Frees in a rare onscreen appearance in
The 27th Day (1957)
|Born||Solomon Hersh Frees
June 22, 1920
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||November 2, 1986 (aged 66)
Tiburon, California, U.S.
He was born Solomon Hersh Frees in Chicago. He began his acting career in 1942 and remained active for over 40 years. During that time, he was involved in more than 250 films, cartoons and TV appearances; like many voice actors, his appearances were often uncredited.
Frees' early radio career was cut short when he was drafted into World War II where he fought at Normandy, France on D-Day. He was wounded in action and was returned to the United States for a year of recuperation. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute under the G.I. Bill. His first wife's failing health forced him to drop out and return to radio work. He appeared frequently on Hollywood radio series, including Escape, playing lead roles and alternating with William Conrad as the opening announcer, Suspense as the opening announcer in the late 1940s, and parts on Gunsmoke and Crime Classics. One of his few starring roles in this medium was as Jethro Dumont in the 1949 series The Green Lama, as well as a syndicated anthology series The Player, in which Frees narrated and played all of the parts.
Frees was often called upon in the 1950s and 1960s to "re-loop" the dialogue of other actors, often to correct for foreign accents, lack of English proficiency, or poor line readings by non-professionals. These dubs extended from a few lines to entire roles. This can be noticed rather clearly in the film Midway where Frees reads for Toshiro Mifune's performance as Admiral Yamamoto. Frees also dubbed the entire role of Eddie in the Disney film The Ugly Dachshund, replacing actor Dick Wessel, who had died of a sudden heart attack after completion of principal photography.
Unlike many voice actors who did most of their work for one studio, Frees spent much of his career working with at least nine of the major animation production companies of the 20th century: Walt Disney Studios, Walter Lantz Studios, UPA, Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, MGM Studios, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, Jay Ward Productions and Rankin/Bass.
Frees was active until his sudden death at the age of 66 from heart failure on November 2, 1986. He was living in Tiburon, California at the time. Frees was cremated and his ashes were scattered upon the Pacific Ocean.
There have been homages to Frees by fellow voice actor Corey Burton, who happens to have matched the voices Frees used for some of his characters. Burton has re-recorded introductions for some Disneyland attractions that were originally recorded by Frees. In some cases, the original Frees introductions were simply worn out due to overuse. In other cases, the introductions were changed slightly to reflect updated safety standards and thus necessitated a re-recording.
Some of Paul Frees' most memorable voices were for various Disney projects. Frees voiced Disney's Professor Ludwig Von Drake in eighteen episodes of the Disney anthology television series, beginning with the first episode of the newly-renamed Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on September 24, 1961. The character also appeared on many Disneyland Records. Von Drake's introductory cartoon, An Adventure in Color, featured The Spectrum Song, sung by Frees as Von Drake. A different Frees recording of this song appeared on a children's record, and was later reissued on CD.
Frees narrated a number of Disney cartoons, including the Disney educational short film Donald in Mathmagic Land. This short originally aired in the same television episode as Von Drake's first appearance.
Frees also provided voices for numerous characters at Disney parks, including the unseen "Ghost Host" in the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and several audio-animatronic pirates, including the Auctioneer, in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Disney eventually issued limited edition compact discs commemorating the two rides, featuring outtakes and unused audio tracks by Frees and others. Frees also provided narration for the Tomorrowland attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space (1967–1985). Audio clips from the attractions in Frees' distinctive voice have even appeared in fireworks shows at Disneyland. A computer-animated singing bust in Frees' likeness appeared in the 2003 film The Haunted Mansion as an homage. Similarly, audio recordings of Frees from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction can be heard in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End in a homage to the ride. Frees also had a small live action role for Disney in the 1959 film The Shaggy Dog, playing Dr. Galvin, a military psychiatrist who attempts to understand why Mr. Daniels believes a shaggy dog can uncover a spy ring.
His other Disney credits, most of them narration for segments of the Disney anthology television series, include the following:
Frees was a regular presence in Jay Ward cartoons, providing the voices of Boris Badenov, Inspector Fenwick (from Dudley Do-Right), Ape in George of the Jungle, Hoppity Hooper narrator, among numerous others.
