July 23, 1912|
New York City, New York
|Died||July 28, 2004
New York City, New York
|Years active||1931 – 2004|
Jackson Beck (July 23, 1912 – July 28, 2004) was an American actor best known as the announcer on radio's The Adventures of Superman and the voice of Bluto in the Famous era Popeye theatrical shorts.
Beck's father, Max Beck, was a silent film actor. Beck had a career in radio, television, and animation dating from 1931 with Myrt and Marge, among other roles. In 1934, he was the announcer for The Adventures of Babe Ruth on the radio. In 1943, he took over as narrator of radio's The Adventures of Superman; it was Beck who intoned the familiar prologue "strange visitor from another planet..." Decades later, he portrayed Perry White, Clark Kent's boss in Filmation's The New Adventures of Superman animated series and was narrator as well. He also impersonated Joseph Stalin and other world leaders for the March of Time radio series, starred as The Cisco Kid on radio from 1942 to 1945 and sleuth Philo Vance in a syndicated series from 1948 to 1950, starred in the dramatic anthology Brownstone Theater on Mutual, and served as narrator for the radio adventures of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.
In 1969, Beck used his deep, dramatic, modulated voice as the narrator of Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run. Three years earlier, he dubbed the English voice of the judge listing Tuco's many crimes before sentencing him to death by hanging in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Beck was one of the players in National Lampoon's first comedy album Radio Dinner in 1972. He was prominent as well in Allen's 1987 film Radio Days, dubbing the voice of the on-the-spot newsman. Beck also co-starred in several episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater (CBSRMT).
Beck had a prolific career in animation, becoming one of the regular voice actors at Famous Studios in the mid-1940s. He voiced Bluto, Brutus, and Pleeto in the Popeye cartoons, Little Lulu's father, and Buzzy the Crow, who was a foil for Katnip the Cat in a number of cartoons. Beck used a black dialect for the voice of Buzzy. He was also the voice of King Leonardo in the 1960s TV cartoon series of the same name. He also had a part in the Peanuts 1977 film Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown as the snickering cat, Brutus. He narrated the 1980s G.I. Joe animated TV series. His other voice work included network TV promos (he did a series of promos for NBC's NFL coverage for much of the 1980s), narration for sketches on Saturday Night Live, movie trailers, and commercials for everything from toys to shampoo (one of Beck's very last commercials was for Infusium Shampoo).
Beck also served as a pitchman for products from Combat Roach Killer to Little Caesars Pizza (he was Caesar, Jr.) In 1999, he narrated a dramatization of L. Ron Hubbard's Dr. Methuselah for NPR's radio series 2000X. Beck also did few onscreen acting roles. A notable one was as mobster Willie Saffire in the crime-based daytime soap opera The Edge of Night from 1968 to 1969.
Beck died of a stroke on July 28, 2004, five days after his 92nd birthday. He is buried in Brooklyn's Mount Hope Cemetery.
- Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Pp. 14, 122.
- Mclellan, Dennis. "Jackson Beck, 92; Radio, TV Voice Performer for 70 Years," Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2004.
- Kallman, Jeff. "Farewell, Jackson". The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio. Retrieved 2009-10-15.