Voice of Aquaman, Norman Alden, Character Actor for 50 Years Dies

The first celebrity I ever met was an actress called Judy Strangis. It was at Universal Studios in California in the mid 70’s. I watched her on a TV series called “Room 222” and had seen her in a few TV appearances of “Batman.” During these shows she worked alongside Julie Newmar who played the slinky, conniving Catwoman. Electra Woman and Dyna GirlWhen I met Ms. Strangis she was working on “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl”, a children’s Saturday morning program. In this female version of Batman, the women donned outfits with capes and battled a bevy of costumed villains. They operated out of the secret Electrabase, which was headed by Frank Heflin. Heflin designed and built the heroines’ sophisticated equipment, and he helped them track down the bad guy of the week using the mysterious, high tech gadgetry that also gave them their special powers. Heflin was played by Norman Alden, a character actor who had parts in hundreds of films, TV shows and commercials.

Norman Alden has taken his final taxi at 87.

Alden entertained me – and countless other children – for many years. I was an avid Justice League of America comic book fan so when the cartoon “Super Friends” came out in 1972, I was jazzed to see some of my favorite heroes every Saturday morning. Alden was the voice of several characters on the show but is perhaps best known as the voice of Aquaman.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Alden got his start on “The Bob Cummings Show” in 1957 and appeared in hundreds of TV series episodes, including ” Rugrats,” “Honey West,” “Fay,” “My Three Sons,” “Bonanza” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Big Valley,” Lassie,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Hogan’s Heroes ,” “The Rookies,” “Adam-12,” “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” “Combat!,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “JAG” and “Rango” where he had a recurring role as Capt. Horton.Norman Alden In the mid 1970s, he starred in episodes of the comedy TV soap opera parody “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” until his character Coach Leroy Fedders drowned in a bowl of soup. I recall him being in the 1960s television series “Batman,” where he played one of the Joker’s henchmen.

One of my favorite Disney films is “The Sword in the Stone” (1963). In the movie, Alden voiced Sir Kay, King Arthur’s brother. He played Johnny Ringo in 1961’s “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” and also had movie roles in “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970), “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” (1977), “Semi-Tough” (1977), “They Live” (1988), “Ed Wood”(1994), “Patch Adams” (1998),”K-Pax” (2001) and in the 1986 animated film “Transformers” where he played the voice of a Kranix, a robot who narrowly escapes destruction by Unicron, voiced by Orson Welles. Many will remember him in 1985’s “Back to the Future” as the owner of the coffee shop who employs future mayor Goldie Wilson. One of the funniest scenes in the movies is his character’s exchange with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) about “Pepsi Free.”

This multi-talented man – and his face and voice – will be sorely missed.

 

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Ginny Tyler, voice actress & Disney legend, passes away at 86

My wife Marlesa and I recently saw the Wes Anderson film, “Moonrise Kingdom.”   It really brought back a lot of memories to both of us about growing up in the 60’s. Most notable were the scenes with the children listening to “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” on an old portable record player. This theme was repeated several times throughout the movie.  When one of the characters runs away from home she ‘borrows’ her brothers’ record player – leaving him an IOU – and takes it with her.  I remember those pre-ipod days of absolutely longing to carry my records wherever I went.

My parents gave me an allowance growing up, and almost all my money went into buying vinyl 45s. I can remember going to the downtown Sears and Roebuck store and shuffling through children’s records till I found one I couldn’t live without. These particular records didn’t have the big hole in the center that required a plastic spindle insert like other 45s, but instead were shaped with small hole in the center, just like a full-sized vinyl LP.

Most of what I collected were stories based on Disney movies or recordings of their characters singing songs.  Many of these records featured a particular female voice that I can still hear in my mind. It was the voice of Ginny Tyler, one of the Disneyland Storytellers.

Ginny Tyler has taken her final taxi at the age of 86.

Tyler was born Merrie Virginia Erlandson and adopted  her stage name Tyler when she started out in radio. She moved on to become host of a children’s show in Seattle, Washington.  Around 1950, she moved to Los Angeles and started narrating albums for Disney.  During that time she made friends with Art Clokey and became part of the group that made the breakthrough stop motion animation cartoon “Gumby.” Tyler voiced several characters on the children’s show.  This lead to another stop motion animation cartoon popular in the 60’s called  “Davey and Goliath.”

Disney tapped  Tyler to narrate short films for the “Mickey Mouse Club”  in the 1960’s. She would take older footage and update it with her more modern voice.  Also for Disney she voiced the two female squirrels in “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) and sang several parts of animated animals in “Mary Poppins” (1964).  A large movie role came for Tyler in 1967 when she worked alongside Rex Harrison in “Doctor Dolittle.” She voiced the part of Polynesia – the parrot who spoke over  two thousand languages (including Dodo and Unicorn.)

