Month: September 2017
Happy 100th, June Foray, and Goodbye
How do you say goodbye to a great lady who’s been a friend for almost 50 years? September 18th, 2017, would have been June’s 100th birthday! The more you study June Foray’s career, the more impressive her ability and talent for voice acting becomes. Among many performances, her greatest achievement might be her shared reading of George Orwell’s “1984″ with Newscaster Charles Morgan in 1975 for the Pacifica Foundation. It’s a warm, measured reading that captures the story’s sadness and underlying hopelessness, contrasted with the poignant love story of Winston and Julia.
June’s ability to read and act before a microphone, invest her characters with sincerity and reach across to an unseen audience, will make her performances live for a long time. Please go to this link: http://sperdvac.com/samples/SPERDVAC_Presents_80-09-20_June_Foray.mp3 and listen to June tell stories about the many fine people she worked with in radio from the 1940s on–Stan Freberg, Red Skelton, Smilin’ Ed McConnell, Bill Conrad and her husband, Hobart Donovan (also spelled Donavan). “Hobe” wrote and produced many programs during radio’s golden age: Lassie, Phone Again Finnegan, Smilin’ Ed’s Buster Brown Gang, Fantasy and many more. After Hobart died in 1976, June introduced herself at an Academy function as “Mrs. Hobart Donovan”, recalling Janet Gaynor’s concluding speech in “A Star Is Born”. I was privileged to be invited to June’s house in Woodland Hills in the early 1970s and meet the talented Mr. Donovan. He wasn’t feeling too well at the time, but he seemed to like it when I told him how much I enjoyed his writing on the old “Andy’s Gang” TV show of the early 1950s. Andy Devine was hosting the show after Smilin’ Ed passed on. I enjoyed sharing memories of Froggy the Gremlin and Midnight the Cat, who were featured on the show. Hobart even wrote the Buster Brown comic books that the shoe stores gave away to promote the radio show. Froggy the Gremlin was heavily influenced by the Gremlin characters of World War Two, who gleefully smashed up fighter planes. Froggy usually just humiliated people. Smilin’ Ed originated Froggy’s voice and June usually did Midnight’s voice. She did Midnight’s voice (the cat could only say the word “nice”) for me the night I received the June Foray Award at the 2005 Annie Awards, an award ceremony to honor the animation community which was June’s special creation. I’ll never forget that night.
June had a special ability with cat voices. She was the voice of the villainous Lucifer in Walt Disney’s “Cinderella”, and she did a truly monstrous cat in the “Night Beat” radio show of 11-3-1950 called “Black Cat”. This guy was no Midnight, he was a real scary kitty. If you would like to hear it, go to otrcat.com and look for the “June Foray” disc, full of her performances on so many programs.
June helped keep the Academy awards for short subjects from being dropped from the Oscars TV broadcasts and oversaw the expansion of the shorts branch to include an award for animated feature films. She always struggled to lift animated films out of the low cast status they held in the American motion picture industry and at least partially succeeded. She had to get the membership stirred up at least twice that I recall to keep the Shorts branch alive, as the Academy periodically considered ending the Shorts award. The main reason the Academy still hands out shorts awards is to encourage film-makers young and old to work, and to achieve. June promoted that line of reasoning and persuaded the Academy Governors to keep giving the Award. As a result, the whole field of independent shorts is kept alive by the prestige of the Oscar, as the public sees few new short subjects, except at Festivals. June kept the door open for all of us.
June’s cartoon voices are loved by everyone, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Natasha Fatale, Nell, Witch Hazel, who was originated as “Gorma” the witch on the Smilin’ Ed radio show, and many others. June’s witch cackle was funny and scary at the same time. For a little person (she was a size 3), June had size 20 vocal powers–she could go from a quiet “little boy” voice (Rocky, for instance) to a big thundering voice that reminded you of Marjorie Main (Magnolia Bulkhead). Sometimes, due to poor direction I’m sure, June could get a bit shrill, but she could mute her voice and give truly fine perfomances such as her reading of 1984, and various dramatic shows such as Suspense, Lux Radio Theater, Command Performance, CBS Radio Workshop and Sears Radio Theater. For “Smile Time”, a Steve Allen radio show of the 1940s, she was just “Junie, the Girl Friend”.
I saw June annually at the Academy shorts screenings and she kept me constantly updated on her favorite niece’s achievements in art and commerce. June never forgot that I was a fan of Laurie’s (her niece), and June was quite proud of her. Laurie even bought a cel from one of my “Itza Cat” cartoons; she’s a real friend.
