The Remarkable June Foray

by Mark Evanier

The lovely June Foray.

Here's a moment you doubtlessly recall from many a Rocky and Bullwinklecartoon: Arch-villain Boris Badenov ambles up in some sort of disguise...only it's usually not much of a disguise. Usually, it's a different hat. Still, though his masquerade wouldn't fool Quincy Magoo during a total eclipse, it fools Bullwinkle J. Moose.

Not only that but it also fools Rocket J. Squirrel -- and he's the smart one in the team. Rocky hears Boris introduce himself as someone other than Boris. Then Rocky says, "That voice...where do I know that voice?"

Viewers might well be asking themselves that when Rocky talks. As it is no secret, Rocky is the most famous of countless characters who have been given a voice by the Queen of Voice Performers, the legendary June Foray. For a time, it was not uncommon for people to refer to her as "The female Mel Blanc." That prompted her friend (and frequent employer) Chuck Jones to correct folks...

"June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc was the male June Foray."

The Beginning of a Legend
One can make the case either way. Less arguable though is that June is one of a select group of voice legends that includes not only the immortal Mr. Blanc but two of her other frequent co-stars -- Daws Butler and Paul Frees. Put any of them in a room with a microphone and you had a cast of hundreds...

But put June and any of those men (or Stan Freberg or Don Messick, etc.) in that studio and the possibilities were infinite.

It isn't just that June can portray so many different people but that each is a fully-rounded, well-delineated characterization. The folks she becomes don't just sound funny; they breathe and laugh and cry and run the gamut of emotions without you ever feeling, "Oh, that's just somebody doing a silly voice!" Small wonder she has worked so much...ever since age 12, to be precise.

That was when she first performed a role in a radio play back in her native Springfield, Massachusetts. Three years later, she was a regular player in the rep company of WBZA in Springfield...and by the time she was 17, she was ensconced in Hollywood and landing roles in radio programs of the day -- everything from The Jimmy Durante Showto the prestigious Lux Radio Theatre.She even had her own kids' show for a time, telling stories as Lady Makebelieve.

"Radio was the greatest training ground," she says. "You had to be very quick and you had to be very versatile...and you were surrounded by such wonderful actors."

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