Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The First Lady of Voice Actors : June Foray has injected her comedic flair into a memorable career in the public ear for film, radio and TV.

March 26, 1993|JEFF PRUGH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A newsstand customer asks the vendor to direct her to a specific magazine.

The vendor obliges, but curiosity compels him to say to her:

"I hope you don't feel insulted, but you sound like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Have you ever seen that?"

With a twinkle in her eye, the customer replies: "Well, I am Rocky the Flying Squirrel!"

June Foray ("For-AY") tells the story with bursts of child-like enthusiasm usually radiated by those who listen to her without knowing that those myriad voices she plays on film, TV and radio are really hers, or that she's widely regarded as "the first lady of voice actors."

Her voice heard by millions but her face seen by no one on movie or TV screens, Foray has forged a long, successful Hollywood career aimed at making us laugh, hiss, squirm, think or even buy cereal or fast food.

She has performed in more than 150 animated short films and features, countless radio and TV spots and more than 100 comedy and children's albums.

Pick a cartoon character--and the voice is June Foray's:

* Rocky the Flying Squirrel, who helps make our world safer for lampooning sacred cows in "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle";

* Jokey Smurf of "The Smurfs";

* Lena the Hyena and Wheezy Weasel in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?";

* Lucifer, the snarling, villainous cat in "Cinderella";

* Millicent, the fat Russian bunny and suitor of Bugs Bunny (played by the late Mel Blanc) in "Rabbit Romeo": "I want marr-i-age ('marry-AHHGE') with Bugs";

* Nell Fenwick, who fends off Dudley Do-Right's advances: "Oh, Dudley, you are too good for me." Dudley: "For you, Nell, I would rotten up."

Or, tune in to producer-satirist Stan Freberg's 1950s blockbuster recorded parodies of the popular "Dragnet" TV series (based on Los Angeles Police Department cases). Freberg cast Foray as "Little Blue Riding Hood" and as a "maiden who had almost been devoured" in "St. George and the Dragonet":

Freberg (as St. George, mimicking "Dragnet" producer-star Jack Webb's laconic voice): "8:22 p.m. I talked to one of the maidens who had almost been devoured. . . . I understand you were almost devoured by the, ma'am, is that right, Dragon?"

Foray: "It was terr-i-ble. He breathed fire on me. He boined me already."

Freberg: "How can I be sure of that, ma'am?"

Foray: "Believe me, I got it straight from the dragon's mouth!"

If June Foray finishes writing her autobiography, she could title it "Lady Make-Believe." That's also the main character (and title) of 300-odd children's radio dramas Foray wrote (but never sold) at age 18--Lady Make-Believe encouraging youngsters to read by introducing them, in scripts, to characters in "Robin Hood," "Treasure Island," "Jack the Giant Killer" and other tales. She plans to turn them into a library of audiocassettes.

Foray's career in the public ear ranges from having dubbed coughs, screams and hollers into movie soundtracks for Paramount during her late teens to taping a fast-food audio commercial with Tom Poston as recently as two weeks ago.

She also has worked alongside some of the heavyweights of American comedy: Red Skelton, Johnny Carson, Steve Allen and Freberg, among others.

*

Foray played a regular for Carson on TV's "Carson's Cellar" (pre-"Tonight Show"), "Junie the Girlfriend" on Allen's radio show "Smile Time" and helped Skelton entertain millions on television by playing a variety of roles.

"It was scary for the actors," Foray recalls of the Skelton show. "You memorize your own lines, and then he'd start ad-libbing, gagging everything up. You say to yourself, 'Oh, God, what am I supposed to say? When do I come in?' A nice man, however. He always thanked the cast afterward."

Soon, Foray will play a return engagement in an occasional role--as voice-over teacher. "The Art of the Voice-Over" is a three-hour course she'll conduct on April 3 at Learning Tree University's Chatsworth campus.

"She's seen it all, got it all and knows it all," says David Webb, chairman of Learning Tree's performing arts department. "When Mel Blanc died, she became the leading voice-over talent left in the industry, so it made sense for us to seek out the best."

Voice-over--which includes not just impersonation or animation dialogue but narration and commercials--looks deceptively easy, she says.

"Every amateur picks up a script and reads it in a monotone," says Foray, who also taught voice-over for seven semesters at USC during the 1980s. "Or, they stop in unconscionable places.

"And I say, 'Why are you stopping there?' They say they don't know. Then I take the copy away from them and say, 'Now what did you say?' Then, without reading, they do a perfectly wonderful commercial because they realize they're talking naturally. . . . You have to read a persona into the line. You have to have a character delineation. Many wanna-bes can read lines, but there's no transition to what they're reading. There's no light or shading or feeling."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|