Celebrating Alan Reed and “The Flintstones”

It’s been very gratifying looking into the background of Alan Reed (Herbert Theodore Bergman, 1907-77), best remembered as the original voice of Fred Flintstone. Reed had a ton of exciting credits over and above his most famous one, and an interesting background besides.

Reed grew up in the Ft. George section of New York, and attended Columbia Journalism School before deciding to become an actor. In addition to studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, he performed in vaudeville with his cousin Harry Green and was a tummler at the Copake Country Club in upstate New York. In early years he used the billing “Teddy Bergman”. “Alan Reed” was phased in over time and used exclusively in later decades.

The fact that Reed could do nearly two dozen foreign accents gave him immense utility in radio, where he worked steadily beginning in 1930. That year he co-starred with Herbert Polesie on the show Henry and George. 1932 he played the title character in the radio adaptation of Joe Palooka. He also played Baby Snook’s father on Fanny Brice’s show, played an Allen’s Alley character on The Fred Allen Show (which later got its own spinoff), and was a regular on such shows as Duffy’s Tavern, Abie’s Irish Rose, Life with Luigi, The Shadow, The Life of Riley and The Phil HarrisAlice Faye Show. He was also in two Broadway shows: Double Dummy (1936) and A House in the Country (1937).

From the mid 1940s through early ’50s he appeared in numerous well-known Hollywood films, but I bet you didn’t recognize him as Fred Flintstone! He’s in Days of Glory (1944), Nob Hill (1945), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Here Comes the Groom (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), Pickup on South Street (1953), and The Desperate Hours (1955), among others. He was a regular on the tv versions of Life with Luigi (1952) and Duffy’s Tavern (1954), and on the original series Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-58), in addition to numerous guest shots on tv sitcoms and dramas. He was also one of the voices on Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955).

In 1960 Reed beat out George O’Hanlon for the role of Fred Flintstone (O’Hanlon later got a consolation prize in the form of George Jetson). This prehistoric transplantation of The Honeymooners cast Reed in a crack ensemble with fellow voice-over/radio heavyweights Mel Blanc (Barney), Bea Benaderet (Wilma), Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma), Howard Morris (various voices), June Foray (various voices), and, later Harvey Korman (the shark-jumping Great Gazoo). The first animated prime-time sitcom, The Flintstones ran six years (a goodly stretch by any measure), was periodically revived in sequels, spinoffs and specials, and was rerun in syndication thereafter (which was the form I watched it in throughout my childhood).

In addition to guesting on many of the top live-action shows of the day (e.g. Get Smart, The Addams Family), Reed also voiced several other cartoon characters of varying immortality. He was, for example, Touché Turtle’s sidekick Dum-Dum (1962). He voiced a character on another show which originally during my childhood, the Hanna-Barbera animated prime time sitcom Where’s Huddles?, which was about a football team, and ran in 1970. I had a Where’s Huddles? coloring book! Reed’s last credits were on the saturday morning show Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-80), where he worked with his old friend Mel Blanc. Blanc played the titular superhero, which had some similarities to his Tasmanian Devil character. The “Teen Angels” part was a parody of Charlie’s Angels. (The entire decade of the 1970s was inappropriate for children.)

Alan Reed died of a heart attack (with complications of emphysema and past cancer) at age 69.

To learn more about vaudeville, where Alan Reed of The Flintstones got his start, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,