Remembering A Forgotten Side Of The Marvelous Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller with a parrot from his recording of Pinocchio

Marvin Miller with a parrot from his Audio Book recording of Pinocchio

Cover of Audio Book of Pinocchio

Cover of Audio Book of Pinocchio

Marvin Miller, who was born Marvin Mueller, was well-known for his radio, film, and TV appearances as a man with a strong baritone.  However, his work with the Audio Book Company of St. Joseph, Michigan has been virtually forgotten.  Yet he provided hours and hours of pleasure to youngsters like myself, reading classics to eager children.  In essence, the Audio Book Company built on an idea from the 1940s:  To have established actors act out adaptations from children’s classics.  In the 1940s, a whole series of 78 albums were produced for children that featured actors such as Herbert Marshall, Basil Rathbone, Ronald Coleman, Margaret O’Brien, Ginger Rodgers, Thomas Mitchell and many others.  The albums were quite successful and spurred the talking audio books that began in 1954.  The audio books were played at 16 2/3 rpm and required an adapter if your record player had no 16 speed.  Like the albums from the 1940s, the Audio Book Company employed famous character actors including Jeff Chandler, Gene Lockhart, Hans Conried,  Dan O’Herlihy, and, of course, the incomparable Marvin Miller.  These albums were the first to include complete renderings of such classics as A Christmas CarolTreasure Island, The Wizard of OzAlice in WonderlandThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Pinocchio.  Because of his well-known ability to provide numerous voices for characters, Marvin Miller was the first actor hired for the readings and was entrusted with several titles.  The audio excerpt below features Marvin doing several voices for Chapter XVI of Pinocchio.  Please lean back and take the time to hear Marvin’s superb artistry.

A Note about Pinocchio:  Originally, Pinocchio was intended to be a moral tale;  showing what happened when a block of wood(a “blockhead”) failed to obey his father and his conscience after several trials.  To whit:  Pinocchio was taken in by two street villains, the Fox and the Cat and was hanged by them when he refused to give them his money.  That was to be the end of the story.

The author, Carlo Lorenzini(Carlo Collodi) saw his adventure as belonging to the moral, educational trend that was prevalent in 19th century Italy.  The novel was full of the sadistic, didactic episodes that were not only common in Italy, but in other European countries as well.  But a strange thing happened:  Children began to write letters, begging the author to continue the story of this young scapegrace and Carlo Collodi complied.

The ending, which the author intended to be an inspiration to naughty children, was weak.  The illustrator’s drawing of a young boy was anti-climactic.  It was the puppet’s unwieldy, independent, self-serving character that children identified with.  In many ways, Pinocchio was more of a real boy as a puppet than the figure at the end of the book and that was the author’s problem.  For Pinocchio was as individual as Peter Pan and became a favorite among children throughout the world.

The chapter below was the first chapter that Carlo Collodi wrote when he brought Pinocchio back to life to enjoy new adventures. Chapter XVI from Pinocchio as read by Marvin Miller    

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

2 Responses to Remembering A Forgotten Side Of The Marvelous Marvin Miller

  1. Fascinating! I couldn’t have told you that I recognized the name “Marvin Miller,” but I do recognize the voice! Really interesting, Robert. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comment, Debra!

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