Henry Corden, 85; Played Film and TV Heavies, Was Voice of Fred Flintstone

Times Staff Writer

Henry Corden, a veteran character actor and voice-over artist, who in the late 1970s became the voice of Fred Flintstone -- “Yabba-dabba-doo!” -- has died. He was 85.

Corden died of complications of emphysema Thursday in an Encino hospital, said his agent, Don Pitts.

The Montreal-born Corden, who moved to New York as a child, was a radio actor when he arrived in Hollywood in the 1940s. He made his screen debut playing a menacing character in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the classic 1947 comedy starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo.

With his deep voice, jet-black hair and ethnic looks, Corden was frequently tapped to play heavies in films and on television.


“If they needed a coldblooded thug, he always got the job,” Pitts said.

Over the next decade, Corden appeared in small roles in such films as “Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion” and “The Ten Commandments.” He also appeared in dozens of TV shows, including “Dragnet,” “Perry Mason” and “Gunsmoke.”

With his flair for dialects, Corden moved into voice-acting in the 1960s, supplying a variety of voices on cartoons such as “Jonny Quest” and “The New Tom & Jerry Show.” He also was the voice of Paw Rugg on “The Atom Ant Show,” and he did voice-overs in a string of commercials, including a bit as a fish for StarKist tuna.

“The Flintstones” -- William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s parody on modern suburban life set in the Stone Age -- was the first prime-time animated series. Corden, in fact, had been a guest-voice on a number of episodes for the show, which premiered in 1960.


After the series ended in 1966, the characters lived on, and Corden took over as the voice of bombastic Fred Flintstone when its originator, Alan Reed, died in 1977.

“People relate to ‘The Flintstones,’ ” Corden told The Times in 1991. “Wilma is a wonderful lady and yet is not subservient. Fred, of course, is the usual bumbling male. But he is a good, wonderful man, and people can relate to an Everyman.”

Once asked by a Newsday reporter if he were similar to Fred, Corden said: “Yes, my wife never lets me go bowling.”

Corden also told Newsday that it took him some time to learn Fred’s voice because he had to imitate Reed, which he learned by listening to tapes of him.


“Eventually, I got pretty close to him, but as the years progressed, I decided to make Fred more my own so I [didn’t] have to imitate Alan so much.”

“The Flintstones” had been inspired by Jackie Gleason’s “The Honeymooners,” and, Pitts said Friday, Corden “made it more like Gleason because he thought it made it better. Gleason was over the top, so that’s what he did with the character.”

For nearly 30 years, Corden supplied his Fred Flintstone voice in a string of cartoon series and specials such as “Fred and Barney Meet the Thing” and “A Flintstones Christmas Carol.” He also can be heard as Fred in commercials for Pebbles cereal.

“He was a great gentleman to work with,” Joseph Barbera said Friday. “His characterization of Fred Flintstone will never be duplicated.”


Corden is survived by his wife, Angelina; two children from his first marriage, Dawna Wade and Robin Smith; three stepchildren, Monica Faraldo, Army Capt. Erik Faraldo and Derek Faraldo; and five grandchildren.