From ‘The Millionaire’ to ‘Bullwinkle’ : Paul Frees, Man of Many Voices, Dies
Paul Frees, whose famous voices emanated from a little-known face, has died in his Tiburon, Calif., home. He was 66 and died Saturday. His longtime agent, Charles Stern, said the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy, Inspector Fenwick and Boris Badenov on the “Bullwinkle” TV series and Prof. Ludwig von Drake for Walt Disney Studios, had a history of heart ailments.
Although Frees was little known outside the entertainment industry, he was one of its busiest members.
He was the voices for George Harrison and John Lennon in the Beatles’ animated TV show and served a similar role on both the “Jackson Five” and “The Osmonds” cartoon shows.
His was the major voice in such TV specials as “The Hobbit,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Stingiest Man in Town.”
Earlier he had been the powerful but unseen John Beresford Tipton in the old “The Millionaire” TV series.
He did impersonations and dubbed voices for such disparate actors as Humphrey Bogart and Toshiro Mifune. His voice is heard daily at the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Haunted House” and “The Lincoln Exhibit” at Disneyland.
He also will be remembered as the announcer for the “Mr. Goodwrench” advertising campaign of General Motors.
Frees’ unique talent lay in being able to hear a voice for just a few moments and then to imitate it immediately.
He began his career in the 1930s after winning a radio impersonation contest. He was on the vaudeville circuit as comic Buddy Green and gradually moved to radio, on which he narrated such eerie shows as “Suspense” and the melodramatic “Escape.”
All the Characters
In the late 1940s he starred in “The Player,” a 15-minute radio series that took advantage of Frees’ unique talents. He played all the characters and also served as host on the mystery-oriented shows.
In 1970 he made an album--"Paul Frees and the Poster People"--in which he became Peter Lorre singing “Hey Jude,” Sydney Greenstreet declaiming “Sugar, Sugar,” Bogart crooning “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and Clark Gable talking and singing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” among others.
His versatility brought him an income of more than $1 million a year and he owned luxury apartments in Scottsdale, Ariz., a restaurant in Malibu and a lavish home in Tiburon, where he did most of his recording.
Stern, his agent, said that the last time he came to Los Angeles to work was as narrator of the “Shogun” television series in 1980.
“There was a first-stage smog alert that day and Paul said, ‘That’s it, I’m never coming back.’ ”
Survivors include a son, a daughter, a sister and two brothers, who ask that contributions in his name be made to the American Heart Assn. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.