Paul Frees (June 22, 1920 – November 2, 1986) was an American voice actor and character actor.
He was born Solomon Hersh Frees in Chicago. Frees had an unusually wide four-octave voice range that would enable him to voice everything from the thundering basso profundo of the unseen "Ghost Host" in the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland in California and at Walt Disney World in Florida to the squeaky voice of the Little Green Sprout in the Green Giant vegetable commercials. He first appeared on vaudeville in the 1930s, as an impressionist, under the name Buddy Green. 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. When his first wife's health failed, he decided 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 of Suspense in the late 1940s, and parts on Gunsmoke, (doing a passable impersonation of Howard McNear as Doc Adams for at least one episode, "The Cast"), 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; or in the film Some Like It Hot, in which Frees provides the voice of funeral director Mozzarella as well as much of the falsetto voice for Tony Curtis' female character Josephine. 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. Frees also reportedly dubbed for Humphrey Bogart in his final film The Harder They Fall. Bogart was suffering at the time from what would be diagnosed as esophageal cancer and thus could barely be heard in some takes, hence the need for Frees to dub in his voice.
Unlike many voice actors who did most of their work for one studio, Frees worked extensively with at least nine of the major animation production companies of the 20th century: Walt Disney Studios, Walter Lantz Studios, UPA, Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 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 severalaudio-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:
- The "Man in Space" series of shows (TV, 1954)
- From Aesop to Hans Christian Andersen (TV, 1955)
- The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (TV miniseries, 1958)
- Tales of Texas John Slaughter (TV miniseries, 1958)
- The Shaggy Dog (film, 1959)
- The Absent-Minded Professor (film, 1961)
- Moochie of Pop Warner Football (TV, 1960)
- The Monkey's Uncle (film, 1965)
For his contributions to the Disney legacy, Frees was honored posthumously as a Disney Legend on October 9, 2006.
Jay Ward Productions
Frees was a regular presence in Jay Ward cartoons, providing the voices of Boris Badenov (from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show), Inspector Fenwick (from Dudley Do-Right), Ape (impersonatingRonald Colman), District Commissioner Alistair and Weevil Plumtree in George of the Jungle, Baron Otto Matic in Tom_Slick_(TV_series), Fred in Super Chicken, and the Hoppity Hoopernarrator, 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 Grimsley 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, inRudolph'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.
The following Rankin Bass TV specials or films played by Paul Frees including:
- The Little Drummer Boy (1968) Voice of Aaron's Father and the three Wise Men
- Frosty the Snowman (1969) Voice of Policeman, Ticketman, and Santa Claus
- The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians (1970) Voice of Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, and W.C Fields (uncredited)
- Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970) Voice of Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsley
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971) Voice of Colonel Wellington Bunny's assistant, Man at Thanksgiving Table, and Santa Claus
- Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976) Voice of Jack Frost
- Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) Voice of 1776, Santa Claus, General Ticker, Aeon and Humpty Dumpty
- The Hobbit (1977) Voice of Bombur and Troll #1
- Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977) Voice of Olaf and Donkey Dealer
- Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979) Voice of Jack Frost, Policeman, and Winterbolt
- Jack Frost (1979) Voice of Father Winter and Kubla Kraus
- The Return of the King (1980) Voice of Orc, Uruk-hai, and Elrond (replacing the deceased Cyril Ritchard who voiced Elrond in The Hobbit)
- The Last Unicorn (1982) Voice of Mabruk
Paul Frees played the Orson Welles sound-alike radio reporter in George Pal's film The War of the Worlds (1953), where he is seen dictating into a tape recorder as the military prepares theatomic bomb for use against the invading Martians. Memorably, Frees' character says that the recording is being made "for future history... if any". Frees also provided the opening narration on man's war escalation in the film prior to Sir Cedric Hardwicke's reciting of the H. G. Wells novel. Frees subsequently provided the apocalyptic voice for the 'talking rings'" in Pal's later film The Time Machine (1960), in which he explains the ultimate fate of humanity from which the time-traveller realises the origin of the Morlocks and Eloi. Producer Pal later put Frees to work again in the fantasy film Atlantis, the Lost Continent (also 1960) and doing the opening voice-over narration for Pal's Doc Savage (1975) film.
