Paul Frees

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Paul Frees
Frees in a rare onscreen appearance in
The 27th Day (1957)
BornSolomon Hersh Frees
(1920-06-22)June 22, 1920
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedNovember 2, 1986(1986-11-02) (aged 66)
Tiburon, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart Failure
Resting place
Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea
Years active1930s–1986
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Paul Frees
Frees in a rare onscreen appearance in
The 27th Day (1957)
BornSolomon Hersh Frees
(1920-06-22)June 22, 1920
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedNovember 2, 1986(1986-11-02) (aged 66)
Tiburon, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart Failure
Resting place
Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea
Years active1930s–1986

Paul Frees (June 22, 1920 – November 2, 1986) was an American actor known for his work on MGM, Walter Lantz and Walt Disney theatrical cartoons during the Golden Age of Animation[1] and for portraying villain Boris Badenov on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.[2]


He was born Solomon Hersh Frees in Chicago. Frees 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.

He first appeared on vaudeville in the 1930s, 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.

Career highlights[edit]


Some of Paul 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.

Paul Frees 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]

Paul Frees played 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, Frees' 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 Green Sprout, 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 is 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 at the age of 66 from heart failure on November 2, 1986. He was living in Tiburon, California at the time. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered upon the Pacific Ocean.


Original Air DateProgramRoleEpisode
1945The Lux Radio TheatreMultiple characters
1945-47A Man Named JordanDigger Slade
1946Rogue's Gallery
1946The Whistler
1946The Alan Young Show
Earl White
Frankenstein's Monster
1947Ellery Queen
1947-48EscapeDoctor Dubosk
Finnie Morner
John Woolfolk
Sanger Rainsford
"The Fourth Man"
"Snake Doctor"
"Wild Oranges"
"The Most Dangerous Game"
1948Your Movietown Radio TheatreMultiple characters
1948The First Nighter ProgramAdditional voices
1949The Green LamaJethro Dumont/Green Lama
1949Rocky Jordan
1949Four Star Playhouse
1951The Silent Men
1951Mr. AladdinRobert Aladdin
1951Broadway Is My Beat
1952-53GunsmokeSut Grider
Doc Charles Adams in one episode
"Heat Spell"
"The Soldier"
"The Cast"
1953Crime ClassicsCharles 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."
1953Mr. PresidentAdditional voices
1953On StageChauffeur"Skin Deep"
1954Fibber McGee and Molly
1956Yours Truly, Johnny DollarBert Parker"The Jolly Roger Fraud" part 1
1957The CBS Radio WorkshopCaptain Vesey
Ogden the Messenger
"Sweet Cherries in Charleston"
1984Bradbury 13Narrator
1947Crazy with the HeatOasis Soda Fountain ProprietorUncredited
1950Jerry and the LionRadio Announcer
1951A Place in the SunRev. MorrisonLive Action role
1951Jerry's CousinCousin Muscles
1951His Mouse FridayJerry
The Cannibals
1951The Thing From Another WorldDr. VoorheesLive Action role
1951His Kind of WomanCorleyLive Action role
1952The StarRichard StanleyLive action role
1952Cruise CatShip's Captain
1952Busybody BearBear
1953Life with TomRadio Announcer
1953The Missing MouseRadio announcer
1953Wee Willy WildcatBarney Bear
1953The War of the WorldsRadio ReporterLive Action role
1953Buccaneer WoodpeckerWally Walrus
1953T.V. of TomorrowNarrator
1954The Farm of TomorrowNarrator
1954Homesteader DroopyNarrator
1954SuddenlyBennyLive Action role
1955CellboundThe Prisoner
The Warden
The Little Wife
1956Down Beat BearFirst Radio Announcer
1956Blue Cat BluesJerry Mouse
