Paul Frees

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Paul Frees
Frees in a rare onscreen appearance in The 27th Day (1957)
Born Solomon Hersh Frees
(1920-06-22)June 22, 1920
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died November 2, 1986(1986-11-02) (aged 66)
Tiburon, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
Resting place
Pacific Ocean
Nationality American
Other names The Man of a Thousand Voices
Solomon Hersh Frees
Solomon Frees
Paul Hersh Frees
Occupation Actor
Years active 1930s–1986

Solomon Hersh Frees (June 22, 1920 – November 2, 1986), better known as Paul Frees, was an American actor, impressionist, voice artist, and comedian, known for his work on MGM, Walter Lantz, and Walt Disney theatrical cartoons during the Golden Age of Animation[1] and for providing the voice of Boris Badenov in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.[1] He became known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices."[2]

Early life[edit]

Frees was born Solomon Hersh Frees in Chicago, Illinois on June 22, 1920. He had an unusually wide four-octave voice range that would enable him to voice everything from the thundering basso profundo of the unseen "Ghost Host" in the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland in California[1] and at Walt Disney World in Florida to the squeaky voice of the Little Green Sprout in the Green Giant vegetable commercials.


In the 1930s, Frees first appeared on vaudeville as an impressionist, under the name Buddy Green. He began his career on radio in 1942 and remained active for over 40 years. During that time, he was involved in more than 250 films, cartoons and TV appearances; like many voice actors, his appearances were often uncredited.

Frees' early radio career was cut short when he was drafted into World War II where he fought at Normandy, France on D-Day. He was wounded in action and was returned to the United States for a year of recuperation. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute under the G.I. Bill. When his first wife's health failed, he decided to drop out and return to radio work.[3]

He appeared frequently on Hollywood radio series, including Escape, playing lead roles and alternating with William Conrad as the opening announcer of Suspense in the late 1940s, and parts on Gunsmoke, (doing an impersonation of Howard McNear as Doc Adams for at least one episode, "The Cast"), and Crime Classics. One of his few starring roles in this medium was as Jethro Dumont/Green Lama in the 1949 series The Green Lama, as well as a syndicated anthology series The Player, in which Frees narrated and played all the parts.

Frees was often called upon in the 1950s and 1960s to "re-loop" the dialogue of other actors, often to correct for foreign accents, lack of English proficiency, or poor line readings by non-professionals. These dubs extended from a few lines to entire roles. This can be noticed rather clearly in the films "Grand Prix" ( as Izo Yamura) and Midway where Frees reads for Toshiro Mifune's performances as Admiral Yamamoto; or in the film Some Like It Hot, in which Frees provides the voice of funeral director Mozzarella as well as much of the falsetto voice for Tony Curtis' female character Josephine. Frees also dubbed the entire role of Eddie in the Disney film The Ugly Dachshund, replacing actor Dick Wessel, who had died of a sudden heart attack after completion of principal photography. Frees also dubbed Humphrey Bogart in his final film The Harder They Fall. Bogart was suffering at the time from what would be diagnosed as esophageal cancer and thus could barely be heard in some takes, hence the need for Frees to dub in his voice. He also voiced the cars in the comedy The Great Race.

Unlike many voice actors who did most of their work for one studio, Frees worked extensively with at least nine of the major animation production companies of the 20th century: Walt Disney Studios, Walter Lantz Studios, UPA, Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, Jay Ward Productions, and Rankin/Bass.


Some of Frees' most memorable voices were for various Disney projects. Frees voiced Disney's Professor Ludwig Von Drake in eighteen episodes of the Disney anthology television series,[4] beginning with the first episode of the newly renamed Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on September 24, 1961. The character also appeared on many Disneyland Records. Von Drake's introductory cartoon, An Adventure in Color, featured The Spectrum Song, sung by Frees as Von Drake. A different Frees recording of this song appeared on a children's record, and was later reissued on CD.[5]

Frees narrated a number of Disney cartoons, including the Disney educational short film Donald in Mathmagic Land. This short originally aired in the same television episode as Von Drake's first appearance.

He also provided voices for numerous characters at Disney parks, including the unseen "Ghost Host" in the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and several audio-animatronic pirates, including the Auctioneer, in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and recorded the iconic "Dead Men Tell No Tales" used in the ride.[6] Disney eventually issued limited edition compact discs commemorating the two rides, featuring outtakes and unused audio tracks by Frees and others. Frees also provided narration for the Tomorrowland attraction Adventure Thru Inner Space (1967–1985). Audio clips from the attractions in Frees' distinctive voice have even appeared in fireworks shows at Disneyland.

