Mel Blanc wasn't the first choice to voice Porky Pig

Th-th-th-they had another actor in mind!

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Some actors are so inextricably linked with their roles that it's impossible to see it any other way. Especially in voice acting, certain characters aren't the same after a change in casting. How many favorites suddenly sound different, putting you off forever? Remember when Jim Henson died, and Kermit suddenly had a completely different voice? Now it's easier to rectify, as so much time has passed. But that change can be jarring and leave you feeling alienated. The thing you identify most with that character, the voice, is just different now. 

One character who will always be associated with his distinctive voice is Porky Pig. There's such a specific timbre and cadence to his speech that it's nearly impossible for any actor to duplicate. Mel Blanc created such a specific vocal characterization that other actors now have to struggle to replicate it in his absence.

However, when Friz Freleng created Porky Pig, Mel Blanc wasn't the go-to choice for the character's voice. According to Blanc's autobiography, That's Not All Folks, another actor, Joe Dougherty, was initially cast to bring Porky Pig to life.

"The pig's stutter was Friz's idea," Blanc wrote, "one for which he initially tolerated a good deal of criticism. But he wanted to distinguish Porky from the many homogenous animated film characters, and in hindsight, the distinctive speech impediment did just that.

"Originally the role went to Joe Dougherty, a debonair actor whose film credits included The Jazz Singer. Talk about type-casting: Doughtery stuttered. For real."

Initially, the casting decision seemed like a match made in heaven: a stuttering pig voiced by a stammering actor. However, problems quickly presented themselves when Dougherty proved unable to read his lines on cue. The mistakes were costly, as, at the time, recordings were still done on expensive optical film. The setbacks infuriated the budget-minded producer, Leon Schlessinger, who quickly brought Blanc into his office to discuss taking over the role. 

Blanc recalled the pivotal meeting in great detail in his book:

"'I've got a problem here, Mel,' [Schlessinger] said gruffly, flicking ashes from his cigarette[...] He went on to explain about the difficulties Dougherty presented. 'Joe's a nice enough fellow, and he does his best but... I was wondering if you'd try Porky's voice.'

"'You want me to be the voice of a pig? That's some job for a nice Jewish boy.' I was joking. Schlessinger was in no mood for a laugh."

Despite not quite reading the room in that initial meeting, Blanc went on to voice Porky Pig for over 50 years. 

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3 Comments

cperrynaples 4 months ago
Ironic that Dougherty's biggest credit was a film with almost no dialogue! There is a music track but they still used word cards! The only vocal came when Jolsen sang Mammy with makeup unacceptable today!
harlow1313 4 months ago
I appreciate the coverage of Porky's nether regions.
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