June’s Oscar maxim was: “Think Oscar”, when considering an entry’s worthiness. I’ll never forget an animated submission from 2000, called “Ring Of Fire”, a weird Western cartoon animated by Andreas Hykade, which featured an object resembling a huge dancing vagina wearing a cowboy hat! June made a face, shook her head, and in a low register said “Think Oscar”, and marked her ballot. June was very tolerant of eccentrics, she acted with them her whole life, so she suffered many foolish cartoons gladly, and some were barely tolerated.
Occasionally, a Foray opinion would rise to the top; when Stan Freberg’s long awaited comedy record “Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America Part Two:The Middle Years” was released in 1996, June was disappointed. She thought that there was very little satire in the album, and that it was mostly a lot of “silly anachronisms”. Freberg attended quite a few shorts screenings in the 1980s, and often made rather loud vocal comments if a particular film struck him the wrong way.
Due to her short stature and young attitude, June never looked her age and never revealed it, until a 2004 TV Guide article gave away her age as 86. June took a really dim view of the reporter and TV Guide after that. She really felt betrayed. I only recently found out that her birth name was “Forer”.
Here’s the text of the last letter I received from June, on 6-22-2015, in answer to a note I sent her about the old “Hotel For Pets” radio show (on which she did not appear): “Dear Mark, Hearing from you was a most pleasant surprise. I was getting better and riding in my niece’s car a couple of weeks ago, we were hit by a nut on the freeway and I’m back and feeling rotten. Oh well, a couple more weeks in bed will cure me! About Smilin’ Ed–I was aware that he had a radio show (probably the Aladdin Lamp program-Mark) but I never appeared on it, nor had I ever asked. I was on his personal program (Buster Brown-Mark), written by my husband–we were married to other people at the time but beside ourselves to marry each other. I really had no idea about the animals (my question about Hotel For Pets) Please call me, and we’ll chat–Miss you, Best, June. Can’t write anymore!” She was writing in a very scribbly fashion by this time, but it’s the last I heard from her. June used to send me wonderful Christmas cards, a photo of her with a light hearted verse that she wrote each year.
We’ll all miss June very much, for her leadership in the Motion Picture Academy, ASIFA (which she helped to found), the warmth and humanity reflected in her natural speaking voice, and of course, my favorite of her characters, Midnight the Cat. I’ll give beautiful Midnight the last word on June Foray: “NICE”.
The photo on top was taken by my late friend Lyn Joy Kroeger in 1977 at the Academy Awards. That’s me on the left, June in the middle and T. Hee on the right of the picture. T. may have introduced me to June, he was so helpful to me when I first came to California, making it possible for me to attend Chouinard.
Here’s Dudley Fisher’s Myrtle from 1-24 to 1-30-1949. I love the fan letter that Myrtle receives from a reader in the 1-24, suggesting she take off her hat. Myrtle decides that she doesn’t look like herself and GLUES the hat back on her head! I love the drawing in the 1-27, as Susie faints in the last panel at the sight of Myrtle in “grown-up” clothes. There’s good fantasy in the 1-30, as the little doll of Myrtle jumps in the fish bowl and has to stand in the corner. The Sunday celebrates the days when the Sunday paper was loved by the entire family. Myrtle and Sampson are reading “Right Around Home”, of course.
In Felix, from 4-23 to 4-29-1933, Felix continues his Sunday adventures in the Bone Age, fending off a cave man with a “Heart of Rock”. In the dailies, Felix still tries to keep Danny Dooit from getting a big ego, and then someone sends Danny a pedigreed Persian cat! Of course Felix is jealous, and clobbers the pathetic Persian with a post!
Krazy is from 5-3 to 5-8-1943. World War Two shows it’s influence over Coconino in the 5-6 through 5-8 strips, as Ignatz, Pupp and Krazy try to define their patriotism by who is most willing to share. About the only thing they have in common is the Coconino Jail, so they share that!
Here’s what makes birthdays worthwhile, a birthday card from my talented artist wife, Cathy. She got the idea for these appealing feline designs from a tea towel she saw at World Market here in Glendale. She also made up a little basket for me with chocolate, a jar of honey, and other delicious comestibles. It was a happy day, August 10th, and she made it that way.
Hey folks, crying pays! I complained last post that I had no readers, and I got letters from five wonderful people! Chuck Fiala, Aaron Neathery, Edd Vick, Tim Walker and Don Yowp! Chuck Fiala, who is a fine cartoonist in his own right, likes the comics I post, but acknowledges that the rooting interest that the culture used to have in the art form is waning. Don Yowp, who puts out the Yowp Yowp and Tralfaz blogs almost daily, also encouraged me to put together a new post. So here it is, Chuck, Aaron, Edd, Tim and Don, just for you! I hope to be back sometime! Don’t forget to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s great to hear from my readers. The comments here are still disabled, any WordPress experts who could help me are cordially invited to try. Remember to click on the images to see them larger.