John Stephenson, Voice of Mr. Slate on 'The Flintstones,' Dies at 91

John Stephenson - S 2015
Courtesy of Roger Stephenson

John Stephenson - S 2015

The Hanna-Barbera mainstay played hundreds of cartoon characters, including Fancy-Fancy on 'Top Cat.' He appeared onscreen as well.

John Stephenson, a prolific voiceover actor who played Fred’s boss, Mr. Slate, on The Flintstones and the ladies' man Fancy-Fancy on Top Cat, has died. He was 91.

Stephenson, who also worked as a narrator on the 1960s version of TV’s Dragnet, revealing the verdicts and sentences at the end of each episode, died May 15 in Woodland Hills after a three-year battle with Alzheimer’s, his son, Roger, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Stephenson, a mainstay of the 1960s Hollywood cartoon factory Hanna-Barbera, also voiced characters for such shows as Jonny Quest (as dad Benton Quest), The Peter Potamus Show, The Magilla Gorilla Show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and several iterations of Scooby-Doo.

Stephenson was seen onscreen on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Perry Mason, F Troop (as Gen. George Armstrong Custer), Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, The Doris Day Show, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Streets of San Francisco, Lou Grant and other series.

Stephenson began work on The Flintstones in 1960, when it debuted as an ABC primetime show on Friday nights. He voiced the hot-tempered Mr. Slate of the Bedrock Quarrel and Gravel Co. — in addition to many other citizens of Bedrock — for decades. 

“I think the show was successful because it was an adult cartoon and viewers associated it with The Honeymooners,” he said in a 2010 interview. “And with the Stone Age setting and some very good writing, audiences loved it. They still do.”

Top Cat, another Hanna-Barbera cartoon, debuted on ABC in 1961; it revolved around a gang of scheming Manhattan alley cats.

Stephenson had a Hollywood legend in mind for the voice of Fancy-Fancy. “I tried to make him come across as a kind of Brooklyn Cary Grant,” he once said.

He retired about 10 years ago after more than six decades in the business, his son said.

A native of Kenosha, Wis., Stephenson served in World War II as a radio operator and gunner in the Army Air Corps and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He decided to become an actor after he left the service, took a course in speech and drama at Northwestern via the G.I. Bill and worked in Chicago radio.

In 1948, Stephenson visited Chicago friends in Hollywood and stuck around, landing gigs on the radio shows It’s Always Sunday and, in the title role, The Count of Monte Cristo.

Soon, as a spokesman for sponsoring tobacco company Philip Morris, he introduced TV audiences to episodes of I Love Lucy and then was a regular on the sitcom The People’s Choice, starring Jackie Cooper.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 60 years, Jean; daughter Katie; and granddaughter Samantha.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4