Friday, July 28, 2017

A00770 - June Foray, Virtuoso of Cartoon Voices, Notably Rocky's of "Rocky and Bullwinkle"

Rocky and his voice, June Foray, in an undated photo. CreditABC Photo Archives, via Getty Images
June Foray, an actress of a thousand voices, who portrayed Rocky the flying squirrel and the fiendish spy Natasha Fatale on the wickedly satirical animated adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle in the 1960s and myriad other animated creatures and characters on television and film, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 99.
Her niece Lauren Marems confirmed the death.
Ms. Foray began her remarkable 85-year career playing an elderly woman in a radio drama in 1929 at age 12. She portrayed scores of radio characters in the 1930s and ’40s. Over the next 60 years, she provided voices for animated shorts, feature films and television shows, as well as record albums, video games, even talking toys. Her last performance was as Rocky in a 2014 Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon produced by DreamWorks Animation.
Often compared to Mel Blanc, the cartoon virtuoso who supplied the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, Ms. Foray cackled, chirped, meowed and sometimes sang her way through nearly 300 animated productions, often playing several parts at once with quick shifts of accent, dialect and personality. Her work, unlike that of Mr. Blanc, was often uncredited, particularly in her early years.
But her output was prodigious. While she was not well known to the general public, the entertainment world called her the First Lady of Animated Voicing. At 94, she became the oldest person to win an Emmy, cited for her Mrs. Cauldron on “The Garfield Show,” and in 2013 she received an Emmy Governors Award.
“June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc,” said Chuck Jones, the legendary animator who proposed her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. “Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”
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On the big screen, she was Lucifer the cat in Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” (1950), a mermaid and a squaw in “Peter Pan” (1953), and Wheezy Weasel and Lena Hyena in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988). On television, she was Cindy-Lou Who in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966); Ursula in “George of the Jungle” (1967); and Aunt May Parker in “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” (1981-83).
She also breathed sinister spirit into a doll in a memorable 1963 “Twilight Zone” episode, telling a little girl’s stepfather, played by Telly Savalas, “My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.”
Ms. Foray portrayed grannies, witches, a fortuneteller, innocent girls, sultry femmes and menageries of anthropomorphic chipmunks, cats, woodpeckers, mice, beagles and other cartoon characters in the adventures of Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Mr. Magoo, Sylvester and Tweety, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, the Incredible Hulk, the Smurfs and the Simpsons.
June Foray in Hollywood in 2011, with figures of Tweety and Sylvester. She gave voice to characters in their adventures and many others.CreditKevin Winter/Getty Images
But the cognoscenti said she was at her peak for Rocket J. Squirrel (a. k. a. Rocky the flying squirrel) and his curvaceous adversary, Natasha Fatale, on the proudly two-dimensional cliffhanger chronicles of “Rocky and His Friends” (later “The Bullwinkle Show”) from 1959 to 1964. In other segments, she played Nell Fenwick, the prim girlfriend of the handsome, muddle-headed Mountie Dudley Do-Right.
In an era when the Cold War was heating up and the Red scare turned everyone blue, the gifted voices of Ms. Foray, Bill Scott, Paul Frees and William Conrad gave vivacity to Rocky, a plucky little rodent with an aviator helmet, and his antlered, dimwitted moose pal (Mr. Scott) as they battled the inept Slavic schemers Boris Badenov (Mr. Frees) and Natasha in Frostbite Falls, Minn., a neverland where silliness and puns live forever.
There was plenty of action for the children, slam-bang stories with standard animation gags like characters blowing up or falling out of windows. But on another level, it was satire, parody and rapid-fire wordplay. Dorson Belles warns his radio audience that invaders from outer space are no joke and that everyone should panic. A mystery gas called “votane” turns Democrats into Republicans, and vice versa.
“If you can’t believe what you read in the comic books,” Rocky asks, “what can you believe?”
