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Paul H. Frees Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Jun 22, 1920
  • Died: Nov 2, 1986

In his prime--which lasted a good 40 years--voice artist Paul Frees was not so much ubiquitous as inescapable. It was literally impossible during the 1960s and most of the 1970s to turn on the TV on any given night and not hear the ineluctable Mr. Frees. Blessed with a versatile voicebox from an early age, Frees first came to public attention as "Buddy Green," the name he was using when he won a radio impersonation contest. He toured in vaudeville, then returned to radio as star of The Player, a syndicated anthology series in which he played all the roles. He went to work as actor, announcer and narrator for such series as Suspense and Escape; he also made a number of appearances on comedy programs, usually playing a hammy Orson Wellesian actor (one such character was actually named "Lawson Bells"). In bandleader Spike Jones' memorable rendition of the old torch song "My Old Flame," Frees recites the lyrics in the style of a Peter Lorre-like pyromaniac.

Frees began working in films in 1948, sometimes as an on-screen actor (His Kind of Woman, The Thing, War of the Worlds, Suddenly, The Shaggy Dog) but most often in a variety of voiceover capacities. When Chill Wills was unavailable to provide his talking-mule voice in Francis in the Haunted House (1955), Frees replaced him, accurately recreating Wills' folksy drawl; when producer George Pal was forced to rerecord most of the male actors in Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961), Frees supplied all the voices; and whenever Japanese film star Toshiro Mifune appeared in an English-language film like Grand Prix (1969), he would insist that his heavily-accented voice be redubbed by Frees, who "sounds more like me than I do." In addition to his TV-ad work as Poppin' Fresh, Mr. Goodwrench et. al, Frees was heard as the "late, fabulously wealthy" John Beresford Tipton on The Millionaire (1955-60). Frees' vocal activities in the realm of animated cartoons is so extensive that to list all his credits would require five single-spaced columns, a few examples are: Boris Badenov and Captain Peter Peachfuzz in Rocky and His Friends, Inspector Fenwick in Dudley Do-Right, Oliver Wendell Clutch in Calvin and the Colonel, Flat-Top in The Dick Tracy Show, the title character in Squiddly Diddly, Morocco Mole in Secret Squirrel, John Lennon in The Beatles, and Ludwig Von Drake in Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. In addition, Frees worked in virtually everything ever produced by satirist Stan Freberg, including the legendary 1963 LP History of the United States. By the mid-1970s, Frees was averaging $1 million per year--and was only working six months out of the year, spending the remaining six months vacationing on his own South Sea island. According to most sources, Frees was married six times. Since his death in 1986, Paul Frees' legacy has been carried on by a wealth of imitators, none of whom have quite come up to the standard set by The Master. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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