Paul Winchell (December 21, 1922 – June 24, 2005), born Paul Wilchinski (the family later shortened it to Wilchen), was one of the voice actors for the Smurfs cartoon show, best known for his role as Gargamel the wizard. He was also known for playing Dick Dastardly, another Hanna-Barbera villain, and Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh franchise.
Born Paul Wilchin, on December 21, 1922, the son of Sol and Clara Wilchin, Paul Winchell grew up to be the most beloved ventriloquist of the children of the USA. Ironically, as famous as Paul is, his dummy, Jerry Mahoney, may be even more famous. Not since Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy in the previous two decades had a ventriloquist and his dummy known equal celebrity.
Entering the spotlight on the Edward Bowes "Original Amateur Hour" (1948), he began working soon after in a review show in which Major Bowes would showcase the winners of his radio program. He started his television career on the CBS program "The Bigelow Show" (1948) in 1948; "What's My Name?" (1950) originally called "The Spiedel Show", in 1950; and finally the best known of his shows "Winchell-Mahoney Time" (1965). With a clubhouse premise, his dummies Jerry Mahoney, and Knucklehead Smiff, another of Paul's characters, as the clubhouse leaders and the music of the bandleader Milton Delugg. A new innovation of Paul Winchell was to replace the dummy's hands with those of puppeteers who were hidden behind the dummies in a crate. Winch also played many serous dramatic roles on television without his dummy sidekicks.
What may be even more famous is that he created the voice of Tigger for the Walt Disney Company's "Winnie the Pooh" motion picture series, based on the famous books by A.A. Milne, a role he played behind the scenes until 1999, when he was replaced by Jim Cummings, who also played Pooh from the time that Sterling Holloway died. He was also the voice of many other cartoon characters that are famous all over the world.
A little know fact about Winchell is he is one of the original inventors of an artificial heart - years before the first successful transplant with such of a device, an automobile that runs on battery power, a method for breeding tilapia fish, and many other inventions that are still around today.
Paul Winchell has lost his life to natural causes on June 24, 2005. He was 82 years old. His cremated remains were scattered around his home property.
- Jean Freeman (1974 - 27 November 2003) (his death) 2 children
- Nina Russel (1961 - 1972) (divorced) 1 child
- Dorothy (Dottie) Movitz (? - ?) (divorced) 2 children
- Winchell was an amateur medical inventor who patented an artificial human heart.
- Ventriloquist star from 1950s and 1960s television and films.
- His puppet sidekicks, Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, are now in the Smithsonian Institution.
- Skilled voice-over artist for many Disney and Hanna-Barbera films.
- Father of five children: Stephanie and Stacy (with first wife, Dottie Morse); April Winchell (with second wife, Nina Russel); and has adopted Larry and Keith (through his third wife, Jean Freeman). He's also got three grandchildren.
- Winchell worked for years developing his ideas on artificial hearts and was mentioned in the news stories about the Utah man who got the first artificial heart and later when the Jarvik heart came to the fore. He holds several patents in artificial organ development.
- Second wife, Nina Russel, was an actress. Their child April Winchell was born in 1958, and has done her father proud by becoming a top-notch vocal artist of her own. She has voiced "Clarabelle Cow", "Baby Herman's Mother", "Peg" in the "Goof Troop" (1992) series, and "Cruella De Vil" for Disney; and contributed voices for such TV shows as The Simpsons (1989), and films such as Men in Black (1997).
- Was extremely shy as a youth and had a stuttering problem. Awed by famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (who became his idol) and his monocled dummy Charlie McCarthy as a youth, Paul learned to throw his own voice and gradually overcame his speech impediment.
- Named television's most versatile performer by Look magazine in 1952 and 1953.
- Attended Columbia University, then studied and practiced acupuncture and hypnosis, the latter of which he used on his son Stacy when he underwent a tonsillectomy.
- Held patents on over 30 devices, a flameless cigarette lighter, an invisible garter belt, a method of breeding Tilapia fish so that poorer countries could feed their citizens, and an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage. As for his major achievement, the artificial heart, which he built in 1963, was donated to the University of Utah for research. The first implant on a human happened in 1982. Paul Winchell invented the disposable razor which he neglected to get a patent on. when friends told him "Who would buy a razor just to throw it away?" Paul abandoned the idea, later to Winch's dismay, a major razor company proved Paul was right!
- Started his career with a puppet named Terry in 1936 on radio's "Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour", and earned first prize. When Paul was not satisfied with the figure that Frank Marshall had carved for him, It looked like Paul, he created Jerry Mahoney by modifying a stock figure (Noseyboy) from the Frank Marshall's line of dummies. His dim-witted Knucklehead Smiff puppet debuted in 1950 on TV's "The Spiedel Show", which was later renamed "What's My Name?" was a Jerry Mahoney that "Winch" later modified himself.
- Became the voice for Tigger in 1968 for the Walt Disney Company's Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) which earned an Academy Award for best animated short. He retired the vocal role after 33 years with "Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving" in 1999 at the age of 76. Jim Cummings, who voiced Pooh since the death of Sterling Holloway, took over the role of Tigger.
- Earned a 1974 Grammy award for Best Children's Recording with "The Most Wonderful Things About Tiggers" from the feature Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974). He was also nominated for an Annie award for the animated feature Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997).
- Credits his British born third wife Jean who came up with Tigger's signature phrase "TTFN", or "Ta-ta-for now."
- Other famous cartoon voices over the years included Gargamel in "The Smurfs", the mustache-twirling Dick Dastardly of "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines" (1969) and Boomer in The Fox and the Hound (1981).
- Published the book "Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit" in 1954.
- He won a $17.8-million jury verdict in his lawsuit against Metromedia Inc. over Metromedia's destruction of the only remaining tapes of his "Winchell-Mahoney Time" (1965) children's television series. Metromedia, which produced the show from 1964 to 1968, erased the 288 tapes in a dispute with Winchell over the syndication rights.
- Died one day before the death of John Fiedler, who was the voice of Piglet in the animated Winnie the Pooh specials and films.
- In 1974, he earned a Grammy Award for best children's recording with "The Most Wonderful Things About Tiggers" from the feature "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too".
- Recounts, in his autobiography, "Winch", about overcoming a severe childhood stutter, and tells about being severely abused by his mother. He had horrendous relationships with all of his children, according to his daughter, April, as told on her website (www.aprilwinchell.com) and book.
- Was the voice for the "scrubbing bubbles" mascot for Dow Bathroom Cleaner, and after Dow sold its consumer products line to S.C. Johnson, the product was renamed to Scrubbing Bubbles.