Opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author, David C. Matthews (unless otherwise indicated). Images used are copyrighted by their respective owners, and appear under the "fair use" provisions of the copyright laws.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tara and the Old-Time Radio Connection

Internet institution James Lileks recently wrote about "the moment when you discover that the voices of your favorite childhood Disney movies had long careers that preceded their appearances in the cartoons. The fun in life? Filling in the details, making connections."

Well, I'm still finding the fun in life, because I'm still making these connections.

Anyone who's watched as many cartoons as I have over lo these many decades - and paid attention to the talented men and women who made them possible - will see a certain number of the same names pop up again and again as the voice artists. Mel Blanc is most famous for the classic Warner Bros. cartoons, but he pops up again and again in the credits for other animation studios as well; he's the original voice of Woody Woodpecker and Barney Rubble, just to name two out of hundreds. June Foray, the voice of Rocky the flying squirrel from Bullwinkle And Friends, Witch Hazel (Warner Bros.) and Cindy-Lou Who (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) could be considered the "female Mel Blanc", so numerous are her credits. Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Janet Waldo, the list of names you see over and over in the voice cast credits is almost endless.

So when an unfamiliar name shows up as the voice of a major character, you can't help (at least I can't) but want to find out more about the actor. So it was with the woman who supplied the voice of my favorite (human) Herculoids character, Tara.

I was already familiar with the credited voice actors Mike Road and Don Messick from their roles as Race Bannon and Dr. Benton Quest, respectively, from Jonny Quest (my fave cartoon series until Space Ghost and The Herculoids came along). Although I was surprised that the rich baritone voice of Zandor (Mike Road) was also creating the growls and screeches for Igoo, Tundro and Zok! Ted ("Teddy") Eccles, the voice of Dorno, was a pretty generic "pre-teenager" voice, and apparently hasn't had much of a career in show business since the series. But the voice of Tara - Virginia Gregg? Never heard of her.

So I looked her up… and whaddaya know? Gregg had a long career in TV and radio; her name is all over the casts for many of the classic "old time radio" (OTR) shows like Dragnet, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar and The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe.

She was born in 1916, so she'd have been 50 years old in 1967 when she voiced Tara in the original series… and 64 (!) when she reprised the role for the 1981 Space Stars revival! She certainly sounded younger than that! (Especially considering that she was one of two uncredited actresses who did the voice for Norman Bates' mother in Psycho, and reprised the role for the two sequels.) Tragically, Gregg would die some 5 years after Space Stars, at age 70 in 1986.

Virginia Gregg isn't the only reason for my recent interest in OTR; but she's certainly one of several, as it was my curiosity about the roles outside of cartoons that some of my favorite voice actors like Paul Frees took on that led me to start listening and appreciating "Golden Age" radio dramas. (And imagine my surprise to find out that Gerald Mohr, the voice of Reed Richards in Hanna-Barbera's Fantastic Four, was Philip Marlowe in the aforementioned radio series! So he and Gregg would have worked together quite a lot.)

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