In Remembrance: Jackson Beck

     Jackson Beck, the voice over artist who worked on over 300 classic Popeye cartoons, has passed away Wednesday, July 28, 2004. He was 92.

     Born on July 23, 1912 in New York City, ironically, the son of silent film actor Max Beck. After a few years as a runner on the New York Stock Exchange, Beck decided to pursue a career in radio. He landed his first job in 1931 on the soap opera Myrt and Marge. In 1943 he became the narrator of the long running Superman radio series, immortalizing the phrase “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”  He also voiced several other occasional characters on the show including Beany, the Daily Planet copy boy. Beck also voiced The Cisco Kid and supplied impersonations of world leaders for the March Of Time series. Beck also starred in title role of the mystery series Philo Vance from 1948 to 1950.

     Beck’s first film work was a continuation of his association with Superman, voicing Daily Planet editor Perry White in the Fleischer Studios series of cartoon shorts based on the character. Impressing the studio with his work, Beck landed the job of voicing Popeye’s nemesis Bluto for more than 300 cartoons starting with 1944’s Anvil Chorus Girl. He stayed with the character through the studio’s acquisition by Paramount Studios and subsequent renaming to Famous Studios in 1942. His final “appearance” as Bluto was in 1957’s Spree Lunch. Beck also voiced other characters for the studio including Buzzy the Crow King Knife and Red Lantern.

     With the rise of television, Beck gravitated towards voice work in the new medium. He once again played Perry White in the 1967 cartoon series The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure in 1967. He supplied voices for shows such as King Leonardo And his Short Subjects (1960) and Tennessee Tuxedo And His Tales (1963). Beck also supplied the voice for commercials Frosted Flakes to Brawny paper towel to Little Caesar’s Pizza.

     Beck continued to loan his voice to various films. He was the off screen narrator in Woody Allen’s Take The Money And Run (1969) and Cry Uncle! (1971). He also was heard as a radio announcer in Allen’s Radio Days (1987).

     He continued doing voice over work all into the 1990s, and was heard on the 1970’s radio series National Lampoon Radio Hour and NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

     Beck also helped to found the American Federation of Radio Artists, which is now the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.