- For the English cricketer, see Jack Mercer (cricketer). For the American baseball player, see Jack Mercer (baseball).
Jack Mercer with a cut-out of Popeye the Sailor
January 13, 1910|
|Died||December 4, 1984
Manhattan, New York City
|Cause of death||Stomach cancer|
|Occupation||Voice actor, animator|
|Notable work||Voice of Popeye|
(m. 1939–1942?; divorced)
(m. ?–1984; his death)
Jack Mercer (January 13, 1910 – December 4, 1984) was an American voice actor and animator. He is best known as the voice of cartoon characters Popeye the Sailor and Felix the Cat. The son of vaudeville and Broadway performers, he also performed on the vaudeville and legitimate stage.
Life and career
Mercer began his work in cartoons as an "inbetweener", an apprentice animator at Fleischer Studios. Mercer liked to imitate voices, including one close call where he mimicked the high-pitched and loud voice of the wife of one of the Fleischers after he mistakenly thought she had left the studio.
When Billy Costello, the original cartoon voice of Popeye (1933–1935), became difficult to work with, he was dismissed. Mercer had begun imitating Costello's interpretation of Popeye, and practiced it until his voice "cracked" just right and he had it down. Searching for a replacement for Costello, Lou Fleischer heard Mercer singing the Popeye song and gave him the job of doing the Popeye voice. Mercer's first cartoon was 1935's King of the Mardi Gras.
Mercer continued to voice the one-eyed sailor for the Fleischers, for Paramount's Famous Studios cartoons (1942–1957), for a series of television cartoons for King Features Syndicate, and for a Saturday morning cartoon show (1978) produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Mercer also did other cartoon voices, including all the voices for a series of Felix the Cat cartoons produced in 1959-1960. Mercer also did the voices of Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's nephews, King Little, Twinkletoes the Carrier Pigeon, and the bumbling spies Sneak, Snoop, and Snitch in Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels, and a number of voices, including Mr. Bumble for Fleischer's Mister Bug Goes to Town. Mercer's natural voice was relatively high-pitched for a man, and he was able to do some of the female voices as well.
Originally a resident of New York City, Mercer moved to Miami, Florida, when Fleischer Studios relocated there in 1938. After Famous Studios took over the Popeye cartoons, Mercer moved back to New York by early 1944. In the late 1970s he lived briefly in Los Angeles but moved back to New York City to live in Woodside, Queens. He died at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan on December 4, 1984 after stomach cancer-related problems. After his death, Maurice LaMarche and Billy West performed the voice of Popeye.
- As noted in an interview made around 1975, included on the DVD set Popeye the Sailor: 1938-1940, Volume 2
- Milestone column. Time Magazine March 20, 1939
- "Jack Mercer, Provided Voice Of Popeye in Film Cartoons" (obituary) New York Times (December 9, 1984). Last retrieved March 12, 2007.
- Further reading
- Grandinetti, Fred and Braun, Dan. I Yam What I Yam: The Works Of Jack Mercer, Popeye's Voice
- Jack Mercer at Find a Grave
- Jack Mercer at the Internet Movie Database
- 1939 publicity photo of Mercer and Hines announcing their marriage