Life and career
Mercer began his work in cartoons as an "inbetweener", an apprentice animator at Fleischer Studios. Mercer liked to imitate voices, including one close call where he mimicked the high-pitched and loud voice of the wife of one of the Fleischers after he mistakenly thought she had left the studio.
When Billy Costello, the original cartoon voice of Popeye (1933 to 1935), became difficult to work with, he was dismissed. Mercer had begun imitating Costello's interpretation of Popeye, and practiced it until his voice "cracked" just right and he had it down. Searching for a replacement for Costello, Lou Fleischer heard Mercer singing the Popeye song and gave him the job of doing the voice. Mercer's first cartoon was King of the Mardi Gras (1935).
Mercer continued to voice the one-eyed sailor for the Fleischers, for Paramount's Famous Studios cartoons (1942–1957), for a 1960 series of television cartoons for King Features Syndicate, and for a Saturday morning cartoon show produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in 1978. Mercer also did other cartoon voices, including all the voices for a series of Felix the Cat cartoons produced in 1959 and 1960. Mercer also did the voices of Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's nephews, and a number of voices for the Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels (1939) and Mister Bug Goes to Town (1941) films. Mercer's natural voice was relatively high-pitched for a man, and he was able to do some of the female voices as well.
Mercer also wrote hundreds of scripts for various cartoon series, including a number of Popeye episodes, and other animated cartoons produced for Paramount Pictures such as Deputy Dawg and Milton the Monster.
Originally a resident of New York City, Mercer moved to Miami, Florida when Fleischer Studios relocated there in 1938. After Famous Studios took over the Popeye cartoons, Mercer moved back to New York by early 1944. In the late 1970s he lived briefly in Los Angeles but then moved to Queens, New York, where he died in December 1984 after stomach cancer-related problems. After his death, Maurice LaMarche, Jim Cummings and Billy West have performed the voice of Popeye.
- ↑ As noted in an interview made around 1975, included on the DVD set Popeye the Sailor: 1938-1940, Volume 2
- ↑ New York Times Obituary, 9 December 1984. Last retrieved 12 March 2007.
- ↑ Milestone column. Time Magazine March 20, 1939
- Jack Mercer at the Internet Movie Database