A computer-animated singing bust in Frees' likeness appeared in the 2003 film The Haunted Mansion as an homage. Similarly, audio recordings of Frees from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction can be heard in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End in an homage to the ride.

Frees also had a small live-action role for Disney in the 1959 film The Shaggy Dog, playing Dr. Galvin, a military psychiatrist who attempts to understand why Mr. Daniels believes a shaggy dog can uncover a spy ring. He had also done the opening narration for the film.

His other Disney credits, most of them narration for segments of the Disney anthology television series, include the following:

For his contributions to the Disney legacy, Frees was honored posthumously as a Disney Legend on October 9, 2006.[7]

Jay Ward Productions[edit]

Frees was a regular presence in Jay Ward cartoons, providing the voices of Boris Badenov (from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show), Inspector Fenwick (from Dudley Do-Right, impersonating Eric Blore), Ape (impersonating Ronald Colman), District Commissioner Alistair and Weevil Plumtree in George of the Jungle, Baron Otto Matic in Tom Slick, Fred in Super Chicken, and the Hoppity Hooper narrator, among numerous others.


Frees is well-remembered for many characters in Rankin/Bass cartoons and stop-motion animated TV specials, including the central villain Burgermeister Meisterburger and his assistant Grimsley in Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970). He was also the traffic cop, ticket-taker, and Santa Claus in Frosty the Snowman in 1969. He was several voices, including Eon the Terrible, in Rudolph's Shiny New Year in 1976. In 1968, he appeared as Captain Jones in the Thanksgiving special The Mouse on the Mayflower, and that Christmas he appeared as the father of the Drummer Boy, Ali, and as the three Wise Men in The Little Drummer Boy. He provided the voices for several J. R. R. Tolkien characters (most notably the dwarf Bombur) in Rankin/Bass animated versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King. He also voiced King Haggard's wizard Mabruk in The Last Unicorn and provided several voices for the Jackson Five cartoon series between 1971 and 1973.

The following Rankin Bass TV specials or films played by Paul Frees including:

George Pal[edit]

Frees portrayed the Orson Welles sound-alike radio reporter in George Pal's film The War of the Worlds (1953), where he is seen dictating into a tape recorder as the military prepares the atomic bomb for use against the invading Martians.

Memorably, his character says that the recording is being made "for future history... if any". Frees also provided the opening narration on man's war escalation in the film prior to Sir Cedric Hardwicke's reciting of the H. G. Wells novel. Frees subsequently provided the apocalyptic voice for the 'talking rings'" in Pal's later film The Time Machine (1960), in which he explains the ultimate fate of humanity from which the time-traveller realises the origin of the Morlocks and Eloi.

Producer Pal later put Frees to work again in the fantasy film Atlantis, the Lost Continent (also 1960) and doing the opening voice-over narration for Pal's Doc Savage (1975) film.

Other voice work[edit]

The talented actor voiced several characters, including three of the main characters, in the US versions of Belvision's The Adventures of Tintin cartoons, based on the books by Hergé.

He had also done work for Hanna-Barbera in their Tom and Jerry shorts at MGM. In the 1956 Cinemascope Tom and Jerry cartoon, Blue Cat Blues, he was Jerry's voice who narrated the short; he had also voiced Jerry's cousin Muscles in Jerry's Cousin five years earlier. His most famous role(s) were the cannibals in the banned Tom and Jerry episode His Mouse Friday where he said the lines "Mmmmm, barbecued cat!" and "Mmmmm, barbecued mouse!"

At the MGM Animation studio, he also did multiple voice roles for the legendary Tex Avery's films. His most prominent work[citation needed] was playing every single role in Cellbound in 1955.

From October 1961 through September 1962, Paul Frees provided the voice for the shady lawyer named Judge Oliver Wendell Clutch, a weasel on the animated program Calvin and the Colonel starring the voices of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, the series was an animated television remake of their radio series Amos 'n Andy.

For the 1962 Christmas special Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, produced by UPA, Paul Frees voiced several characters, including Fezziwig, the Charity Man, two of the opportunists who steal from the dead man (Eyepatch Man and Tall Tophat Man)[8] and Mister Magoo's Broadway theatre director. He subsequently provided numerous voices for further cartoons in the series that followed, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.