The Russified Natasha, a villain of many slinky disguises, appears as an Indian princess, Bubbling Spring That Runs in the Meadow. “Call me Bubbles,” she purrs.
The Bullwinkle Show - The Last Angry Moose #2 A Punch in the Snoot or The Nose Tatoo Video by bullwinklecanada
No pun was too awful, no malaprop too shameless. Rocky trained at Cedar Yorpantz Flying School. Bullwinkle’s alma mater was Wossamotta U. A jeweled toy boat, the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam, sailed across Veronica Lake. “For a powerful magnate,” Rocky tells a tycoon, “you sure don’t pick up things too quickly.” In one episode, the heroes track a monstrous whale, Maybe Dick.
Besides matching wits with menacing Boris (“Keel Moose!”) and Natasha (“Boris, dollink!”), Rocky and Bullwinkle battle metal-chomping Moon Mice devouring America’s TV antennas. They discover the antigravitational element Upsidasium. And the narrator (Mr. Conrad) solemnly urges fans to tune in for the next exciting episode: “All in Fever Say Aye, or the Emotion Is Carried,” “The Show Must Go On, or Give ’em the Acts,” and “Trans-Atlantic Chicken, or Hens Across the Sea.”
After 150 episodes, first on ABC and then on NBC, the series, created by Jay Ward and written by Mr. Scott and others, was canceled. But it had a huge cult following. Network reruns aired until 1973 and again in 1981-82. Cable reruns ran through the 1990s. Tributes were held at film festivals. The Walt Disney Company bought videocassette rights for $1 million. The shows were syndicated in the United States, Australia, England and Japan.
PBS produced a documentary, “Of Moose and Men: The Rocky and Bullwinkle Story” (1991), and Ms. Foray provided the voice of Rocky again in “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” (2000), a feature that combined live action and computer animation. (Rene Russo played Natasha.)
Walter Schuman, left, Daws Butler, June Foray and Stan Freberg recording the album “St. George and the Dragonet” (1953). CreditCapitol Records, via Photofest
“It seems we’re going to corrupt another generation,” Ms. Foray told The New York Times.
June Lucille Forer was born in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 18, 1917, to Maurice and Ida Forer. A high school speech teacher with a radio program put her on the air.
After her family moved to Los Angeles, she wrote and acted all the parts on her own radio show, “Lady Make Believe,” as a teenager and was soon doing voice-overs for film studios. In the 1940s, she provided voices for a live-action series of film shorts called “Speaking of Animals,” and appeared on radio shows starring Danny Thomas, Steve Allen, Jimmy Durante, and the team of Phil Harris and Alice Faye.
Her first marriage, to Bernard Barondess in 1941, ended in divorce. In 1955, she married Hobart Donavan, who died in 1976.
Ms. Foray, who lived in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, leaves no immediate survivors. Her brother, Bert Forer, died in recent years, and her sister, Geri Spagnolie, died this May.
She was heard on many recordings, including “St. George and the Dragonet,” Stan Freberg’s blockbuster 1953 parody of “Dragnet” (which also included her fellow cartoon voice artist Daws Butler), and in many Warner Bros. cartoons — for which she was not credited because Mr. Blanc had exclusive screen-credit rights.
In the 1970s, she was president of Asifa, the international animated film society, which named an award in her honor. She taught voice acting at the University of Southern California in the 1980s, and for decades was a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
She wrote two books: “Perverse, Adverse and Rottenverse” (2006), a collection of humorous essays, and “Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? The Autobiography of June Foray” (2009, with Mark Evanier and Earl Kress).
Providing voices for animation, she often said, was like putting on a radio play. The cast stood around microphones with scripts and a screen for visual cues, and played off one another: delivering gags, growls, swoons, screams, pauses for effect, cries of pain, angry rebukes, sweet endearments, coughs, shudders, sips, slurps, snickers, guffaws and an occasional sneeze.
She followed the scripts, but with her own interpretations, she told Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons for “The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors” (2004).
“I think it’s an intuition that you have,” she said, “that you can crawl into someone’s mind.”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A00769 - Gurrumul Yunupingu, Australian Aboriginal Singer


