John Stephenson (actor)
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2012)|
|Born||John Winfield Stephenson
August 9, 1923
Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Other names||John Stevenson|
|Occupation||Voice actor, actor|
John Winfield Stephenson (born August 9, 1923) is an American actor and voice artist. He has also been credited as John Stevenson. Stephenson never gave any interviews and was rarely seen in public, although he did make an appearance at BotCon 2001. Since the death of Harvey Korman in 2008, he is one of the last surviving recurring voice actors from the 1960s animated sitcom, The Flintstones, in which he played Mr. Slate.
Early guest starring roles
He started his acting career in numerous television shows in the 1950s and into the 1970s, usually in small guest star roles on such shows as:
- The Johnny Carson Show where Stephenson played himself but acted as a super serious news-break announcer on several episodes while Carson played the roving reporter in the sketches; On screen Stephenson wore a suit and a fedora, typical attire for the hard-boiled character often played up on early television; Carson's series ran during 1955-1956.
- The Burns and Allen Show where Stephenson made multiple cameo guest appearances, such as the episodes titled, "How To Wrap a Mink" (air date - December 23rd, 1957 - CBS) and "Gracie and the Jury" (air date : April 23rd, 1958 - CBS) where Stephenson played a Prosecuting Attorney.
- The Real McCoys in four episodes between 1958 and 1963, twice as Don Hogan ("The Ladies' Man" and "The Rival"), once as Charles Franklin ("Little Boy Blew"), and as an unnamed officer ("Grandpa Fights the Air Force").
- Bonanza in one episode as John Henry in the episode "The Sisters" (12 December 1959).
- Perry Mason in three episodes; as Ed Davenport in "The Case of the Runaway Corpse" (23 November 1957), as Grant Reynolds in "The Case of the Borrowed Brunette" (10 January 1959), and as Frank Avery in "The Case of the Gallant Grafter" (6 February 1960).
- The Beverly Hillbillies, in three episodes; as Mr. Landman in "Jed Pays His Income Tax" (3 April 1963), and as Professor Robert Graham in "Cabin in Beverly Hills" (27 May 1964) and in "Jed Foils a Home Wrecker" (3 June 1964).
- F Troop, in one episode, "Old Ironpants", as General George Armstrong Custer (2 November 1965).
- Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., in two episodes; Major Stone in "They Shall Not Pass" (4 December 1964) and as Mr. Clark in "Sue The Pants Off 'Em" (1 February 1967).
- Hogan's Heroes as Captain Muller in "Go Light on the Heavy Water" (12 November 1965), Professor Bauer in "The Dropouts" (27 December 1970), Major Rudel in "The Softer They Fall" (23 January 1970), Decker in "Bad Day in Berlin" (7 December 1968), Karl in "The Collector General" (9 March 1968), Felix in "One in Every Crowd" (11 November 1967), Major Kohler in "Information Please" (23 December 1966) and as an Inspector General in "Colonel Klink's Secret Weapon" (24 March 1967).
- The Millionaire in two episodes; as Doctor Cartwright in "The Irene Marshall Story" (21 January 1959), and as Chet in "The Candy Caldwell Story" (29 February 1956).
- Treasury Men in Action as Agent Warwick in "The Case of the Frightened Man" (24 June 1955), as Agent Jennings in "The Case of the Perfect Gentleman" (2 June 1955), as Agent Weston in "The Case of the Man Next Door" (5 May 1955), as Agent Grant in "The Case of the Steady Hand" (21 April 1955), and as Agent Trumbull in "The Case of the Princely Pauper" (17 February 1955).
- TV Reader's Digest in two episodes as John Rolfe in "America's First Great Lady" and as Pirate John Alden in "The Voyage of Captain Tom Jones" (1955).
- The Lone Ranger in one episode as Ranger Roy Barnett in "Dan Reid's Fight for Life (18 November 1954).
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Varner in "The Never-Never Affair" (22 March 1965)
Stephenson provided the voice for commercials of the era, including spots for Peter Pan Peanut Butter featuring character actor Jesse White. For several decades, Stephenson worked for Hanna-Barbera Productions, doing voice acting for many of its 1960s and 1970s animated television series, including Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Top Cat, Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, Jonny Quest and Luke and Blubber Bear in the Wacky Races, among many others. Stephenson's most notable role for Hanna-Barbera was as the voice of Mr. Slate, Fred Flintstone's hard-edged boss at Slate Rock and Gravel Company, from the original The Flintstones series up through to the present, although he provided the voices of the majority of the show's guest characters, making him one of the main cast members of the show. He is now the only living cast member of the show. He also did voices on Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, Arabian Knights, and Inch High, Private Eye.
