George O’Hanlon (November 23, 1912 – February 11, 1989) was an American film and voice actor, comedian, and TV writer.
Movie fans know O’Hanlon best as the star of Warner Bros.’ live-action Joe McDoakes short subjects from 1942 to 1956.
Television viewers recognize him as the voice of George Jetson in Hanna-Barbera’s 1962 prime-time animated television series The Jetsons and its 1985 revival.
George O’Hanlon was born in Brooklyn, New York City, on November 23, 1912.
From the early 1940s, O’Hanlon was a character comedian in feature films, usually playing the hero’s streetwise, cynical friend. He appeared in features for various studios while continuing the Joe McDoakes role for Warner Bros.
After the McDoakes series lapsed in 1956, O’Hanlon returned to character work, mostly in television (two rare post-McDoakes movie appearances are in Bop Girl Goes Calypso and Kronos, both from 1957).
In the 1953-54 season, O’Hanlon appeared several times on NBC’s The Dennis Day Show. In 1957, he played Charlie Appleby on an I Love Lucy episode, “Lucy and Superman”.
In 1958, O’Hanlon played a New York publicist for a fashion model, Loco Jones (Barbara Eden) in the syndicated romantic comedy How to Marry a Millionaire.
In 1962-63, he voiced one of his most prominent characters, George Jetson in the original The Jetsons, a role he would reprise over 20 years later in three movies.
In the autumn of 1964, he appeared as a cab driver in the 13-episode CBS drama The Reporter starring Harry Guardino. In 1966, O’Hanlon appeared opposite Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden’s loudmouthed “bum brother-in-law”, on Gleason’s first TV show of the 1966-67 season.
He also made various appearances on ABC’s Love, American Style, a series for which he wrote the screenplays and also directed several episodes.
In 1971, O’Hanlon appeared as a bear trainer on The Partridge Family, season 2, episode 6, “Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?”, a drunk in The Odd Couple, season 2, episode 6, “Murray the Fink” and a drunk in Adam-12, season 4 episode 1, “Extortion”.
Apart from acting, the comedian wrote screenplays and also wrote the storyboard for nearly all of the Joe McDoakes shorts. He wrote stories for television series in the 1960s such as Petticoat Junction, 77 Sunset Strip, and even wrote episodes for Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones.
He also auditioned for the role of Fred Flintstone, but lost to Alan Reed; however, he was remembered when it was time to cast The Jetsons.
He once said: “George Jetson is an average man, he has trouble with his boss, he has problems with his kids, and so on. The only difference is that he lives in the next century.”
O’Hanlon married Nancy, a fellow actress, and they had two children (actor George O’Hanlon, Jr, and daughter Laurie O’Hanlon, a registered nurse). They remained married until his death.
By the mid-1980s, Hanna-Barbara decided to revive The Jetsons and brought back its original voice cast of O’Hanlon, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Don Messick, Penny Singleton, Jean Vander Pyl, and Janet Waldo.
However, O’Hanlon had suffered a stroke prior to this and was left blind and suffering from limited mobility.
He recorded dialogue in a separate session from the other cast members by having all lines read to him by the voice director Gordon Hunt and then recited one at a time.
O’Hanlon died of a second stroke on February 11, 1989, while recording dialogue for Jetsons: The Movie.
According to Andrea Romano, who was Hanna-Barbera’s casting director at the time, O’Hanlon found it difficult to read and hear, and in the end, he died in the recording studio doing what he loved. The film was dedicated to him, along with Jetsons co-star Mel Blanc, who died later the same year.
He is interred in Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Cemetery in Westlake Village, California.