Frees provided the voices of both John Lennon and George Harrison in the 1965 The Beatles cartoon series, the narrator, Big D and Fluid Man in the 1966 cartoon series, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles and of The Thing in the 1967 series Fantastic Four, as well as President James Norcross in the 1967 cartoon series Super President. He played several roles—narrator, Chief of State, the judges and the bailiff—in the George Lucas / John Korty animated film, Twice Upon a Time.

Frees provided the voice-over for the trailer to the 1971 Clint Eastwood thriller, Play Misty for Me.

In television commercials, he was the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy, the 7-Up bird Fresh-Up Freddie, Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam (previously voiced by Mel Blanc, later voiced by Maurice LaMarche), Boo-Berry in the series of monster cereal commercials, and the little man who called out to the Jolly Green Giant, "Hey, Green Giant, what's new besides ho-ho-ho?"

Frees narrated many live action films and television series, including Naked City (1958–1963). Paul Frees also provided the voice of the eccentric billionaire John Beresford Tipton, always seated in his chair with his back to the viewer while talking to his employee Michael Anthony (fellow voice-artist Marvin Miller), on the dramatic series The Millionaire.

He was the narrator at the beginning of the film The Disorderly Orderly starring Jerry Lewis. He also "looped" an actor's voice in the film The Ladies Man also starring Jerry Lewis.

Frees had a wide range of other roles, usually heard but not seen, and frequently without screen credit. The resonance of his natural voice was similar to that of Orson Welles, and he performed a Welles impression several times. Some highlights of his voice work are as follows:

Other credits[edit]

Although Frees was primarily known for his voice work (like Mel Blanc, he was known in the industry as "The Man of a Thousand Voices"), he was also a songwriter and screenwriter, his major work being the little-seen 1960 film The Beatniks, a screed against the then-rising Beat counterculture in the vein of Reefer Madness. In 1992, the film was "riffed" on an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

On rare occasions, Frees appeared on camera, usually in minor roles. In 1954, he appeared in the film noir classic Suddenly which starred Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden. He played a scientist in The Thing from Another World, a death-row priest in A Place in the Sun, and French fur trader McMasters in The Big Sky. In 1955, he appeared as an irate husband suing his wife, played by Ann Doran, for alimony in an episode of CBS's sitcom The Ray Milland Show.

In Jet Pilot, Frees plays a menacing Soviet officer whose job is to watchdog pilot Janet Leigh, but instead manages to eject himself out of a parked jet, enabling Leigh to rescue John Wayne and fly back to the West. He also played the voice of a war correspondent interviewing Patton while Patton is riding his horse in Patton and also as a member of Patton's staff, and also did various voice-overs for other actors, including the voice for the sheik hosting a troop review for Patton, as well as several others. Frees' voice also appears in Tora! Tora! Tora! as the English language voice of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States. He also does the final ending narration after the destruction of the Earth in the first sequel to The Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes.


There have been homages to Frees by fellow voice actor Corey Burton, who happens to have matched the voices he used for some of his characters. Burton (who had met Frees during the late 1970s) has re-recorded introductions for some Disneyland attractions that were originally recorded by Frees. In some cases, the original Frees introductions were simply worn out due to overuse. In other cases the introductions changed slightly to reflect updated safety standards and thus necessitated a re-recording.[citation needed] Since 1986, Corey Burton has taken over the role of Ludwig Von Drake. His son Fred Frees has also become a prominent voice actor.


Frees was active until his sudden death on November 2, 1986 from heart failure at age 66. At the time of his death, he was living in Tiburon, California. Frees was cremated and his ashes were scattered upon the Pacific Ocean.