Other voice work
Frees voiced several characters, including three of the main characters, in the US versions of Belvision's The Adventures of Tintin cartoons, based on the books by Hergé. In the 1956Cinemascope 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. His most famous role(s) were the cannibals in the banned Tom and Jerry episode "His Mouse Friday" where he said lines like "Mmmmm, barbequed cat!" and "Mmmmm, barbequed mouse!"
From October 1961 through September 1962, Paul Frees provided the voice for the character of a shady lawyer named Judge Oliver Wendell Clutch, a weasel on the animated program Calvin and the Colonel starring the voices of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, who had previously worked together on Amos 'n Andy.
For the 1962 Christmas special Mister 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, the narrator, Big D and Fluid Man in the 1966 cartoon series, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles 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.
Frees provided the voice-over for the trailer to the 1971 Clint Eastwood thriller, Play Misty for Me.
In television 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 byMaurice 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 films 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 film The Disorderly Orderly starring Jerry Lewis. He also "looped" an actor's voice in the film 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:
- Narrator for the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate.
- Narrated sixteen episodes of the NBC science fiction television series Steve Canyon, starring Dean Fredericks (1958–1959)
- Narrated the documentary about J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Day After Trinity
- The Peter Lorre voice in the Spike Jones version of the song My Old Flame. When talking softly, the voice sounds much like Lorre. When the character segués into a manic rant for a few lines, the voice anticipates the Ludwig von Drake characterization.
- The Orson Welles sound-alike narrator in Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America Vol. 1. When Vol. 2 came out after his death, he was replaced by Corey Burton.
- Another Orson Welles sound-alike as the voice of the aliens in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
- Yet again, as an Orson Welles soundalike narrator in the 1967 film The St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- The narrator for the record Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Volume One: The Early Years
- The uncredited voice of a reporter trying to get a quote from General George S. Patton in the 1970 film Patton
- The uncredited voice of the sentient supercomputer Colossus in the film Colossus: The Forbin Project.
- Narrator of the pre-show for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Illinois Pavilion of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. The exhibit was produced by Disney, and later moved to Disneyland.
- The shrouded figure of "Death" (another near-Welles characterization) in the Woody Allen film Love and Death.
- The narration for the spoof short film Hardware Wars (1977), which was styled as a mock film trailer, specifically parodying Orson Welles' narration of the original Star Wars trailer.
- Voice of KARR in "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R." - a 3rd season episode of Knight Rider.
- Voices of "Josephine" and "Daphne" (the female personae of Jack Lemmon's and Tony Curtis's characters Jerry and Joe) in the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot.
- The voice of Dr. Hu in the English language version of King Kong Escapes.
- The voices of "Antoine" and "Alecto" in the English language version of Atoll K (aka Utopia).
- The voice of the hermit crab "Crusty" in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, a Warner Bros. feature that mixed live action with animation.
- Intro voice for Mister Terrific (TV series), a sitcom of 17 episodes in 1967 with Stephen Strimpell.
- Intro voice for Bradbury 13, a series of thirteen radio dramas featuring Ray Bradbury short stories, originally produced for National Public Radio by Michael McDonough at Brigham Young University, 1984.
- Credited with singing "Dark Town Strutters Ball" in the 1971 film The Abominable Dr. Phibes (as heard on the film's soundtrack album, along with several other songs performed in character but not used in the film).
- Voice of the title character in the 1957 film The Cyclops.
- Narrator of extended "recap" title sequence in early first season episodes of I Dream of Jeannie in 1965 (and the show's "sponsor I.D." announcer during season one).
- Featured on the 1959 Spike Jones album Spike Jones in Hi-Fi, A Spooktacular in Screaming Sound in recordings "Poisen to Poisen," "My Old Flame," "Everything Happens to Me" and "This is your Death," doing the vocal and voices. "Tammy": vocal by Paul Frees, "Two Heads are Better than One": vocal by George Rock and Paul Frees.
- The uncredited voice of the radio news announcer in the 1964 musical film Robin and the 7 Hoods.
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 Beat counterculture in the vein of Reefer Madness. In 1992, the film was "riffed" on an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. 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 played the voice of a war correspondent interviewing Patton while Patton is riding his horse in Patton and also as a member of Patton's staff, and also did various voice-overs for other actors, including the voice for the sheik hosting a troop review for Patton, as well as several others. Frees' voice also appears in Tora! Tora! Tora! as the English language voice of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States. He also does the final ending narration after the destruction of the Earth in the first sequel to The Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes.