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Though TV is a visual medium, often it has been a disembodied or at least an incognito voice that has captured viewers' imaginations. Actors lend their voices to cartoon characters all the time, and do voice-overs for commercials. But it's the actors whose voices emanate from odd or mysterious sources that intrigue us and make us remember them--and even help make the shows they "appear" in successful or at least remembered beyond normal expectations. When it comes to TV, forget that old piece of etiquette: sometimes it is better to be heard and not seen.

Back in the 1950s and early '60s the gimmick of the unseen voice was all the rage. Turn on your set and you could hear Cleo, the wryly commenting basset hound, on The People's Choice; the person behind the voice was actress Mary Jane Croft. Horace Lemon, the never-seen owner of the hotel where Buddy Hackett's Stanley ran his newsstand, was given vocal life by the off-screen voice of Paul Lynde. In The Plainclothesman, the TV audience lived inside the skull and looked out through the eyes of the lead character, the Lieutenant--what he saw, we saw, but we never saw him, and only heard the voice of actor Ken Lynch saying his lines.

Mary Tyler Moore became famous for being "Sam,"the alluring female who gave Richard Diamond-- Private Detective his assignments. Only Sam's legs were seen, and only Moore's voice was heard. The purpose was not to make Sam a character that would take away from Diamond, but in the end viewers and TV writers were intrigued about who Sam was. Moore became somewhat of a celebrity, and her face appeared in many publications--thus defeating the whole Sam scheme. Moore capitalized on the publicity and left the show after 13 episodes to go on to other things; Roxanne Brooks took over.

Paul Frees, one of Hollywood's busiest and highest-paid voice characterizers, was the voice of Cap'n Crunch, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ludwig von Drake, and Boris Badenov, but was also the voice of John Beresford Tipton of The Millionaire. When actor Peter Duel died during the filming of his series, Alias Smith and Jones, Frees imitated Duel's voice and saved an entire episode.

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