Longtime actor and voiceover artist Shepard Menken, who made famous the phrase “The oooonly way to fly” on the Western Airlines TV commercial during the 1960s, died Jan. 2 of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 77.
From the age of 11, the New York City native appeared on numerous radio programs, including “Uncle Bob’s Children’s Show” broadcast from Manhattan.
He attended Columbia U and later, via scholarships, studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse Theater and Juilliard School of Music.
In 1949, he segued to the bigscreen as a character actor appearing in 19 films over a two-decade period, including “The Red Menace,” “The Great Caruso,” “The Merry Widow,” “The Benny Goodman Story” and “The Brothers Karamazov.”
Although perhaps best remembered for the Western Airlines commercial, Menken also did voiceovers for Hanna-Barbera Prods., Marvel Prods., UPA Animation and most of the film studios. His voice could also be heard on commercials for Starkist Tuna, Ford, Friskies and Mattel Toys.
In addition, he appeared regularly on such TV series as “I Love Lucy,” “I Spy,” “The Big Valley” and “Wild, West West.”
In 1963, Menken formed his own film company, Malibu Films, producing and distributing pics to business and educational institutions throughout the U.S.
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Claire, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.