1956Francis in the Haunted HouseFrancis the talking mule
1957The 27th DayWard Mason, NewscasterLive action role
1957The CyclopsVoice effects of The Cyclops
1959Some Like It HotVoice of Tony Curtis as Josephine
1959The Shaggy DogNarrator
J.W. Galvin
1960Loopy De LoopWatchdog"Tale of a Wolf"
1961One Hundred and One DalmatiansDirty DawsonUncredited
1962-72The Beary FamilyCharlie Beary
Junior Beary
1964Robin and the 7 HoodsRadio News Announcer
1964The Disorderly OrderlyNarrator
1964The CarpetbaggersNarratorUncredited
1965The Great RaceAutomobiles
1966The Man Called FlintstoneThe Green Goose
Agent Triple X
Rock Slag
1970Tora! Tora! Tora!Voice of Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburo NomuraUncredited
1970PattonVoice of War Correspondent
Voice of a Member of the staff of Patton
Voice of Sheik
1975Doc Savage: The Man of BronzeNarratorUncredited
1982The Flight of DragonsAntiquityUncredited
1982The Last UnicornMabruk
1983Twice Upon a TimeNarrator
Chief of State
Judges in The Pantry of Pomp
1987The Puppetoon MovieArnie the Dinosaur
Pillsbury Doughboy
Released posthumously; 7 months after his death
1953The Jack Benny ProgramNarrator"The Honolulu Trip"
1955Meet Mr. McNutleyHusbandLive action role
"Jury Duty"
1955-56The Bob Cummings ShowTelevision announcer
1955-60The MillionaireJohn Beresford Tiptonvoice
1956Jane Wyman PresentsEmceeLive Action role
"Ten Percent"
1956-58Alfred Hitchcock PresentsAnnouncer
Mary's Father
1957The Adventures of Jim BowieEtienneLive Action role
"German George"
1957-68, 1976, 1986Walt Disney's Wonderful World of ColorLudwig Von Drake
Donald Duck
Voiced Donald Duck in one episode
1958-59Steve CanyonNarrator
1959-64Rocky and BullwinkleBoris
Inspector Fenwick
Captain Peter "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz
Additional voices
1960-61The FlintstonesMr. Granite
Ed Bedrock
"The Babysitters"
"The Happy Household"
1961Top CatAdditional voices
1961The Dick Tracy ShowGo-Go GomezUncredited
1961-62Calvin and the ColonelJudge Oliver Wendell Clutch
1963Krazy KatIgnatz Mouse
1964-65The Famous Adventures of Mr. MagooSherlock Holmes
1964-66, 1969-73Hoppity HooperNarrator
1965-66The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel ShowSquiddly Diddly
Morocco Mole
Yellow Pinkie
Claude Hopper
1965-69The BeatlesJohn Lennon
George Harrison
1966The ImpossiblesFluid-Man
Professor Stretch
Captain Kid
The Puzzler
Infamous Mr. Instant
The Artful Archer
Dr. Futuro
1966Laurel and HardyAdditional characters
1966-67The Super 6The Dispatcher "Super Chief"
Brother Matzoriley #1 and #3
Captain Whammo/Zammo
1966-68Space GhostBrago
1967George of the JungleApe
Baron Otto Matic
1967-68Super PresidentJames Norcross/Super President
1967-68The Fantastic 4Ben Grimm/The Thing
1969The Pink Panther ShowMan Talking To The Pink Panther
Texan Hunter
The Pink Panther
Voiced The Pink Panther in the episode "Sink Pink"
1970The Mad, Mad, Mad ComediansW.C. Fields
Zeppo Marx
Harpo Marx
Traffic Cop
TV Special
1970Santa Claus Is Comin' to TownBurgermeister Meisterburger
Newsreel Announcer
The Kringle Brothers
Additional voices
TV Special
1971-72The Jackson 5iveAdditional voices
1972Alias Smith and JonesHannibal HeyesVoice
"The Men That Corrupted Hadleyburg"
1974-76Run, Joe, RunNarrator
1976Frosty's Winter WonderlandJack Frost
Traffic Cop
TV Special
1976The Pink Panther Laugh-and-a-Half Hour-and-a-Half ShowAdditional voices
1977The HobbitBombur
Troll #1
TV Movie
1978The Stingiest Man in TownGhost of Christmas Past
Ghost of Christmas Present
TV Special
1979Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack Frost
Officer Kelly
Genie of the Ice Scepter
Keeper of the Cave of Lost Rejections
TV Movie
1979Jack FrostFather Winter
Kubla Klaus
TV Special
1984Knight RiderKARR"K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R."
1987The Wind in the WillowsWayfarerReleased 8 months after Frees' death


  1. ^ a b "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.

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