May 30, 2001
Women with pointy, black hats……..or crocheting needles…………
As I mull over, this topic of discussion, I realize, for the first time in many years, just how very difficult it is for me to pick my favorite voice, of all June Foray’s many, many characterizations.
Ever since I was twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old, up to today (close to thirty years later), I always thought that I knew, without a doubt, which June Foray voice was my favorite. It always used to be that rough, gruff voice, which June used for grouchy, middle-aged mothers and mothers-in-law (many of whom were drawn as “heavy-set”, gray-
Pondering over June’s amazing collection of Witch voices ……….her Wicked Fairy and Fairy Godmother voices………..her Grandmother and Old Lady voices….. I have come to the conclusion that, it’s almost unfair, to compare her middle-aged, mother-in-law voices, with her elderly women’s voices. June’s stellar, shining repertoire would most assuredly never be the same, if those Witches, Old Ladies and Fairies were excluded from her craft.
In this essay, I hope to cover the bases, of most of the rest of Ms. Foray’s famous characterizations, that we have not already touched upon. Most likely that is an impossible feat, given the incredible abundance of characters to her credit……………
There are actually quite a few similarities, between June’s old lady/grandmother voices, and her witch voices. Both have a voice that tends to remind you of a skinny, little, old woman, whose face is quite drawn and full of wrinkles. Both also have a kind of scratchy, raspy voice, that you often hear in an older woman………but at the same time, they are totally feminine and high-pitched.
Both tend to evoke the image of an old woman with a kind of beaming, cheerful disposition……….Seldom have I heard an elderly June Foray voice, where there did not seem to be a bit of a smile, a bit of gusto, a bit of enthusiasm……….(the gusto and enthusiasm are especially true, in the case of her witches)!
Now as to how her witch and wicked fairy voices, are actually different, from her standard old ladies; there are definitely some tell-tale traits which distinguish the two. June’s witches and wicked fairies sometimes have the tendency to speak………even shriek……..like a lunatic!…………..there is a totally frenetic character, in the personalities of many of her witches, that most of her old ladies do not have.
Her witches and wicked fairies are, therefore, more excitable, and high-strung, than her average “grandma”. Many times they even speak in a higher pitch. Last, but not least, there is that shrill laugh…………even cackle, of those funny, old, evil gals!!!
I think that I have always loved June’s witches because they have always spoken, shrieked and cackled, in the exact same voice, that I have always envisioned, for a witch, since I was a tiny, little toddler (when my folks began to read me stories).
Of course the icing on the cake, of June’s witch voices, has always been their laugh. June’s priceless, bewitching cackle is just that!……..priceless!!………..that shrill, witchy explosive laugh, has always echoed from her mouth, with so much energy, reverberation and sheer, gleeful, feminine relish!! I might add that her cackle, in my opinion, is even better than that of Margaret Hamilton’s laugh, as the witch from The Wizard of Oz (and June’s laugh is much more ear-piercing, and higher-pitched, than was Margaret Hamilton’s).
The best way to appreciate some of June’s witchy characterizations, is to look directly at some of the great
scripts, that she was given, which helped to make these spellbinding women “stars” in their own right.
Consider June’s Witch Hazel character, from the WarnerBrothers cartoons. I am reminded of one episode with Witch Hazel and Bugs Bunny in the same script. In every scene, where Witch Hazel was gleefully fleeing the room (as she laughed and cackled)………….she didn’t just flee………..she ZIPPED from the room………..and when she ZIPPED, there were always a puff of smoke, with tons and tons of bobby pins, flying out of her hair (as well as the sight of her dress’s petticoat, flying up in the air)!!
In this particular Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bugs throws a magic potion at her, at the end of the episode, which transforms Witch Hazel into a beautiful, sexy, girl rabbit. The scene from this is very comic:
“Hello!” says June, now in the seductive, flirtatious voice
of a beautiful young she-rabbit.
“He-LLO!!”, responds Bugs, “Going my way?”
“Mmm-Hmmm!”, June purrs.
“EE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE-HEE!!!!!“, laughs June;
not a whole lot different from the Witch Hazel voice that we have already heard, this whole episode.
Bugs Bunny turns, and faces the audience, and says:
“Aw sure………I know!!………But aren’t they all witches inside???………..“
Or how about a few scenes from the Fractured Fairy Tale,
“The Frog Prince”?:
Edward Everett Horton, Narrator of the tale:
“Once upon a time there was a year that was a very bad year for witches………..they were everywhere!!!……..Big ones, little ones………Fat ones, Ugly ones……….It got so bad that there just weren’t enough people, to go around, for them to cast spells on!”
Witch, played by June (grabbing a hapless victim, and competing with another witch):
“Let go!!!………I want to put him to sleep for a hundred years!!!”
Witch, played by a male actor, Bill Scott:
“YOU let go!…………I’m going to turn him into a chicken!!”