Stephenson's voice was frequently used and often most remembered for his work on Jonny Quest. There he provided the voice of Dr. Benton Quest for the first 5 episodes, until Barbera decided that his voice too closely sounded like the voice of Mike Road who voiced the character Race Bannon.
Here is the list of known Jonny Quest characterizations provided by John Stephenson:
- The Mystery of the Lizard Men: Dr. Benton Quest, Ship Captain
- Arctic Splashdown: Dr. Benton Quest, Pilot IF3, Frogman on raft, Ship's captain, Rescue Pilot 2
- The Curse of Anubis: Dr. Benton Quest, Kidnapper 2, Arab Rifleman in tomb
- Pursuit of the Po-Ho: Dr. Benton Quest, Po-Ho Indian
- Double Danger: Dr. Benton Quest, Sotep
- The Invisible Monster: Professor Isaiah Norman
Stephenson was most often called upon to voice curmudgeon and irascible characters. His range was limited but served him well in the roles he brought to prominence. In total, Stephenson had about five or six 'voices' he would apply to characters. There is his most-used voice, which he gave to Mr. Slate on The Flintstones series. Another character given that same vocal delivery was Chief Wiggins on the series Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Sheriff Bagley on Clue Club, and countless others. Another voice Stephenson liked to use was the high nasal Joe Flynn inspired voice. This voice was usually given to the characters that were either rude, or smart-alecks, or flat out mean. Also, these characters were prone to short tempers; examples include Mr. Peevly from Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch! and Schnooker from the little seen series Inspector Mumbly which aired as part of the The New Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape/Mumbly Show. Stephenson was cast most often in the Scooby-Doo cartoons as the villains or the red herring scientist. In "High Rise Hair Raiser", one episode of Scooby-Doo, Stephenson was the voices of Mr. Daugherty, Mr. Speck, and the villain of that episode, The Specter. Still, another voice Stephenson was noted for, was his take on Boris Karloff. A lot of the Karloff-sounding villains in early episodes of Scooby-Doo were provided by Stephenson. He voiced Hairy Scary on Casper and the Angels along with Casper's Halloween Special and Casper's First Christmas. Stephenson provided his voice as Farmer John Arable in the 1973 Hanna-Barbera animated feature Charlotte's Web.
Stephenson borrowed the vocal traits of Joe Flynn for several characters as mentioned earlier, Boris Karloff for several more, and did a pretty good Jimmy Durante for the 1970s and 1980s version of Doggie Daddy on Yogi's Treasure Hunt. Also, if needed, Stephenson has been known to do a take-off on Paul Lynde as heard on the 1977 series Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics as the character Mildew Wolf. Originally, Paul Lynde voiced the character as part of a segment shown on a series called Cattanooga Cats but was not interested in reprising the role on Laff-a-Lympics. Stephenson also gave voice to the re-designed Dick Dastardly character on that series whose name was Dread Baron. A further Stephenson voice was used for the magician The Great Fondoo, inspired perhaps by Bela Lugosi.
For the Adventures of Gulliver series, he voiced both the villain Captain Leech and the Lilliputian monarch, King Pomp; in the first episode of the series he also voiced Gulliver's father. Stephenson reached back for the Paul Lynde voice when he was cast as Wilfred Wolf in the early 1980s series, Kwicky Koala.
Stephenson reprised his role of Luke from Wacky Races in the Wacky Races video game.
During the 1980s, he contributed to various cartoons of the period such as G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Galaxy High and Bionic Six. He voiced Huffer, Windcharger, Thundercracker, and Alpha Trion from the 1980s mega-hit The Transformers, and took over the role of Kup for the show's third season (the character was voiced by Lionel Stander in The Transformers: The Movie). In 1987, he reprised his role of Fancy-Fancy in Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats. He provided the voice of Professor X in Pryde of the X-Men (which is interesting as he previously provided the voice for X-Men nemesis Magneto during the character's appearance in the 1970s Fantastic Four cartoon).
In 2004, Stephenson narrated the featurette "Space Age Gadgets" for The Jetsons First Season DVD box set. He also narrated the featurette "Wacky Inventions" for The Flintstones Complete Series DVD box set. Recently in 2010, the voice actor played Sheriff on Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo, marking the first time, he voiced a character on a direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo movie.
Stephenson was also the narrator in the classic television series Dragnet (1967–1970), recapping the fate of the perpetrators at the end of every episode. (The opening narration at this time was performed by George Fenneman)
Stephenson, using his "Mr. Slate voice", provided the voice of Mr. Fernwell in a series of Accountemps radio ads.
- Lawson, Tim; Persons, Alisa (2004-12-01). The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who's Who of Cartoon Voice Actors. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 326–. ISBN 9781578066964. Retrieved 9 May 2012.