Dick Beals, the beloved radio and television voice actor best known for the animated characters Gumby and Speedy Alka-Seltzer, has died. He was 85.
"He was one of the great voice actors of all time," Ron Simon, curator of TV and radio at the Paley Center for Media, said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. "He was one of those anonymous people who pioneered what animation would become today."
Beals' notable stop-motion animation roles included originating the voice of the title character in the late 1950s in The Gumby Show. He was also the voice of the first Davey in the early 1960s for the television series Davey and Goliath.
As the result of a glandular condition, Beals stood four-feet six-inches tall, weighed less than 70 pounds and possessed a voice that hadn't changed since grade school. His childlike voice became his lifelong calling card after the manager of the radio station at what is now Michigan State University steered Beals — then a student with broadcasting aspirations — toward radio dramas in the 1940s.
He was first heard in such shows as The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, which were recorded at a Detroit radio station, and later on Dragnet and Gunsmoke. After moving to Hollywood in 1952, Beals was asked to read for the part of Speedy Alka-Seltzer, a slightly goofy, animated sprite who wore an Alka-Seltzer tablet as a hat while another tablet formed his body. With Beals reciting commercial lines and singing the fizzy tablet's praises, the character was featured in more than 200 commercials that aired from 1954 to 1964. The ad campaign is considered one of the classics of all time.
Commercials became Beals' main source of work, and his vocal talents were featured in more than 3,000 of them, according to the Times. He was an unseen pitchman for Oscar Mayer, Campbell's Soup, Bob's Big Boy and many others.
Between 1955 and 2005, Beals performed in at least 25 television projects. He voiced the sidekicks Yank and Dan in the 1965 animated series Roger Ramjet and was heard on the soundtrack singing with Gene Kelly in the 1967 NBC television special Jack and the Beanstalk.
Richard Beals was born March 16, 1927, in Detroit and was the middle child of three brothers. He has no immediate survivors.