Dr. G. Yunupingu, as he is now known in the local news media, performing in 2015. His given names and images of his face were largely absent from local coverage of his death, in keeping with Aboriginal custom in northern Australia. CreditDan Himbrechts/European Pressphoto Agency

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, an Aboriginal Australian singer whose soulful voice and prodigious guitar playing took him from the remote island of his birth to concert halls around the world, died on Tuesday in Darwin, Australia. He was 46.
His record label, Skinnyfish Music, announced his death in a statement, but it did not provide a cause. Australian news outlets reported that Mr. Yunupingu had been treated for chronic kidney and liver ailments for several years.
Mr. Yunupingu, who was born blind, grew up in Galiwin’ku, a settlement on Elcho Island off the north coast of Australia, 350 miles from Darwin, the nearest big city. His albums blended English-language lyrics with his native Yolngu and combined autobiographical details with his community’s rich oral history and folklore.
“Gurrumul,” his 2008 debut solo album, was the best-selling Indigenous music album in Australian history, hitting triple platinum and jumping to No. 1 on the iTunes Australia roots music chart that year.

The music video for “Bapa,” a single on his debut solo album. Video by DramaticoMusic

Both of his next two albums charted to the Top 5: “Rrakala” and “The Gospel Album,” which incorporated Christian hymns — among the first English-language songs he heard as a boy.
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Mr. Yunupingu performed before Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama. He made his United States debut in 2015 at the Manhattan nightclub SubCulture. In his review in The New York Times, Jon Pareles described Mr. Yunupingu’s voice as “preternaturally soothing.”
It “seems to arrive from a distance,” he wrote, “high and serene, with a hint of reediness and a humble quaver, proffering melodies like lullabies.”
After Mr. Yunupingu’s death, to honor a cultural taboo among Aborigines from northern Australia, many supporters and much of the Australian news media have refrained from publishing photos of his face or using his given names, referring to him instead as Dr. G. Yunupingu. (Mr. Yunupingu was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Sydney in 2012.)
“In this day of too much noise, Dr. G. Yunupingu showed us that music is a powerful force for reconciliation,” Mark Grose, managing director of Skinnyfish Music, said at a news conference. “One of the greatest achievements any of us can have is to touch the hearts of others. And this is what Dr. G. Yunupingu did over and over and over again.”
Tributes to Mr. Yunupingu poured across social media.
“Dr. G. Yunupingu was a remarkable Australian sharing Yolngu language with the world through music. Prayers for Galiwin’ku & family & friends,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Turnbull’s predecessor, Tony Abbott, tweeted: “A hauntingly beautiful voice is now still.”
Mr. Yunupingu was born on Jan. 22, 1971, into the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu. Because of his blindness, he “was stuck with the family more than a normal rebellious kid,” Michael Hohnen, a frequent collaborator and producer, told The International Herald Tribune in 2008.
As a boy, Mr. Yunupingu was “stuck going to the church and learning all the gospel songs, stuck playing a toy piano his mother gave him, and being given a guitar and being told, ‘Play this.’ ”
Largely self-taught, he picked up a right-handed guitar when he was 6 and learned to play it upside down with his left hand. He left school when he was 12 and never learned Braille.
Often described by the news media as “acutely shy,” Mr. Yunupingu rarely granted interviews and said little in those few meetings with reporters, preferring to let his music speak for itself.
Mr. Grose, his publicist, said Mr. Yunupingu’s health problems stemmed from a childhood illness and institutional failures to provide health care to Aborigines.
“Their life expectancy is not as great as mine as a non-Indigenous person,” Mr. Grose said. “All of us need to take some responsibility to help work towards better outcomes for Aboriginal people.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A00768 - Margaret Bergmann Lambert, Jewish High Jumper Excluded From Berlin Olympics

