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Welcome, Foolish Mortals...The Life and Voices of Paul Frees Paperback – March 11, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Ben Ohmart has written several books and The Life and Voices of Paul Frees is one of his best. This is the first thorough look at the actor who has been in thousands of radio programs, TV shows and commercials. It is all documented. Very well recommended.
- Jay Hickerson

I never dreamed that anyone would, or could, write an entire book about one of my favorite performers, Paul Frees, but Ben Ohmart has done the near-impossible in this entertaining and informative volume. Frees may not be a household name outside of film buffdom, but his work has been heard by untold millions on the soundtracks of movies, radio and TV shows, cartoons, commercials, and at Disneyland since the late 1940s. He was Boris Badenov, John Beresford Tipton (The Millionaire), and the Pillsbury Dough Boy; he played some of the Pirates of the Caribbean and the ghostly host of Walt Disney s Haunted Mansion. He dubbed everyone from Orson Welles to Toshiro Mifune.

In real life, Frees was as outsized as some of the characters he portrayed, a bombastic personality whose arrogant demeanor and tendency to be on all the time masked a lonely and sensitive soul. With the help of Frees family and colleagues, Ohmart has assembled a surprisingly personal portrait of the man, along with a staggering index of his work. (Old-time radio buffs will have a ball reading his broadcast chronology.)

Author Ohmart is also the proprietor of BearManor Media, which has launched an impressive series of books for film, radio and TV aficionados. He deserves our thanks and support. --Leonard Maltin

…we are indebted to author Ben Ohmart for providing a breezy, yet comprehensive biography of Frees. Here we get to witness Frees's early days in radio, his transition to the big screen, his involvement with animation, and his dubbing and advertising work. But aside from the professional aspects of Frees' life, we are privy to his offstage personality and shenanigans (Frees was a true eccentric), thanks to extensive interviews with surviving friends, relatives and co-workers. It's a balanced, warts-and-all kind of treatment, neither excessively reverential nor sniping, and makes for fascinating reading. --Asimov's Science Fiction

Author Ben Ohmart looks beyond the voices (and excesses) to uncover the man within, coming up with an evenhanded, totally honest portrait of a very complicated individual. This is the definitive biography of an amazing artist. The terrific photos (more than 100) are mostly unseen - and are treasures. If you're a fan of Paul Frees, this is a must. --Classic Images

About the Author

Ben Ohmart's books include biographies of Walter Tetley, Daws Butler, The Bickersons, Don Ameche, Mel Blanc, Phil Rapp and others. He runs BearManor Media, a small publishing company producing big books on old time radio and old films.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: BearManor Media; 1 edition (March 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593930046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593930042
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,204,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In this nearly 300 page book, Ben Ohmart with help from some of Paul's friends and family, tells the life and times of Paul Frees...one of the most under-rated and one of the more mysterious figures in the world of voice acting. I named the review of this book "Natasha...stop moose and squirrel..." because of Paul's famous role as Boris Badenov on the cartoon, Rocky and Bullwinkle. I bought this book as soon as i learned it was on sale and i ALSO have the one Ben Ohmart wrote on Daws Butler. One of the things i loved about this book was the credits section.

The author pin-pointed virtually everything he could find in which Paul Frees made an appearance. Paul was also a face-actor who appeared in a string of movies as supporting player or walk-on but his voice was where he made his money. I also love the pictures that Ben Ohmart put in this book! You will find that Paul, upon reading this book, was a jack-of-all-trades. He could write, paint, sing, act...the author also goes "behind the scenes" and reveals aspects of Paul's personal life. But, the voices are what most readers will be interested in the most and Paul lent his voice to a staggering amout of projects through the years in radio, TV, and on records. On page 193 there's a priceless picture of Paul and Red Skelton during the recording session of the cartoon movie "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" in 1976, the year i was born!

Paul and his famed female voice actress co-star, June Foray, are seen on page 174. On page 176, Paul is seen with Vincent Price. Paul had recorded some things for Price's horror movie "The Abominable Dr. Phibes"...in fact, the movie spawned a vinyl album/soundtrack of sorts in which Paul is heard singing several songs impersonating celebrities {Al Jolson; Humphrey Bogart; Ronald Colman; among others}.
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Unlike many, I had known about Paul Frees being the man of multiple voices. The famous voice of the Disney Haunted Mansion ride "Ghost Host," Boris Badenov of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and the narrator of the original "War of the Worlds" movie are but a few of this man's familiar characters. What I did not realize, however, was how well known, and in demand he was during his entire lengthy career. I learned, but was not surprised to find out, how many hours and productions he had participated in on the radio. Furthermore, I found it interesting that just about anytime any film maker needed to come up with an exotic voice, or wanted someone to finish up another actor's dialogue, they called Paul Frees. I learned all of this by reading his biography, "Welcome, Foolish Mortals," which is the tagline for the Disney Ghost Host.

Anyone wishing to read about the career of a person of outstanding versatility and talent, should read this book. The composition of the book is smooth, and the narrative sustains one's continuing curiosity and interest. I wish that the author had interviewed, and provided more quotes from more people in show business still living that had worked with him professionally. I would have liked, for example, if the author had spoken with surving personnel from the Disney organization, or individuals from companies for whom he had worked as a vocal pitchman. Pillsbury, for example, comes to mind; Frees was the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy (of course, Frees was quoted as suggesting he did not want to be solely remembered as just being the Pillsbury Doughboy).

Compared to the late Paul Frees, there is no one his equal past or present. Even the great impressionist Rich Little must have been in awe of this incredible man. In his own field, he really was a Burgermeister Meisterburger!
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"Paul Frees" was a name I learned early in life, because it appeared in the credits of my favorite show, "Rocky and Bullwinkle." I just finished watching the DVD versions of R&B, and once again marveled at the versatility of Frees and his colleagues. Not only did he play Boris, Capt. Peachfuzz, and a host of other characters in every episode, but he was the Pillsbury Doughboy, Little Sprout (on the Green Giant commercials), the voice of Disney's Haunted Mansion and he did thousands of other voice-overs.

This loving tribute to Frees by cartoon/voice artist fan Ben Ohmart fills in a lot of the blanks in Frees's life, although Ohmart confesses that, since many of Frees's contemporaries have died, there are still many blanks to fill. But there are interviews with fellow voice artists, family members, and his few friends (Frees was an eccentric, private person).

I was fascinated by the stories of Frees' early work in radio. The book also helped flesh out the story of his involvement with Spike Jones, beginning with his wonderful Peter Lorre impression on "My Old Flame."

What I also did not know about until now was Frees' strange, eccentric private life and his eventual suicide. He became more and more of a hermit, doing some voice work from his own studio or making brief trips to the city. Such a talented guy could have continued entertaining the world for decades! This is must reading for those of you who are fans of TV cartoons, and Frees' work in particular. (Speaking of that, the book ends with a huge index of his many credits.)

PS - I bought a used copy on Amazon. When I looked at the title page, I discovered that it was inscribed (by the author) to a member of Frees's family - and that it also featured June Foray's (Rocky/Natasha)autograph! A rare find.
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