I will fondly remember her for the super-hero cartoons of my childhood.  In 1966 she worked for two seasons on Space Ghost. Tyler played the voice of Space Ghost’s sidekick Jan who was always the damsel in distress. Switching gears, she was also the female villain Black Widow.  In 1978 she voiced Sue Richards aka The Invisible Girl in The Fantastic Four cartoon. 

For years Ginny Tyler’s voice was a part of my life.

After the movie ‘Casper’ came out on DVD, I wanted to turn my children onto the old Casper TV shows from the 1960s. As we settled down with the popcorn and I hit the play button on the DVD player, I was pleasantly surprise to find the sweetly not-too-scary voice of Casper done by none other than Tyler. A haunting voice from my childhood that I’ll always remember….

The Puppet Master – Van Snowden

Last night my daughter wanted to watch an older horror movie. Lucky we have streaming video from Netflix and they recently added several in that genre. We ended up watching “Child’s Play”, the movie where the spirit of a murderer takes over a kid’s toy doll and goes on a killing spree. The movie worked because the little doll, Chucky, looked real and alive. This was all done by puppetry of Van Snowden.

One of Hollywood’s most sought after puppeteers, Van Snowden has taken his Final Taxi at age 71.

If you grew up watching any of the Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning TV shows then you have seen his work. Staring out as a puppeteer on H.R. Pufnstuf, Snowden played the mayoral dragon for several year.Later he also worked in “Sigmund & the Sea Monsters,” “Lidsville,””The Bugaloos,”” The Krofft Supershow,” and my favorite “Land of the Lost.”

Snowden was asked by Paul Rueben ( aka Pee Wee Herman) to be lead puppeteer on his show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

He worked a great deal in horror movies in places where you would not know puppets were used. Many times it was rats, lizards, bats or squid tentacles. In fact Snowden was the one responsible for the movements of the Crypt Keeper in the TV horror anthology “Tales From the Crypt.”

Some of Snowden’s film work includes “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” (1991), “BeetleJuice” (1988), “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” (1992), “Alien:Resurrection” (1997), “Starship Troopers” (1997) and “The XFiles” (1998).

Brady Bunch’s Sam the butcher – Allan Melvin

Being a fan of the Brady Bunch TV show, I remember watching as their maid, Alice, would go out on her off nights with Sam the butcher. Sam became a regular on the series.  When the TV show stopped we did see a few Brady Bunch movies where the girls all get married. In it we learn that Alice did land that man of her dreams. I often wondered what the marriage for that looked like. Would it have been in a bowling alley?

The actor who played Sam the butcher on the Brady Bunch was a jowly, happy actor named Allan Melvin.  Melvin played in over  130 different TV and movie production in his cast career.  He has taken that Final Taxi at the age of 84.

Allan Melvin  was born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in New York City Melvin attended Columbia University.  After graduation he served with the United States Navy and married his wife, Amalia, in 1943. ( They were still married after 64 years.)

While working at a job in the sound effects department of NBC Radio, he did a nightclub act and appeared and won on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts radio show. While appearing on Broadway in Stalag 17, he got his break into television by getting the role of Cpl. Henshaw on the popular “The Phil Silvers Show” program.  TV fans of this era usually best remember his role as Henshaw, Sergeant Bilko’s right hand man on that show. “

Blessed with the face of a bloodhound, Melvin was also known for decades for his second banana and sidekick roles on live-action sitcoms.

In the 1960s, Melvin played Staff Sergeant Charley Hacker for four seasons on “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” He also made appearances as Rob Petrie’s old Army buddy, Sol Pomerantz, on the “Dick Van Dyke Show.” Fans of “ The Andy Griffith Show” will remember Melvin  in eight guest appearances in eight different roles.

He was also Archie Bunker’s friend and neighbor Barney Hefner on All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place and for 15 years he played Al the Plumber in the Liquid-Plumr commercials. Other credits action credits include “Route 66,” “Perry Mason,” “Lost in Space,”  and “With Six You Get Eggroll.”

He also provided the voices of cartoon character “Magilla Gorilla”, the lion Drooper on “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,”  Bluto and Wimpy on “The All-New Popeye Hou” and  Sgt. Snorkel in several “Beetle Baily” cartoons. Other voice credits include “The Smurfs,” “Scooby Doo,” “The Flintstones” and “Hong Kong Phooey.”

Allan Melvin probably was best known in live action for his role as Sam Franklin on The Brady Bunch from 1970 to 1973. Franklin, a butcher and bowler, was the boyfriend of Brady family maid Alice Nelson, who was played by Ann B. Davis.

“I’ve enjoyed the stuff I’ve done,” he told People magazine in 1996, “but the one you’re getting paid for, that’s what you enjoy most.”