Frees is well-remembered for many characters in Rankin/Bass cartoons and stop-motion animated TV specials, including the central villain Burgermeister Meisterburger and his assistant Grimsby in Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970). He was also the traffic cop, ticket-taker, and Santa Claus in Frosty the Snowman in 1969. He was several voices, including Eon the Terrible, in Rudolph's Shiny New Year in 1976. In 1968, he appeared as Captain Jones in the Thanksgiving special The Mouse On The Mayflower, and that Christmas he appeared as the father of the Drummer Boy, Ali, and as the three Wise Men in The Little Drummer Boy. He provided the voices for several J. R. R. Tolkien characters (most notably the dwarf Bombur) in Rankin/Bass animated versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King. He also voiced King Haggard's wizard Mabruk in The Last Unicorn and provided several voices for the Jackson Five cartoon series between 1971 and 1973.
Frees voiced all characters, except the lead role, in the US versions of Belvision's The Adventures of Tintin cartoons, based on the books by Hergé. In the 1956 Cinemascope Tom and Jerry cartoon, Blue Cat Blues, he was Jerry's voice who narrated the short; he had also voiced Jerry's cousin Muscles in Jerry's Cousin five years earlier.
For the 1962 Christmas special Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, produced by UPA, Paul Frees voiced several characters, including Fezziwig, the Charity Man, two of the opportunists who steal from the dead man (Eyepatch Man and Tall Tophat Man) and Mister Magoo's Broadway theatre director. He subsequently provided numerous voices for further cartoons in the series that followed, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.
Frees provided the voices of both John Lennon and George Harrison in the 1965 The Beatles cartoon series, and of The Thing in the 1967 series Fantastic Four, as well as President James Norcross in the 1967 cartoon series Super President. He played several roles—narrator, Chief of State, the judges and the bailiff—in the George Lucas / John Korty animated film, Twice Upon a Time.
In TV commercials, he was the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy, the 7-Up bird Fresh-Up Freddie, Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam (previously voiced by Mel Blanc, later voiced by Maurice LaMarche), Boo-Berry in the series of monster cereal commercials, and the Little Green Sprout, who called out to the Jolly Green Giant, "Hey, Green Giant, what's new besides ho-ho-ho?"
Frees narrated many live action movies and television series, including Naked City (1958–1963). Frees also provided the voice of the eccentric billionaire John Beresford Tipton, always seated in his chair with his back to the viewer while talking to his employee Michael Anthony (fellow voice-artist Marvin Miller), on the dramatic series The Millionaire. He was the narrator at the beginning of the movie "The Disorderly Orderly" starring Jerry Lewis. He also "looped" an actors voice in "The Ladies Man" also starring Jerry Lewis.
Frees had a wide range of other roles, usually heard but not seen, and frequently without screen credit. The resonance of his natural voice was similar to that of Orson Welles, and he performed a Welles impression several times. Some highlights of his voice work are as follows:
Although Frees is primarily known for his voice work (like Mel Blanc, he was known in the industry as "The Man of a Thousand Voices"), he was also a songwriter and screenwriter, his major work being the little-seen 1960 film The Beatniks, a screed against the then-rising Beatnik counterculture in the vein of Reefer Madness. In 1992, the film was "riffed" on an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Frees was the original voice and giggle of "The Pillsbury Doughboy", aka Poppin' Fresh. On rare occasions, Frees appeared on camera in minor roles. He played a scientist in The Thing from Another World, a death-row priest in A Place In The Sun, and French fur trader McMasters in The Big Sky. In 1955, he appeared as an irate husband suing his wife, played by Ann Doran, for alimony in an episode of CBS's sitcom The Ray Milland Show In Jet Pilot, Frees plays a menacing Soviet officer whose job is to watchdog pilot Janet Leigh, but instead manages to eject himself out of a parked jet, enabling Leigh to rescue John Wayne and fly back to the West. He also had an uncredited role as a war correspondent interviewing George C. Scott as Patton and also as a member of Patton's staff.
More significantly, he played the Orson Welles soundalike radio reporter in The War of the Worlds, where he is seen dictating into a tape recorder as the military prepares the atomic bomb for use against the invading Martians. Memorably, Frees' character says that the recording is being made for "future history...if any." The War of the Worlds producer George Pál put Frees to work again in the 1960 fantasy film Atlantis, the Lost Continent and doing the opening voice-over narration for his 1975 Doc Savage film. Frees provided the apocalyptic voices of the "talking rings" in George Pál's 1960 film The Time Machine, in which he explains the ultimate fate of humanity and the origin of the Morlocks and Eloi.