Paul Frees: You've Heard Him, Do You Know Him?



Paul Frees is one of those talents that is great fun to investigate. Even a short search of Paul Frees will have you saying "Really, that was him?"

Frees was born in Chicago and started his acting/radio career in 1942. Like so many, he was interrupted by WWII. Frees was drafted and fought in Normandy during the D-Day Invasion. After being wounded in action he attended college, but cut his education short when his wife became ill. Returning to radio, his versatile voice talents were put to work announcing and sometimes starring on Suspense. These duties were shared with his friend and fellow talented Voice, William Conrad. Frees explained in an interview that he would announce when  Conrad was starring in the episode, or involved with another project, and vice versa.  Both possessing memorable basso profundo voices, they made an effort to sound like one another in the announcements. Frees also did a lot of work on sister program Escape.

Paul Frees as Professor Ludwidg von Drake
Eventually Paul Frees voice would be everywhere. Other voice actors would stay with one studio, but Frees would work for as many as nine of the big animation studios in Hollywood, including Walter Lantz Studios, Rankin and Bass, Hanna-Barbera, MGM, DePatie-Freleng, and Disney. Frees would be awarded posthumously with a Disney Legend Award; Frees' role at Disney compared with Mel Blanc's at Warner Brothers, as an in-house "Man of a Thousand Voices."

Some of Frees' memorable characters include Profesor Ludwig von Drake, Donald Duck's uncle; Boris Badenov, from Rocky and Bullwinkle; The Little Green Sprout, companion to canned food spokes giant, Jolly Green; Santa Claus and the Cop in Frosty the Snowman; Burgermeister Meisterburger and Grimsby in Santa Clause is Coming to Town; Poppin' Fresh, the original Pillsbur Doughboy; as well as narrating many of the Wonderful World of Disney programs. Frees gave voice to a number of Disneyland's Animatronic features, such as the Abraham Lincoln exhibit, the Auctioneer in "The Pirates of the Caribbean", and the Ghost Host in "The Haunted Mansion." When asked if he resented the relative anonymity of his roles, he would explain "Sometimes, yes. But it's nothing I can't overcome when I look at the bank balance."

From 1948 through 1952 CBS tried to find a starring vehicle on radio for this great talent. In The Player and Studio X (1948), Frees played all of the scripted parts. The Green Lama (1949) was a typical costumed crime fighter whose super-powers were based on Tibetan Buddhism; Frees had the title role. As Reporter Larry Mitchell, he solved crimes in his own way in Crime Correspondent (1949). The Man in Black (1951) and The Black Book (1952) featured Frees as "The Teller of Tales," who presented stories from the dark side.  Paul Frees remained active until his death in 1986.

See the extensive Paul Frees old time radio show collection for additional recordings.

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