Wednesday, July 15, 2009

R.I.P, Dallas McKennon

I just learned from Mark Evanier’s daily must-read (news from me) that actor-voice specialist Dallas “Dal” McKennon has passed on at the age of 89—just shy of his 90th natal anniversary, which would have been this Sunday. Here’s an obit, but for some first-hand revelations about the man, you’ll want to read Mark’s piece and Jerry Beck’s tribute at Cartoon Brew.

I associated McKennon with doing voices for the various permutations of the Archie cartoon series (The Archie Show, The Archie Comedy Hour, Archie’s Fun House) but I learned he had a much wider range after reading Mark and Jerry’s posts. Dal not only voiced the characters of Wally Walrus and Buzz Buzzard in Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker cartoons, but was responsible for the voice of Inspector Willoughby in another Lantz-produced series and “Paw” of Walter’s short-lived Maw and Paw cartoons (based, of course, on the characters of Ma and Pa Kettle). He was also Toughy in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955), the talking unicorn in the Three Stooges feature film Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959), and provided the speaking tones of Q.T. Hush, Gumby and Pokey, Bucky and Pepito, and Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse for their respectively named cartoon series. What I was tickled to learn was that Dal created a crowing rooster that became the cartoon mascot for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercials—and in fact, he maintained that that same crow introduced The Huckleberry Hound Show each week during that series’ successful run on TV.

McKennon was also a first-rate character actor whose appearance naturally lent itself to playing old codgers on TV Westerns (he always reminded me of that great character actor, Emmett Lynn); among the boob tube oaters he guest-starred on were Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Laramie, The Virginian and Lawman (just to name a few)—but his television epitaph remains that of his recurring role of “Cincinnatus,” the crusty old tavern-keeper on Daniel Boone (1964-70).

R.I.P, Dal. You’ll never know how much you’ll be missed.


hobbyfan said...

Since you're an expert on old time radio, Ivan, maybe you can answer this question.

Dallas McKennon was 49 when he began working on Filmation's Archie cartoons (1968). Bob Hastings was already working for Filmation at the time (Superboy), and was the radio voice of Archie. Did Hastings have to audition all over again? Or was there something else that prompted the studio to use Dallas?

I have to admit my first memory of Dallas was his work on Daniel Boone, moreso than his toon work. He will be missed.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

To be honest with you, Hob, I've often wondered as well why they didn't just use Hastings for the part--particularly since his OTR resume was much larger than McKennon's. Then again, maybe he was approached about voicing Archie and just turned them down. I really don't why it turned out like it did -- maybe someone out there in the TDOY audience can give us the skinny.

Anonymous said...

Dallas was a very talented man indeed. I meet Dallas a little over 10 years ago and came to know him fairly well as did my family. He was the kindest man i ever knew and he would do anything for you. I remember him playing santa at our church for our "special friends" at our thanksgiving dinner, I don't think there was any place he'd rather be than putting a smile on those faces.He was gifted and talented in more ways than one.Our family will miss him much.

R.I.P Dallas, we love you

Andrew Leal said...

As far as I can gather, Hastings was in New York when he did the Superman series, though, which is also why that series used Jackson Beck, Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, Gilbert Mack, Jack Grimes, and other familiar East Coasters for the most part with just a few Hollywood voices (and Hastings wasn't the only radio Archie either, just the best and longest serving one). Superboy was actually his first and last cartoon voice for a bit (again, as far as I can determine), until he did more for Hanna-Barbera and very occasionally others from the early 1970s onward (and then in the 90s, almost coming full circle, he was the voice of Commissioner Gordon on the Warner Bros. Batman series).

So I suspect it was mostly a matter of location at the time, between Hastings' Hollywood stints, and he was also more focused on on-camera work at that point, working much more steadily than McKennon in that realm, whereas McKennon was already well established in animation and had worked for Filmation previously on "Journey Back to Oz" (though it wasn't released for nearly a decade). Also, Filmation was cheap and had four actors as the entire regular cast of "Archie"; Hastings is good but has never been a "doubler" for the most part, while McKennon played Mr. Weatherbee, Hot Dog (both his speaking asides and his canine barks), Mr. Lodge, Coach Kleats and one-shots. Howard Morris was Jughead, Dilton, and Moose; Jane Webb *every* female role (not unlike Grace Stafford's painful overuse at Lantz); even John Erwin (Reggie) doubled as Dad Andrews in some shows and a few other folks.

Working on a detailed McKennon tribute for a friend's site myself. He had a long life and a fascinating career.

Steve Mckennon said...

I just want to say how greatful to read all these honors of my Dad Dallas. Just still uncovering his past. By the time we had AOL and a search engine working we looked up his past stuff. He had already forgotten what he had done. With all his cassette and micro machines laying around, I should have asked him any highlights...Stupid. Before I was born he had worked 20 years in radio, both in Portland and LA with Jimmy Stewart and "Six Shooter." Take those names and pair them with Dal or Dallas McKennon and you'll come up with more radio and TV shows. Some still not posted on IMDB.