Margaret Bergmann competing in 1930s Germany.
Margaret Bergmann Lambert, a world-class high jumper who was best known for her nonparticipation in the 1936 Berlin Olympics — she was kept off the German team because she was Jewish — died on Tuesday at her home in Queens. She was 103.
Her niece Doris Bergman confirmed her death.
In June 1936, just a month before the Olympics, Ms. Lambert, then known as Gretel Bergmann, won a meet against some of the best German high jumpers with a leap of 5 feet 3 inches. That height tied a German record and would have been good enough to win the gold medal.
But that she was allowed to take part in the meet was, as she later said, a “charade”: a propaganda tool to show the world that Germany was unbiased in its Olympic team selections. It was a cynical response to organized movements, particularly in the United States, that were urging nations not to send teams to Berlin unless the Germans demonstrated that they did not discriminate.
In fact, the Germans had no intention of sending her to the Olympics, and Ms. Lambert had been coerced into training. Threats were made against her family if she refused.
“It was a terrible shock,” she told Newsday in 2015, “because I was the best.”
Margarethe Minnie Bergmann was born on April 12, 1914, in the small town of Laupheim, in southwest Germany, about 65 miles from the Swiss border. She was an outstanding all-around athlete, excelling in the shot-put, the discus and other events as well as the high jump. “I was ‘The Great Jewish Hope,’ ” she often said.
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With anti-Semitism on the rise in Germany — she recalled signs in shops declaring, “No dogs or Jews allowed” — she left home at 19 and moved to England, where she won the British high-jump championship in 1935. But when the Nazis pressured her father to bring her home, she returned to Germany to seek a position on the Olympic team.
Shortly after winning that June meet, held at Adolf Hitler Stadium in Stuttgart, she received a letter from Nazi officials informing her that she had not qualified. “Looking back on your recent performances,” the letter stated, “you could not possibly have expected to be chosen for the team.” Her accomplishment was removed from the record books.
Hurt and angry, she turned down the officials’ offer of a standing-room ticket, “free of charge,” for the Olympic track and field games. Travel expenses and hotel accommodations were not included in the offer. “I never replied,” she said.
In 1937, Gretel Bergmann was able to obtain papers that allowed her to immigrate to the United States. She landed in New York City with no more than $10 — all the money the Germans would allow her to take out of the country. She worked as a masseuse and a housemaid and later as a physical therapist. In 1938, she married a fellow German refugee, Dr. Bruno Lambert, who was a sprinter, though not a world-class one. They had met at an athletic training camp in Germany.
Margaret Bergmann Lambert in 2010 at a ceremony to rename a sports field in her honor at Francis Lewis High School in New York. CreditSeth Wenig/Associated Press
Dr. Lambert died in 2013. She is survived by two sons, Glenn and Gary; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Ms. Lambert continued to compete in track and field events, but for only a few more years. She won the United States women’s high-jump and shot-put championships in 1937 and the high jump again in 1938. She was preparing to try out for the 1940 United States Olympic team when war broke out in Europe, after which she focused her attention on trying to get her parents out of Germany, which she was eventually able to do.
She never forgot what might have been. In 1996, she spoke of watching an important pre-Olympics meet on television at her home in Jamaica Estates, Queens.
“And suddenly I realized that there were tears just flowing down my cheeks,” she said. “I’m not a crier. But now I just couldn’t help it. I remember watching those athletes, and remembering what it was like for me in 1936, how I could very well have won an Olympic medal. And through the tears, I said, ‘Damn it!’ ”
That spring Ms. Lambert received a letter from Walter Troger, the president of the German Olympic Committee, inviting her and her husband to be guests at the Atlanta Olympics.
“We feel that Mrs. Lambert was not treated adequately at the time of the Berlin Olympics,” Mr. Troger later told The New York Times. “We wanted to do something for her; we felt she deserved it.” She accepted his invitation.
“I don’t hate all Germans anymore, though I did for a long time,” Ms. Lambert said. “But I’m aware of many Germans trying to make up for wrongs as well as they know how. And, yes, I felt that the young people of Germany should not be held responsible for what their elders did.”
Although she had once vowed never to set foot in Germany again — and had been gone so long, she said, that she could barely speak the language — she was persuaded to return in 1999, when the stadium in Laupheim, where she used to train, was renamed in her honor. (A sports complex in Berlin had been named for her in 1995, and in 2010 the athletic field at Francis Lewis High School in Queens was renamed for her.)
Ms. Lambert said of her decision to attend the Laupheim ceremony, “I was told that they were naming the facilities for me so that when young people ask, ‘Who was Gretel Bergmann?’ they will be told my story, and the story of those times.”
Ms. Lambert’s story was also told in a 2004 HBO documentary, “Hitler’s Pawn,” and, in partly fictionalized form, in the 2009 German film “Berlin 36.” A memoir, “By Leaps and Bounds,” was published in 2005.
Her German national high jump record was restored in 2009. “It’s very nice,” she said at the time, “except I wouldn’t have committed suicide if it didn’t happen.”