This voice actor and ventriloquist won accolades in media and patented first artificial heart
Posted June 24th, 2015
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Paul Winchell (December 21, 1922 – June 24, 2005) was an American ventriloquist, comedian, actor, voice actor, humanitarian and inventor. Winchell became the first person to build and patent a mechanical artificial heart, implantable in the chest cavity (US Patent #3097366). He has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television.


Winchell was born Paul Wilchinsky in New York City on December 21, 1922 to Solomon Wilchinsky and Clara Fuchs. His father was a tailor. Winchell's initial ambition was to become a doctor, but the Depression wiped out any chance of his family's ability to afford medical school tuition. At age 13, he contracted polio; while recovering, he happened upon a magazine advertisement offering a ventriloquism kit for ten cents. 


Back at school, he asked his art teacher, Jerod Magon, if he could receive class credit for creating a ventriloquist's dummy. Mr. Magon was agreeable, and Winchell named his creation Jerry Mahoney, by way of thanks. Winchell went back to reading magazines, gathering jokes from them and putting together a comedy routine, which he then took to the Major Bowes Amateur Hour in 1938, winning first prize. A touring offer, playing various theaters with the Major Bowes Review, was part of the prize. Bandleader Ted Weems saw the young Winchell while on tour; he visited Winchell and made him an offer of employment. Winchell accepted and became a professional at age 14.
Winchell's first show as a ventriloquist was on radio with Jerry Mahoney in 1943. Winchell's best-known ventriloquist dummies were Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. Mahoney was carved by Chicago-based figure maker Frank Marshall. The television versions of Jerry and Knucklehead also featured Winchell's innovation of actors slipping their hands into the sleeves of the dummies, giving the visual effect of gesturing with their hands while "conversing" with each other. The original Marshall Jerry Mahoney and one copy of Knucklehead Smiff are in storage at the Smithsonian Institution.


Winchell was interested in medicine and was a pre-med student at Columbia University. He graduated from The Acupuncture Research College of Los Angeles in 1974, and became an acupuncturist. He also worked as a medical hypnotist at the Gibbs Institute in Hollywood.[1] Winchell developed over 30 patents in his lifetime. He invented an artificial heart with the assistance of Dr. Henry Heimlich, the inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held an early but not the first U.S. patent for such a device. The University of Utah developed a similar apparatus around the same time, but when they tried to patent it, Winchell's heart was cited as prior art. The university requested that Winchell donate the heart to the University of Utah, which he did.
Winchell established more medical patents while working on projects for the Leukemia Society (now known as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) and the American Red Cross. Some of the other devices he invented and patented include a disposable razor, a blood plasma defroster, a flameless cigarette lighter, an "invisible" garter belt, a fountain pen with a retractable tip, and battery-heated gloves.


Voice acting: His first voice-over role was "Pig-Pen" in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1966. Winchell's career after 1968, included a great deal of voice acting for animated television series, most notably for Disney and Hanna-Barbera. For the latter, he played the character Dick Dastardly in multiple series (notably Wacky Races and Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines); Clyde and Softy on Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop; and Fleegle on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, and Gargamel on The Smurfs. For Disney, Winchell was best known for voicing the character Tigger in Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh films, and won a Grammy Award for his performance in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.




PAUL WINCHELL & JERRY HANGING OUT AT HOME


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