Original Air Date Program Role Episode
1945 The Lux Radio Theatre Multiple Characters
1945-47 A Man Named Jordan Digger Slade
1946 Rogue's Gallery
1946 The Whistler
1946 The Alan Young Show
1946-52 Suspense Announcer / Passerby / Earl White / Frankenstein's Monster / Hubbard
1947 Ellery Queen
1947-48 Escape Doctor Dubosk / /Finnie Morner /John Woolfolk /Sanger Rainsford "The Fourth Man"
"Snake Doctor"
"Wild Oranges"
"The Most Dangerous Game"
1948 Your Movietown Radio Theatre Multiple Characters
1948 The First Nighter Program Additional voices
1949 The Green Lama Jethro Dumont / Green Lama
1949 Rocky Jordan
1949 Four Star Playhouse
1951 The Silent Men
1951 Mr. Aladdin Robert Aladdin
1951 Broadway Is My Beat
1952-53 Gunsmoke Sut Grider / Gallagher / Doc Charles Adams (1 episode) "Heat Spell"
"The Soldier"
"The Cast"
1953 Crime Classics Charles McManus / Charley Ford / Charles Drew, Sr. / Pub Man "The Axe and the Droot Family- How They Fared"
"The Death of a Picture Hanger"
"The Shrapnelled Body of Charles Drew, Sr."
1953 Mr. President Additional Voices
1953 On Stage Chauffeur "Skin Deep"
1954 Fibber McGee and Molly
1956 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar Bert Parker "The Jolly Roger Fraud" (Part 1)
1957 The CBS Radio Workshop Captain Vesey / Ogden the Messenger "Sweet Cherries in Charleston"
1984 Bradbury 13 Narrator
Year Film Role Notes
1947 Crazy with the Heat Oasis Soda Fountain Proprietor Uncredited
1950 Jerry and the Lion Radio Announcer
1951 A Place in the Sun Rev. Morrison Live-Action
1951 Jerry's Cousin Cousin Muscles
1951 His Mouse Friday Jerry / Cannibals Uncredited
1951 The Thing From Another World Dr. Voorhees Live-Action
1951 His Kind of Woman Corley Live-Action
1952 The Star Richard Stanley Live-Action
1952 Cruise Cat Ship's Captain
1952 Busybody Bear Bear
1953 Life with Tom Radio Announcer
1953 The Missing Mouse Radio Announcer
1953 Wee Willy Wildcat Barney Bear
1953 The War of the Worlds Radio Reporter Live-Action
1953 Buccaneer Woodpecker Wally Walrus
1953 T.V. of Tomorrow Narrator
1954 The Farm of Tomorrow Narrator
1954 Homesteader Droopy Narrator
1954 Suddenly Benny Live-Action
1955 Cellbound Prisoner / Warden / Little Wife
1956 Down Beat Bear First Radio Announcer
1956 Blue Cat Blues Jerry Mouse
1956 Francis in the Haunted House Francis
1957 The 27th Day Ward Mason / Newscaster Live-Action
1957 The Cyclops Cyclops
1959 Some Like It Hot Tony Curtis as Josephine
1959 The Shaggy Dog Narrator / J. W. Galvin
1960 Loopy De Loop Watchdog "Tale of a Wolf"
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians Dirty Dawson Uncredited
1962-72 The Beary Family Charlie Beary /Junior Beary
1964 Robin and the 7 Hoods Radio News Announcer
1964 The Disorderly Orderly Narrator
1964 The Carpetbaggers Narrator Uncredited
1965 The Great Race Automobiles
1966 The Man Called Flintstone Green Goose / Agent Triple X / Mario / Rock Slag / Ali / Bobo
1970 Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura Uncredited
1970 Patton War Correspondent / Member of the Staff of Patton / Sheik
1975 Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze Narrator Uncredited
1982 The Flight of Dragons Antiquity Uncredited
1982 The Last Unicorn Mabruk
1983 Twice Upon a Time Narrator / Chief of State / Judges in The Pantry of Pomp / Bailiff
1987 The Puppetoon Movie Arnie the Dinosaur / Pillsbury Doughboy Released posthumously; 7 months after his death
Year Title Role Notes
1953 The Jack Benny Program Narrator "The Honolulu Trip"
1955 Meet Mr. McNutley Husband Live-Action
"Jury Duty"
1955-56 The Bob Cummings Show Television announcer
1955-60 The Millionaire John Beresford Tipton Voice
1956 Jane Wyman Presents Emcee Live-Action
"Ten Percent"
1956-58 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Announcer / Swanson / Mary's Father Voice
1957 The Adventures of Jim Bowie Etienne Live-Action
"German George"
1957-68, 1976, 1986 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Ludwig Von Drake / Narrator / Donald Duck (1 episode) Voice
1958-59 Steve Canyon Narrator
1959-64 Rocky and Bullwinkle Boris / Inspector Fenwick / Captain Peter "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz / Additional Voices
1960-61 The Flintstones Mr. Granite / Rockenschpeel /Announcer / Ed Bedrock "The Babysitters"
"The Happy Household"
1961 Top Cat Additional Voices
1961 The Dick Tracy Show Go-Go Gomez Uncredited
1961-62 Calvin and the Colonel Judge Oliver Wendell Clutch
1963 Krazy Kat Ignatz Mouse
1964-65 The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo Sherlock Holmes
1961-75 Hoppity Hooper Narrator / Lupo / Sentry
1965-66 The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show Squiddly Diddly / Morocco Mole / Double-Q / Yellow Pinkie /Claude Hopper
1965-69 The Beatles John Lennon / George Harrison
1966 The Impossibles Fluid-Man / Professor Stretch / Captain Kid / Puzzler / Infamous Mr. Instant / Artful Archer / Dr. Futuro
1966 Laurel and Hardy Additional Characters
1966-67 The Super 6 Dispatcher "Super Chief" / Brother Matzoriley #1 and #3 / Captain Whammo
1966-68 Space Ghost Brago / Zeron
1967 George of the Jungle Ape / Weevil / Baron Otto Matic
1967-68 Super President James Norcross / Narrator
1967-68 The Fantastic 4 Ben Grimm / The Thing
1969 The Pink Panther Show Man Talking to the Pink Panther / Texan Hunter / The Pink Panther (1 episode)
1970 The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians W. C. Fields / Zeppo Marx / Harpo Marx / Traffic Cop TV Special
1970 Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town Burgermeister Meisterburger / Newsreel Announcer / Kringle Brothers / Grimsby / Topper / Additional Voices TV Special
1971-72 The Jackson 5ive Additional Voices
1972 Alias Smith and Jones Hannibal Heyes Voice
"The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg"
1974-76 Run, Joe, Run Narrator
1976 Frosty's Winter Wonderland Jack Frost / Traffic Cop TV Special
1976 The Pink Panther Laugh-and-a-Half Hour-and-a-Half Show Additional Voices
1977 The Hobbit Bombur / Troll #1 TV Movie
1978 The Stingiest Man in Town Ghost of Christmas Past / Ghost of Christmas Present TV Special
1979 Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July Jack Frost / Officer Kelly / Winterbolt / Genie of the Ice Scepter / Keeper of the Cave of Lost Rejections TV Movie
1979 Jack Frost Father Winter / Kubla Klaus TV Special
1984 Knight Rider KARR "K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R."
1987 The Wind in the Willows Wayfarer Released 8 months after Frees' death


