at Her Work
By Margaret Davis de Rose

Sedona, Arizona
Some people whistle in the dark; some people whistle while they work, but Marion Darlington Pratt’s whistling is for the birds.
To children and even some adults, the animals in Disneyland appear so natural it is hard to tell the actual from the make-believe. And the birds sound just as we’ve heard them in our gardens or in the woods. But it is Marion Pratt’s fantastic imitative whistling that makes the bird calls.
When Marion was a little girl, instead of singing joyously she always whistled. They day her parents took her to a professional whistler, Marion knew what her career would be.
Her understanding parents allowed her to enroll in the Agnes Woodward School of Artistic Whistling in Los Angeles.
Disney Calls
In the early days of whistling for Disney Productions, the cartoons were “black and whites.” Later, she did the bird sounds for their first color cartoon, “Flowers and Trees,” which won them their first Academy Award.
More pictures followed. The famous “Whistle While You Work” melody of “Snow White” called upon all Marion’s talents as she trilled, warbled, yodeled, and chirped for many species of birds.
In Walt Disney’s “True Life Adventure Series” Marion furnished the sound for live birds. In “Nature’s Half Acre” the studio had a shot of a meadow lark sitting on a fence flapping his tail up and down. The director wanted the action of the bird, plus his song, synchronized to the music. So he ran the film for Marion while she whistled an authentic meadow lark song to each flip of the bird’s tail.
Animals, Too
Marion is also the “movie voice” of many creatures, including hyenas, peacocks, parrots and chimpanzees.
“I’ve done all kinds of crazy things,” said Marion, a petite blonde. Her brown eyes twinkled. “In one of Bing Crosby’s pictures I was the ‘buzz’ for an artificial bee that zoomed around his head to the tempo of the song Bing was singing.
“In a Bob Hope picture two trained vultures followed him across the desert. With table napkins tied around their necks and knives and forks in their claws, they’d land on his shoulder presumably anticipating a juicy meal when he could go no further. My job was to make the sound effects when these clowns laughed, cried or sang.”
In Audrey Hepburn’s “Green Mansions,” Marion recalls that the bird songs had to be mystical. Many of those weird jungle noises in the Tarzan pictures were her creations, including Tarzan’s own whistle. She has even been the voice for a stuttering, tuxedo-bedecked penguin. Often, when working out-of-doors, her bird calls are so natural that live birds answer.
About five years ago, with her talented trumpet-playing husband Don, and daughter Susie, Marion moved from Long Beach to Sedona. And every Easter, Don’s trumpet and Marion’s whistle welcome the sunrise at the service held on Arizona’s Tabletop Mountain in the flaming Red Rock Country of Oak Creek.
Jungle Sounds
“I’m especially proud of my work in the addition at Disneyland of the Enchanted Tiki Room,” Marion said. “In this South Seas atmosphere where fountain plays in color, orchids sing, and the Tiki gods chant, a whole roomful of birds sing and talk. I did all the pretty bird calls as well as many of the raucous jungle sounds. Many separate recordings were made which were then blended together on a single sound track. Each bird is wire stereophonically with my calls.”
Pratt divorced and married again in 1974. She was born November 7, 1910 in Monrovia, California and died in March 1991.


  1. I'd heard of hear more than 45 years ago in Leonard Maltin's THE DISNEY films regarding BAMBI. Says among others WB was a plae she wa,s maybe THAT's herdoing the bird calls in the 1953 CATY CORNERED, with Rocky, Nick, Tweey and Syulvester, where the first two named, gangsters, catch tweey. when We and Sylevester hear a bird, it's Tweety CHIRPING, maybe THAT"s Marion Darlington, aka Marian Pratt.

  2. Another professional whistler with a cartoon voice credit - Jason Serinus for the 1980 "Peanuts" TV special, She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown.

  3. Another fact is that Marion was married to Don Pratt in Sedona. They started Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona, which is now owned by the Herschend family. According to legend, they took a trip to Waikiki and stayed at the Royal Hawaiian (aka: Pink Palace). Marian said to Don: “Let’s paint them pink and call it the Pink Jeep company. That way from a distance, everyone will know our name.” We talk about her on all our tours across America. I vaguely remember seeing her when I was very young. She was on a TV show. Possibly to tell the truth or one of those kinds of shows.

  4. Laura from Pink Jeep Adventure Tours here. Just as an added bonus, Marion Pratt and her husband Don were the original owners of Pink Jeep back in 1960 when they were in Sedona.