Paul Frees. The voice actor known as the "Man of 1,000 Voices."
Paul was first heard across America on Old Time Radio shows, such as Suspense and Escape. You may have heard Paul as the Ghost Host at Disneyland and Disney World's Haunted Mansion, or as dastardly Boris Badenov on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, as Professor Ludwig von Drake on The Wonderful World of Disney, as the ape in George of the Jungle, and as John Lennon and George Harrison in The Beatles cartoon series.
Paul was also heard on television commercials, as such characters as the Pillsbury Dougboy and Toucan Sam of Fruit Loops cereal.
In major motion pictures, Paul is heard in Spartacus, Patton, The War of the Worlds, as the Narrator of The Shaggy Dog, the original Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, and many more.
This expanded 2nd Edition of Paul Frees’ official biography includes hundreds of rare photos and interviews, more personal information from wives and friends, updated professional credits, and letters between Paul and his first wife during WWII.
Foreword by June Foray. Afterword by Jay Ward biographer, Keith Scott.
WELCOME, FOOLISH MORTALS... THE LIFE AND VOICES OF PAUL FREES by Ben Ohmart (BearManor Media)
I never dreamed that anyone would, or could, write an entire book about one of my favorite performers, Paul Frees, but Ben Ohmart has done the near-impossible in this entertaining and informative volume. Frees may not be a household name outside of film buffdom, but his work has been heard by untold millions on the soundtracks of movies, radio and TV shows, cartoons, commercials, and at Disneyland since the late 1940s. He was Boris Badenov, John Beresford Tipton (The Millionaire), and the Pillsbury Dough Boy; he played some of the Pirates of the Caribbean and the ghostly host of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion. He dubbed everyone from Orson Welles to Toshiro Mifune.
In real life, Frees was as outsized as some of the characters he portrayed, a bombastic personality whose arrogant demeanor and tendency to be on all the time masked a lonely and sensitive soul. With the help of Frees' family and colleagues, Ohmart has assembled a surprisingly personal portrait of the man, along with a staggering index of his work. (Old-time radio buffs will have a ball reading his broadcast chronology.)
Author Ohmart is also the proprietor of BearManor Media, which has launched an impressive series of books for film, radio and TV aficionados. He deserves our thanks and support. You can read more, and make purchases, at www.bearmanormedia.com.
Mark Evanier www.newsfromme.com
Speaking of Great Voice Actors...
Over on my other website, I have a page devoted to some of the great animation voice thespians, including Daws Butler, Mel Blanc and June Foray. Once a week or so, someone writes to ask, "When you are going to put up something about Paul Frees?" He was certainly in that category. In his day, he did as many cartoons as any man alive, and was darn near ubiquitous in commercials, narration and even the redubbing of other actors in movies. So he certainly deserves attention but, as I write the folks who ask why I haven't done an article on him, I never really met Paul Frees (only once on the phone) and have never felt I knew enough about him to write anything worth reading.
Fortunately, someone else does and has. I'm just reading and enjoying Welcome, Foolish Mortals... which is subtitled, "The Life and Times of Paul Frees," a much-needed book by Ben Ohmart. It has an intro by June Foray, who played Natasha when Paul played Boris Badenov. It has an outro by Keith Scott, an amazing Australian voice talent who has since assumed some of Paul's roles. And in between, Ben tells us who Paul was, how he worked, how he lived...everything. Much of this book is a recitation of parts that Frees played on TV and in movies, and you'll find yourself saying, "I didn't know that was Paul Frees." (Here's one Ben missed: Near the beginning of the movie Gigi, there's a scene where Louis Jordan has a scene with several men who have been skillfully redubbed by Guess Who.) If this kind of thing interests you, you need this book. The title, by the way, refers to the job many people identify with Paul: The host at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
You can purchase this new book from Amazon at this link or directly from the author's company at this link. Ordering from the second of these may cost you a buck or two more (and will not pay me my Amazon kickback) but personally, I always like to see as much of the money as possible going to the author. And while you're at it, also order Scenes For Actors and Voices, a collection of scripts written by the great Daws Butler and compiled into a book by Joe Bevilacqua and Ben. Here's the link for Amazon and here's the link for the publisher. Lots of good stuff at the latter site.
Classic Images, Laura Wagner. October 2004
Voiceover master Paul Frees finally gets his due in Welcome, Foolish Mortals The Life and Voices of Paul Frees by Ben Ohmart, foreword by June Foray. Keith Scott, in his afterword, best sums up this gem of a book: "It's a timely tribute to one of the greatest and most neglected performers in the history of American entertainment."
His work is widely known, although never documented, but, until now, nothing was known about Frees the man. The reason is simple: Paul Frees was and is an enigma, a complicated man who led a private, often secretive life. He was stylish and flamboyant in public, but underneath was a man of mystery. He's the kind of subject inclined to intimidate writers and researchers alike. Author Ben Ohmart, brave soul, has taken on the herculean task of uncovering what was once unknown - and he succeeds most admirably, and authoritatively.
Think of the work - the work of a workaholic. The amount of material the author has to shift through is monumental. The credit list that concludes the book is incredible. A lesser writer would have let these extensive credit lists "speak for themselves," but since they are just the bare bones of Frees' career, Ohmart fleshes it out by discussing, in detail, the radio work, the voices, the film "roles," the recordings, and the cartoons. Frees was also a writer, and many of his projects went unseen, so the discussion (and quoting) from this material is interesting and a revelation to his fans.
The area of Frees' recordings is my favorite, and I love the author's descriptive abilities. It's almost as good as listening to the real thing, and it makes the book not only informative, but fun as well. I laughed out loud on a few occasions at some of the Jay Ward (Bullwinkle), Disney and Spike Jones stuff. Paul Frees was a genius!
Utilizing extensive, detailed interviews with family, friends and co-workers (the book is filled with quotes), a personal portrait of Paul Frees takes shape. We learn of his ego, his obsessions, and his loneliness, and his complex relationship with his son. The author's interviews with Paul's son are most revealing and insightful, and they bring a great deal to the narrative and to our understanding of the elusive personal side of the artist.
Frees' great sense of humor dominates, however, and Ohmart gets some great stories about Frees cutting up in recording sessions, and one particularly hilarious anecdote from Frees' son regarding the shooting of a tarantula in the backyard. But as fun as this book is, when things get bad in Paul's life, Ohmart is right there with a sensitive handling of the situations.
Author Ben Ohmart looks beyond the voices (and excesses) to uncover the man within, coming up with an evenhanded, totally honest portrait of a very complicated individual. This is the definitive biography of an amazing artist. The terrific photos (more than 100) are mostly unseen - and are treasures. If you're a fan of Paul Frees, this is a must.
"Ben Ohmart’s Welcome, Foolish Mortals is obviously a work of devotion. Ohmart has dedicated extensive time and research to recreating the life and career of Paul Frees, one the most prolific voice actors in the mid 20th century."
- Portland Book Review
Comedy from Paul's son, Fred!