Biography - June Foray
It can be easily said that June Foray is one of a select group of voice legends that includes not only the immortal Mr. Blanc but two of her other frequent co-stars Daws Butler and Paul Frees.
It isn't just that June can portray so many different people but that each is a fully-rounded, well-delineated characterization. The folks she becomes don't just sound funny; they breathe and laugh and cry and run the gamut of emotions without you ever feeling, "Oh, that's just somebody doing a silly voice!" Small wonder she has worked so much...ever since age 12, to be precise.
That was when she first performed a role in a radio play back in her native Springfield, Massachusetts.
Three years later, she was a regular player in the rep company of WBZA in Springfield...and by the time she was 17, she was ensconced in Hollywood and landing roles in radio programs of the day -- everything from The Jimmy Durante Show to the prestigious Lux Radio Theatre. She even had her own kids' show for a time, telling stories as Lady Make believe.
Radio was the greatest training ground," she says. "You had to be very quick and you had to be very versatile...and you were surrounded by such wonderful actors."
HITTING HER STRIDE
Then it was on to cartoons. In the 1940s, producer Jerry Fairbanks brought out his "Speaking of Animals" shorts which featured live-action footage of animals with cartoon mouths superimposed on them. June was one of the actors engaged to dub in the bon mots "spoken" by the critters.
It was on those jobs that she met and formed lasting relationships with two other voice performers -- Stan Freberg and Daws Butler. Soon after, June joined Stan, Daws and Mel Blanc, among others, recording children's records for Capitol...and that led her to just about every cartoon studio in existence.
"Someone at Disney heard one of the records and called me in to do the sounds of Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella. "(For Disney's next animated feature, Peter Pan, she played a mermaid -- but did not do any voices. They put her in a bathing suit and filmed her performing actions to serve as reference for the animators.)
She also performed -- before a microphone -- for Tex Avery at MGM and for dozens of Walter Lantz cartoons. But her best-known work in theatrical animation was for Warner Bros. where she quickly became the star female voice, performing in countless films. Her roles included Granny, the feisty owner of Tweety and Sylvester, and the Alice mouse in the Kramdenesque Honeymousers series.
Her favorite? No contest: "I started playing witches...for Disney in Trick or Treat and Witch Hazel for Chuck Jones in several films." Her witches were classic -- and oft-imitated. Even today, casting agents will tell you: They rarely hear a female voice demo tape that doesn't include some approximation of a June Foray witch voice.
During the Fifties, June performed on such radio shows as remained, including the last-ever network comedy radio program -- The Stan Freberg Show. She had performed on many of Stan's best-selling comedy records, including "St. George and the Dragonet" and "Sh-Boom." Says Stan today, "She was, quite simply, the best in the business. I could write anything, confident in the knowledge that whatever the age, whatever the accent, June could do it."
She also did a bit of on-camera acting, appearing on several TV shows and in movies. (If you want to see her cringe, remind her of her role as the sexy High Priestess in the film, Sabaka.) At some point though, she bowed to the inevitable: Hollywood was loaded with actresses who could emote in front of the camera...but put her at a microphone and June Foray was in a class by herself. To date, her last on-camera acting was in the mid-Sixties, playing a Hispanic telephone operator in several episodes of Green Acres.
By then, she was well into her best-known body of work -- her stint for Jay Ward, performing almost all the female roles (and the occasional male) on The Bullwinkle Show (ne Rocky and His Friends), Dudley Do-Right, Fractured Fairy Tales, Fractured Flickers and many more. She can barely venture anywhere these days without someone imposing on her to speak a line or two as Rocky (usually the line about "That trick never works") or perhaps Natasha Fatale and/or Nell Fenwick.
It was not just that the Ward cartoons were wittily written -- which they were, largely under the supervision of Bill Scott -- they were also brilliantly performed. WWorking with a fine stock company that included Scott, Paul Frees, sometimes William Conrad, Daws Butler or Hans Conried and others, June was part of the high-watermark of cartoon voice acting.
June appeared concurrently and after in hundreds of commercials and countless other TV shows. Just a few years ago, she brought Granny back to life on The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries and has been heard on The Smurfs, Garfield and Friends and many more.
She has also, unbeknownst to many of her fans, been heard in dozens of live-action movies, dubbing other actors. Listen for her (and Paul Frees) throughout Bells Are Ringing or The Comic, to name two of many. She can also be heard in dolls (the original Chatty Cathy) and around Disneyland (The Pirates of the Caribbean), and if there's any other place a person can be called on to deliver a vocal performance, June has been there.