A few moments later, one of DIC’s sound technicians told me Mel had been at the recording studio earlier doing ADR work. ADR stands for ‘automated dialogue replacement’ which means re-recording dialogue so it can be used to rectify a problem encountered with the original recording during post-production.
It was common knowledge that Mel was suffering from emphysema as a result of years of heavy cigarette smoking, so the ADR work was tough on him. The technician told me Mel was in the middle of delivering one of Heathcliff’s dialogue lines when he paused, running out of breath, then raised his oxygen mask to his mouth, labored to draw a couple deep breaths and continued the dialogue delivery, perfectly matching the volume and cadence that lead up to it. I shook my head in awed admiration. When I asked the technician what they’d do about the pause where Mel had drawn on the oxygen to catch his breath, the technician shrugged and said, “We’ll fix it in post.”
I wished someone could fix Mel in post, but he was past that. Still, even in the throes of emphysema, Mel Blanc had the talent, drive and dogged determination to perfectly nail that line of dialogue. It was inspirational. It was what being a professional and a legend was all about.
Sadly, Heathcliff the Cat would be his last voiceover character.
I looked to the door, saw a staffer holding it open for him, saw Mel walking outside. It was the last time I’d see the legend.