Paul Wilchen (Paul Winchell), ventriloquist and voice-over artist: born New York 21 December 1922; married first Dorothy Movitz (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), second Nina Russel (one daughter; marriage dissolved), third 1974 Jean Freeman; died Moorpark, California 24 June 2005.
Outside the United States, his face was unknown, but Paul Winchell's voice was his fortune. As Tigger, Winnie-the-Pooh's bouncing friend, his distinctive lisp and laugh were heard around the world for more than 30 years in Disney films, television programmes and videos, starting in 1968 with the Oscar-winning Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. But it was in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!, six years later, that the character's signature tune put him on the map:
The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things.
Their tops are made out of rubber,
Their bottoms are made out of springs.
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun!
Although Sam Edwards had originally recorded the song as a single in 1967, Winchell's version became etched in Disney fans' memories through its permanence on film. It also won him - along with his fellow voice-artists Sebastian Cabot and Sterling Holloway - a Grammy award for Best Children's Recording. Winchell credited his third wife, the British-born Jean Freeman, with Tigger's "Ta-ta for now" catchphrase, taken from the radio comedy ITMA ("It's That Man Again").
Another unmistakable cartoon voice supplied by Winchell was that of the moustache-twirling Dick Dastardly, who, with his sniggering hound Muttley and Mean Machine car, used every devious trick in the book in an effort to win a madcap cross-country car race in the popular animated television series Wacky Races (1968-70). Winchell was also a well-known face as a ventriloquist on television in variety and children's shows with two puppets, the smart-mouthed Jerry Mahoney and the dimwitted Knucklehead Smiff.
Born Paul Wilchen in New York City in 1922, he made his radio début at the age of 13, impersonating his hero, the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, with the monocled dummy Charlie McCarthy, on Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour (1936). In 1947, he hit the big time with his own television programme, The Paul Winchell-Jerry Mahoney Show. Two decades later, as the public's thirst for variety waned, Winchell became a voice-over artist.
He wrote the book Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit (1954) and an autobiography, Winch (2004). As a talented amateur inventor, Winchell patented an artificial heart, a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter and an invisible garter belt.
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