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John Stephenson (actor)

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John Stephenson
Born John Winfield Stephenson
(1923-08-09)August 9, 1923
Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died May 15, 2015(2015-05-15) (aged 91)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other names John Stevenson
Occupation Actor
Years active 1946-2010

John Winfield Stephenson (August 9, 1923 – May 15, 2015) was an American actor, most active in voice-over roles.[1] 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.

Early life

John Winfield Stephenson was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the oldest son of Ray and Martha Stephenson. Stephenson went to Ripon College and was active in campus drama. Stephenson wanted to be a lawyer and studied at the University of Wisconsin Law School. After serving in the United States Army Air Forces, as a gunner and radio operator, during World War II, John Stephenson graduated from Northwestern University with a Master degree in Speech and Drama in 1948. In 1946, during his studies, he gained an acting role on an episode of a drama radio series on WBKB.[2]

Career

Early guest-starring roles

He started his acting career in numerous television shows in the 1950s and into the 1970s, usually in guest star roles on such shows as:

  • I Love Lucy; He played a commercial pitch-man in an episode of the first season of the show in 1951.
  • 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 George Burns and Gracie Allen Show where Stephenson made multiple cameo guest appearances, such as the episodes titled, "How To Wrap a Mink" (air date: December 23, 1957, CBS) and "Gracie and the Jury" (air date: April 23, 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)

From 1955-58, he had a recurring role as Roger Crutcher on The People's Choice.

Stephenson had a small part as a man from the State Department in the film Hellfighters, starring John Wayne.

Voice acting

Stephenson provided the voice for commercials of the era, including spots for Peter Pan Peanut Butter featuring character actor Jesse White.

For several decades, he worked for Hanna-Barbera Productions, performing for many of its 1960s and 1970s animated television series. His first roles for the company was for The Flintstones's eleventh episode "The Golf Champion". He played The Golf Commentator, a Lodge Member and Left-Foot Charlie. Stephenson's most notable role for Hanna-Barbera was as Mr. Slate, Fred Flintstone's hard-edged boss at Slate Rock and Gravel Company. He played Mr. Slate from the original series up through to the present, although he provided the voices of the majority of the show's guest characters, including Joe Rockhead on several occasions, making him one of the main cast members of the show. Similarly, on The Jetsons, he was the voice of Cogswell Cogs' Mr. Cogswell, the hard-edged rival of Spacely Sprockets' Mr. Spacely, whom George Jetson worked for.

Other notable roles include Fancy-Fancy on Top Cat, multiple characters on Scooby-Doo, Colonel Fusby on Breezly and Sneezly, Chief Winchley on the Squiddly Diddly segments from The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show, Tog, Rollo, Pondo and Ork in Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor and Luke and Blubber Bear in the Wacky Races, among many others.

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 sounded too much like that of Mike Road who played 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

He also played Fariek and Bakaar on Arabian Knights, Zookeeper Eustace P. Peevly and The Superintendent in Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, guest roles on Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, Captain Mike Murphy on Sealab 2020 and The Great Hadji on Jeannie. For The Adventures of Gulliver, he voiced the villain Captain Leech and the Lilliputian monarch, King Pomp; in the first episode of the series he also voiced Gulliver's father.

Stephenson was most often cast as 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 was often called to do was the high nasal Joe Flynn-inspired voice. This voice was usually given to characters that were either rude, or smart-alecks, or flat out mean. They were also short-tempered; examples include Mr. Peevly from Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, Mr. Finkerton from Inch High Private Eye, Schnooker from Inspector Mumbly, a segment from The Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape/Mumbly Show and Captain Snerdley from Galaxy Goof-Ups..

He was cast most often in the Scooby-Doo series as the villains or the red herring scientist. In the episode "High Rise Hair Raiser", he played 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 played Hairy Scary on Casper and the Angels along with Casper's Halloween Special and Casper's First Christmas. He also played Farmer John Arable in the 1973 Hanna-Barbera animated feature Charlotte's Web.

John Stephenson borrowed the vocal traits of Joe Flynn for several characters as mentioned earlier, Boris Karloff for several more, and did a 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 Mildew Wolf. Originally, 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 Dread Baron, a re-designed Dick Dastardly character. A further Stephenson voice was used for the magician The Great Fondoo, inspired perhaps by Bela Lugosi. He also reached back for the Paul Lynde voice when he was cast as Wilfred Wolf in the early 1980s series, Kwicky Koala.

During the 1980s, he performed on various cartoons of the period such as G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Galaxy High, Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series and Bionic Six. He voiced Huffer, Windcharger, Thundercracker, and Alpha Trion from the 1980s hit TV series 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 Fancy-Fancy in Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats in which he also replaced Allen Jenkins as the voice of Officer Dibble for that movie. He also provided the voice of Professor X in Pryde of the X-Men (he had previously played X-Men nemesis Magneto during the character's appearance in the 1970s Fantastic Four). He also voiced Oompo and The Dirigible Captain in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.

Stephenson reprised his role of Luke from Wacky Races in the Wacky Races video game in 2000. His voice work after 2000 included doing guest voices for What's New, Scooby Doo?, Johnny Bravo, as Ganthet on Duck Dodgers, and he also portrayed Grandpa Squirrel on Squirrel Boy. 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. In 2010, Stephenson played Sheriff on Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo, marking the first time he voiced a character on a direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo movie.

Dragnet

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)

Accountemps

He provided the voice of Mr. Fernwell, using his "Mr. Slate voice" in a series of Accountemps radio ads.

Death

Stephenson died at the age of 91 on May 15, 2015. He had Alzheimer's disease. He was survived by his wife, two children and a granddaughter.[3][4]

References

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ YOWP-John Stephenson
  3. ^ Barnes, Mike (May 21, 2015). "John Stephenson, Voice of Mr. Slate on 'The Flintstones,' Dies at 91". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  4. ^ Schreiber, John (May 21, 2015). "Voice actor John Winfield Stephenson dead at 91". City News Service. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 

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