Thursday, September 17, 2020

Paul Frees


Part 3 of our Paul Frees compilation will go on the podcast this week, and perhaps more, down the road; he was an indefatigable presence in audio show biz for 40 years, and this humble collection is but a sample.
I should add a word about announcers, as a phenomenon: a public face/voice, coordinating the show before our very ears.  Vaudeville had Masters of Ceremonies, and before that there were Ringmasters.

I always thought announcers were kind of audio craftsmen, in a way.  Standing next to a huge microphone, watching the Director, and being that single point where the whole thing pivoted as it careened through our living rooms.  

Paul Frees was The Announcer.  There were other memorable characters in the profession-- Thurl Ravenscroft, George Fenneman, Ken Nordine, Olan Soule, Mason Adams, Norman Rose-- and even regular actors like Richard Kiley, Lloyd Bochner and Les Tremayne were able to shine as narrators.  
But Mr Frees, who had literally hundreds of gigs in his career, was the king.  When you heard Paul Frees, you knew you'd just been announced to.  His tinny baritone ran the range from Imperative to Sinister like few others.  And he was everywhere.  He was almost Hal in 2001 (too busy to fly to England), which would have added another dimension to the character: with all the work he did on TV commercials, the ultimate voice of American Capitalism.  As a killer computer.  Very Kubrickian.

He started doing voices before he was a teenager, and definitely had the talent for it.  He'd play hooky from school, and when the Truant Officer called, pretend to shuffle them around between different members of the household, some of whom spoke only Russian.  

I think the ones who do well tend to start out young.  

ps: The final movie trailer in this set, The Beatniks-- that was his film.  Wrote and directed.

And the music, of course.