June’s Witch: (screaming even louder now!):
“But I saw him first!!!”
Bill Scott’s Witch:
“You did not!!!”
(The poor, hapless, male victim manages to break free, and darts away, just in time, from both of them!).
(Another one of June’s witches, is making her way through the woods, talking to herself):
“If I don’t find something to cast a spell on pretty soon!!………I’ll…………
Edward Everett Horton:
“But just then, the witch saw a little frog on a lilly pad!”
June’s Witch (slowly, and as if she were licking her chops):
“Well…….Well!!………What have we here!!…….“
“We have a frog!!……….What have we there?……….”
June’s Witch (happily and smiling):
“I’m a witch!!……..”
“And I’m going to cast a spell on you!!”
“Oh, c’mon!……….I’m already a frog!!………What else could you do to me?!?……….”
Edward Everett Horton:
“But the witch was determined, after going so very long, without casting a spell………and with a wave or her wand, she turned him into a handsome young prince.
(after a crashing sound, when the frog turns into a prince, the witch’s eyes, turn up and down, all over the place, as if she were crazy and she says):
“Ooh-hoo-hoo-HOO!!!……..OH BOY THAT FELT GOOD!!”
“Hey! What’s the big idea? I don’t want to be a handsome prince!! I was happy as a frog!!”
“Well, I admit that it isn’t the kind of a spell that we usually cast, BUT TIMES ARE HARD!!………Tah-Tah,
And you can just hear that echoing, head-banging, cackle, now, can’t you?…………
June played a character, somewhere in between a typical old lady, and a witch, on The Flintstones, when she played the role of a supposed housekeeper, for Fred and Wilma. Unbeknownst to them, she was really a bank robber, with the alias of “Grandma Dynamite”! It was an incredibly funny episode and June stole the show!
Fairies, Accents and Dialects:
As far as her Fairy Godmothers are concerned, though she has undoubtedly used a variety of voices, over the years, for that character, I heard her in one Fractured Fairy Tale, where she used a substantially younger voice, than her average witch. The fairy’s voice was that of a woman who was forty-plus years old. She was also very cheerful, jolly and KIND………and she was laughing (she was also a bit fat). She spoke in a British accent. This lively fairy godmother brought the wooden puppet, Pinnocchio, to life, in this episode.
As a brief digression, speaking of her British accent, June, of course, is very well-versed at a variety of accents and dialects. The most common ones, that I have heard are: Russian, British, French and Mexican.
One could say that the above information, is pretty much “the meat” of this essay……….However, not wishing to leave any stone unturned, I will take advantage, of this theme, to use it for another point of departure. There are just a few, of June’s other “major voices”, left, that we have not completely touched upon, on The Walter Tetley Web Page.
Young boys and miscellaneous other information:
Of course it goes without saying that Rocky, the Flying Squirrel, is Ms. Foray’s most famous voice. June has not done a lot of male voices but, Rocky and young newspaper boys, from the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows, are two types of young male voices that she has done. The young newspaper boy voice, was really not a whole lot different, than that of Rocky. Usually the newspaper boy always had the same line: “Ex-TREE, Ex-TREE………Read all about it!!!”.
Around the time that The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle movie came out (in June 2000), there was an article, in the newspaper: “Meet the Woman Behind the Squirrel”. June said, in this interview, that after meeting with Jay Ward, and Bill Scott, over cocktails, it was decided that the voice of Rocky would be that of a wholesome, all-American boy, out to save the world.
She mentioned in, another interview, that she did voice him with at least one fault in mind. In so many words she said that Rocky does have convey a bit of smart aleckiness, in his characterization ……..a bit of an “I told you so” tone (but he pretty much has to, since he is collaborating with Bullwinkle………not at all a smart cookie!).
As an interesting aside, Ms. Foray said, of that first meeting with Jay Ward, that she was also told not to make Natasha “too Russian-sounding” (because there was already enough trouble, between the U.S. and Russia, at that time, given the deep freeze of the Cold War).
From a Newsweek article, from the year 2000, entitled: “You’ve got plan, Dahling?” (the article’s title, of course, is one of Natasha Fatale’s famous lines, to Boris Badenov), June said that the way that she avoided mixing up, the many parts that she played, simultaneously, was to use colored pencils, to highlight each character’s lines. Natasha’s lines (no surprise) were highlighted with a red pencil……..Rocky’s lines were highlighted in blue.
When we look at Rocky and those newspaper boys, it is almost impossible to believe that this same woman is also responsible for all of those delicious and colorful witches, old ladies and fairy godmothers!!!
What an incredible ensemble!!………What an incredible cast of thousands, June Foray has provided us with!!……..Not only could she be a one-woman show, but she actually was a one-woman show (during the many years that she worked for Jay Ward Productions)!!