The exhibit follows the trajectory of Mel Blanc’s life from his youthful years in Portland to his remarkable Hollywood career as the voice behind more than 400 animated characters in over three thousand cartoons. Film, sound, photographs and memorabilia will entertain adults and children alike.
Born in San Francisco in 1909 as Melvin Jerome Blank, he moved north with his family at the age of 6. His father owned several apparel businesses, and young Melvin spent his days running around south Portland, observing its residents, many of them Jews. Among the first people he befriended were the elderly Jewish couple who ran the local grocery; they spoke Yiddish, and the boy became fascinated with the strange dialect and its intonations. He learned to imitate it. It was, by his own admission, the first voice he ever performed.
There were plenty of other patois for young Melvin to pick up. The neighborhood offered a lot to a kid with a good ear: Russian Jews lived alongside Italians, Germans, Mexicans, and Japanese. All of these dialects would one day come in handy.