Thursday, July 4, 2024

Linda Gary (Part 1)

Dubbed in Rome

By Johan Melle

June 16, 2024

If you have a passion for English language voice acting, you’ll most likely be familiar with Linda Gary (1944-1995), for she was one of the top names in American animation dubbing during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, famous above all as being the voice of all the major female characters in the popular animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-85), but she was also featured in countless other animated films and series from Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, Disney and Marvel, as well as in radio series, video games and audio books. Not many are aware, however, that Linda actually began illustrious voice acting career in Rome, dubbing live action features while she was living there from 1970 to 1974. If watching an Italian giallo, horror, western or Eurocrime from that time period, chances are it’ll feature Linda’s seductively beautiful voice as her incredible range and versatility made her one of the most prolific and in-demand English dubbing actresses in Rome. Check out the video below for some samples of Linda’s memorable dubbing work from her Rome days:

Linda was born on November 4, 1944 in Los Angeles, California, and according to the biographical piece on her in the Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records (2006) by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehbar, she started her acting career already as a child, with Linda’s mother, a Russian immigrant, getting her involved in theater and early television. As a young girl, she appeared on such TV shows as Mickey Mouse Club, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars and Playhouse 90 under the names of Linda Gay or Linda DeWoskin, and even had uncredited parts in the epic Hollywood dramas The Silver Chalice (1954) and The Ten Commandments (1956).

After attending the University of California at Northridge and doing a bit of modeling in New York, Linda then returned to Los Angeles to do a play at Northridge, and there she met the great love of her life: the handsome actor Charles Howerton, to whom she was married in 1967.

[Charles Howerton, Linda's husband.]

In 1970, Charles and Linda visited Europe and after several months of travelling around the continent, they found themselves in Rome with no money in their pockets. There, they were discovered by actor, director and prolific dubber Mel Welles, who quickly got them started in the English dubbing business, prompting the young couple to settle in Rome.

“In Rome, there was a nucleus of American actors who dubbed films,” Linda recalled in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in March 1987. “We both began to get work right away. Six or seven people would cover all the parts in one film. So I was playing not only the young lead and the heroine, but I was the mother, the grandmother and the child.”

A bit of an exaggeration as the talent pool of English dubbers in Rome was definitely large enough that most of the parts were usually covered by unique voices, but the more versatile dubbers did indeed often get cast for more than one major part, and in fact, one of the earliest films Linda dubbed in Rome, under the direction of Nick Alexander, was the popular spaghetti western Compañeros (1970) in which Linda provides the voices of two distinctly different characters: a Mexican revolutionary played by Iris Berben and a sexy saloon madam played by Karin Schubert.

[In Compañeros, Linda dubbed the voice of Iris Berben as Lola...]

[ well as the voice of Karin Schubert as Zaira.]

“Linda was an instant hit because she had such range. That’s when she discovered her talent for voice-overs,” husband Charles Howerton recalled in the Mouse Tracks book, and Linda was indeed much in demand not only for straight female leads, but also for young ingénues, seductive femme fatales, villainesses or comedy roles – with or without accents. Regardless of role, she performed every voice role with bravura, infusing the parts with such life and sexiness that she became popular not only with the dubbing directors, but according to Charles, there were also many Italian actresses who specifically asked for Linda to do their voices in English. Consequently, Linda dubbed many of the sexiest Italian starlets of the 1970s, including Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, Agostina Belli, Sylva Koscina, Erica Blanc, Femi Benussi, Zeudi Araya and Ewa Aulin.

[Mel Welles picked Linda to dub the voice of Rosalba Neri in his horror film Lady Frankenstein (1971), and she also dubbed Rosalba again in the western The Great Treasure Hunt (1972) and the giallo Girl in Room 2A (1973).]

[Edwige Fenech was dubbed by Linda in the giallo Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) and in the Eurocrime film Mean Frank and Crazy Tony (1973).]

[Agonstina Belli was dubbed by Linda in the horror film The Night of the Devils (1972) and in the Eurocrime film I Kiss the Hand (1973).]

While in Rome, Charles, too, did a lot of English dubbing work, as well as writing several dubbing adaptations, and both he and Linda appeared in commercials and minor parts in films. For example, Linda has uncredited bit parts in Dino Risi’s In the Name of the Italian People (1971), where she can be seen in a few scenes as Vittorio Gassman’s secretary, and in Federico Fellini’s Roma (1972).

In 1974, however, Linda and Charles’ dubbing days in Rome came to an end as they packed their bags and returned to Los Angeles in hopes of continuing their careers there. Unfortunately, it soon turned out that while their work in Rome had been great training, it didn’t count for much when the couple tried to find work. “We had to start from scratch,” Linda revealed in the 1987 Los Angeles Times interview.

Whereas Charles began to score supporting roles in low-budget B-movies like The Black Gestapo (1975) and some guest spots on TV shows, the 5-foot-9 Linda was convinced that her future career was voice work rather than on-screen acting. “Height is a problem for actresses, unless you’re really beautiful or unless you’re really a character type. I was in-between. So there was never a lot of work for me,” she explained in the 1987 interview.

She thus began to do voice lessons with Daws Butler, who had created the voices of such famous cartoon characters as Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, and then Linda and Charles both got a big break thanks to Mel Welles, their friend and dubbing colleague from Rome, who had also returned to Los Angeles. Welles had just managed to land the job of dubbing the Japanese sci-fi superhero TV series Spectreman (1971-72) into English, and he hired Charles as well as Ruth Carter (another former dubbing colleague from Rome) to help him write an English adaptation.

All 63 episodes of the Spectreman series, which deals with a super-cyborg who defends Earth from mutated pollution monsters created by evil alien invaders, were dubbed into English in Los Angeles around 1977/78, and in addition to Charles, Linda and Mel Welles himself, the dubbing cast also included three other former Rome dubbers: Rodd Dana, Dan Sturkie and John Thompson.

[Linda in the late 1970s.]

 [Mel Welles, Linda and Charles' good friend and dubbing colleague in both Rome and Los Angeles.]

Originally, Linda provided the voice of Rita (played by Machiko Konishi), the sole female member of the regular cast, but she departed the series after just twelve episodes and was subsequently replaced by no less than three further characters who came and went with bewildering frequency – and all of them were dubbed by Linda, who also dubbed a number of episodes characters of all ages. All in all, the series was a terrific showcase for Linda’s talents and abilities.

[To be continued tomorrow.]

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