A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of June, Solar Year 2018

A Horticultural Marvel

June 22, 1920 was the birthdate of the American voice actor and comedian Paul Frees.

Paul Frees was born Solomon Hersh Frees in Chicago, Illinois. He had an unusually wide four-octave voice range. In the 1930s, he first appeared on vaudeville as an impressionist, under the name of Buddy Green. He began his career in radio in 1942; but it was cut short when he was drafted into World War II. Frees was wounded in action and returned to the United States for a year of recuperation.

Frees appeared frequently on Hollywood radio series, playing lead roles and alternating with William Conrad as the announcer on the 1940’s “Escape”. One of his starring roles on radio was as Jethro Dumont (the Green Lama) in the 1949 Series “The Green Lama”, a show about a caped crime fighter with mystical powers. Frees in that year voice all the parts in the “The Player” syndicated anthology series.

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. Frees read fo Toshiro Mifume’s performances as Admiral Yamamoto in the movie “Midway. He also provided much of Tony Curtis’ female character in the film “Some Like It Hot”. Frees also dubbed 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.

Frees worked extensively with at least nine of the major animation production companies of the 20th century. He was a regular presence in the Jay Ward cartoons, providing the voices of Boris Badenov in “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”, Inspector Fenwick in “Dudley Do-Right”, commissioner Alistair and Weevil Plumtree in “George of the Jungle”, Fred in “Super Chicken”, and many others. Frees portrayed the radio-reporter in the 1953 film “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, his character says that the recording is being made “for future history… if any”

Although Frees was 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 most notable screenwriting work was the little-seen 1960 film “The Beatniks”, a screed against the then-rising Beat counterculture in the vein of “Reefer Madness.