  1. ^ a b c "Paul Frees". The New York Times. November 5, 1986. 
  2. ^ Reinehr, Robert C.; Swartz, John D. (2008), The A to Z of Old Time Radio, Rowman & Littlefield, p. 104, ISBN 978-0-8108-7616-3 
  3. ^ Perimutter, David (2014), America Toons In: A history of Television Animation, McFarland & Company, p. 78, ISBN 978-0-7864-7650-3 
  4. ^ Smith, Dave (1998). The Updated Official Encyclopedia: Disney A to Z. New York: Hyperion Books. p. 337. ISBN 0-7868-6391-9. 
  5. ^ Fisher, David J. (1992). The Music of Disney: A Legacy in Song Collector's Book. Walt Disney Records. pp. 28, 48. ISBN 0-7868-6359-5. 
  6. ^ 365 Days of Magic blog
  7. ^ "Sir Elton John, Joe Ranft Headline Disney Legends Award". AWN Headline News. 2006-10-09. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  8. ^ Howe, Tom (2002). "Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Scrooge". Featured CED VideoDisc No. 26 - Fall 2002. CED Magic. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  9. ^ Erickson, Glenn (1999). "Some Like It Hot and the Legendary Paul Frees". DVD Savant. Inc. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  10. ^ Lampley, Jonathan. Women in the Horror Films of Vincent Price. McFarland, 2010. p. 160. eBook.

Further reading[edit]

  • Frees, Paul, The Writings of Paul Frees. (2004) (Albany: BearManor Media) ISBN 1-59393-011-9
  • Frees, Paul, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To: The Letters of Paul “Buddy” Frees and Annelle Frees. (2011) (Albany: BearManor Media) ISBN 1-59393-646-X
  • Ohmart, Ben. Welcome ... Foolish Mortals - The Life & Voices of Paul Frees. (2004) (Albany: BearManor Media) ISBN 1-59393-004-6. Filled with rare photos & interviews.
  • Young, Jordan R. (2005). Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music. (3rd edition) Albany: BearManor Media ISBN 1-59393-012-7.

External links[edit]