Before he became Popeye, Jack Mercer's parents didn't want him to go into show business

Mercer's folks had misgivings, but he was confident in himself.

Warner Brothers

We all love our parents. They're a shoulder for us to cry on, a friend to laugh with, and a mentor to seek advice from. But you're not a kid forever, and at some point, you'll have to grow up and start making the best decisions for you, whether your folks like it or not.

In Jack Mercer's case, he went against his parents' wishes for his career, and it was probably the smartest choice he ever made.

Mercer is best known as the voice of the ever-tough and confident Popeye the Sailor Man. However, Mercer's mettle was tested at an early age by his parents, who disapproved of his desire to go into the entertainment industry.

The strangest part of all of this is that Mercer's parents weren't strangers to show business, as the entire Mercer family was frequently involved in a traveling repertory company. In fact, Mercer acted in plays as a young boy, as he told the Dayton Daily News. "Despite that, my folks didn't want me to go into show business," he said. Mercer confessed that it was due to some quick thinking on his part that he even got his way in the first place.

"I did," he said. "But I had to get in through a back door because of my parents' disapproval. I was good at art, so that was my entry into show business."

At first, Mercer worked behind the scenes of animation as an artist, where he started working for Fleischer Studios. Mercer wasn't even the original voice of Popeye; it wasn't until the original voice, Red Pepper Sam Costello, had to drop out of production that Mercer was able to demonstrate his vocal abilities to producers. Mercer was able to perform a near-perfect imitation of Costello's Popeye, and he was immediately given the role.

Mercer also explained that once he became recognized as the man behind Popeye, he also delighted in surprising children with the impression when he met with fans. We can only hope that there were some kids so entranced with voice acting that they're willing to continue the long-held tradition of not doing what your parents tell you.

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4 Comments

JeffPaul76 9 days ago
Popeye is one of my Favorite Cartoon Characters, even though he eats Spinach, and I HATE SPINACH!! I never eat it.
Runeshaper 10 days ago
Good for Mercer! Popeye is AWESOME! (-:
justjeff 10 days ago
William "Red Pepper Sam" Costello became intolerable for the Fleischers as the success of Popeye brought too many demands from him. He was subsquently fired.

While walking through the studio, Dave Fleischer overheard Jack Mercer doing his Popeye imitation. At the time, Mercer was an "in-betweener" - drawing the animation cels that went in between the main physical action drawings of a character.

The rest (as they always say) is history. Mercer went on to voice Popeye for over 50 years [with the exception of a short time when he was unavailable and other actors stepped in - including Mae "Olive Oyl"/"Betty Boop" Questel]...

Mercer also voiced all four of Popey's nephews (using pitch-varied recordings) and later did *all* of the voices in the Felix the Cat cartoon show...
Dario justjeff 9 days ago
Jack owned that voice for 49 years, from 1935 until his death on December 4, 1984. He is the "forever voice" of Popeye The Sailor. 😁
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