Sunday, April 18, 2010

RIP Allen Swift

Legendary voice actor and kids' show host Allen Swift has died at the age of 86. A whole generation of children who grew up in New York knew him as Captain Allen Swift, host of the Popeye cartoons (and others) on WPIX in late fifties, and for years, he was probably the most prolific mimic and performer of funny voices in that part of the country. His cartoon credits included Underdog (he was the villainous Simon Bar-Sinister), King Leonardo (he was Odie Cologne, Itchy Brother and Tooter Turtle) and the movie, Mad Monster Party. He did hundreds of commercials, cartoons, on-camera appearances and even a few jobs on Broadway...but some will always hail him as the man who saved Howdy Doody.

He did that twice. In 1952, the host "Buffalo" Bob Smith fired several of the performers in a salary dispute, thereby rendering many of the show's recurring characters speechless since the actors who played them were gone. Allen Swift came to the rescue, assuming those roles and he was soon dubbing most of the key players of Doodyville...all except for Howdy. Bob Smith himself would pre-record the voice of Howdy. Smith had done it himself in the show's earliest days when the budget wouldn't allow for another actor. He kept doing it after that because the voice was established and they were convinced no one could replicate it.

Then in 1954, Smith had a heart attack and was off the show for many months. Again, it was Swift to the rescue. Allen took records home over a weekend, learned to do the voice and thereafter supplied it so Howdy could continue to appear on Howdy Doody. In fact, Swift did it so well that when Buffalo Bob returned to the program, Swift continued to speak for the star of the show.

These are just a few of the staggering number of credits in the career of Allen Swift. He leaves behind an amazing legacy of work...and a lineage that is carried on by his gifted son, Broadway star Lewis J. Stadlen. Talent sure ran in that family.

SWIFT, Allen (Ira Stradlen)
Born: 1/16/1924, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 4/18/2010, Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.

Allen Swift's western - voice:
Tall in the Trap - 1962

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