Arthur Q. Bryan
|Arthur Q. Bryan|
|Born||Arthur Quirk Bryan
May 8, 1899
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||November 18, 1959
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Other names||Arthur O. Brian|
|Occupation||Voice actor, radio personality|
Arthur Quirk Bryan (May 8, 1899 – November 18, 1959) was an American voice actor and radio personality, remembered best for his longtime recurring role as well-spoken, wisecracking Dr. Gamble on the radio comedy Fibber McGee and Molly and for creating the voice of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Elmer Fudd.
Early career and Looney Tunes
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Bryan grew up with a deep desire to go into show business, stumbling through the industry for several years before finding steady if unsatisfying work as a bit player and occasional film narrator in Hollywood.
Along with several characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, or Porky Pig, all voiced by Mel Blanc, one of Warner's early big stars was Bryan's Elmer Fudd. The slow-talking, slower-witted, enunciation-challenged Mr. Fudd is a game hunter whose Brooklynesque speech (courtesy of Bryan's own childhood upbringing in the borough) was exaggerated for memorable effect by his habitual substitution of W for the letters L and R, an effect further immortalized by the tongue-in-cheek screen credits of the 1941 Bugs Bunny short Wabbit Twouble.
When watching him perform, director Bob Clampett (or "Wobert Cwampett" in the screen credit) thought Bryan's girth added to the hilarity of his dialogue, and redesigned Fudd as a fat man patterned after Bryan's real-life appearance. After a few shorts, Clampett decided it was a mistake, and Fudd returned to his classical form. But fat or slimmed, Bryan's Fudd was so popular that the character's shorts were used to create and develop the character of Bugs Bunny, with the first official Bugs Bunny appearance coming in the Fudd cartoon, A Wild Hare.
Bryan's name does not appear in Looney Tunes credits because of Mel Blanc's contract with Warner Brothers, which stipulated that only Blanc would receive on-screen credit for voice work. Despite this, Bryan and Blanc remained good friends throughout their careers with Warner Brothers.
Bryan's work in animation did not go unnoticed by radio producers. Although his first forays into that medium were inevitably accompanied by instructions that he use the Fudd voice, Bryan soon came to the attention of Don Quinn and Phil Leslie, the production and writing team responsible for Fibber McGee and Molly and their supporting characters, two of whom spun off into their own radio hits, The Great Gildersleeve and Beulah.
The Gildersleeve character, played by Harold Peary, became series broadcasting's first successful spin-off hit; that plus the onset of World War II (which cost Fibber McGee & Molly their Mayor LaTrivia, when Gale Gordon went into the Coast Guard in early 1942, and "The Old Timer" Bill Thompson was drafted almost a year later) nabbed nearly every other remaining male voice.
Bryan was first hired for the new Great Gildersleeve series, to play the part of Cousin Octavia's secretary/assistant, Lucius Llewellyn (using the Elmer Fudd voice), and later one of Gildersleeve's cronies, Floyd Munson, the barber. His work on the series (in Bryan's natural voice) so impressed Quinn and Leslie, that Bryan was added to the cast of their main show, Fibber McGee and Molly, in 1943.
On Fibber, Bryan found himself in the unusual position of being smarter than, more educated than, and generally superior to his foil, titular braggart McGee. Playing Doc Gamble, Bryan was a polar opposite of the Fudd character—Gamble was well-spoken, even-tempered, and usually got the better of McGee, which Elmer could never do with Bugs.
Bryan never earned a big break in film, his live action work remained largely uncredited cameos, usually employing the Fudd persona, or minor supporting roles in B-movies (like the apoplectic newspaper editor in the Bela Lugosi thriller The Devil Bat). He did work steadily, appearing in dozens of films over the years, in such successful releases as Samson and Delilah; two Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road" films, Road to Singapore and Road to Rio; and the Ozzie and Harriet feature Here Come the Nelsons. He also appeared frequently in live-action short-subjects for Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures, including leading roles in the "Grouch Club" comedies and supporting roles in the Joe McDoakes series. One especially memorable appearance was in the Charley Chase short "South of the Boudoir" (1940); as Charley's boss, he spoke in his normal voice, but when surreptitiously coming onto to wife Ann Doran, he switches to baby talk in the Fudd. He appeared uncredited (once again a bit part very similar to Fudd), in the bar and sleeping car scenes on the train in the 1945 film She Wouldn't Say Yes; after discovering the couple sharing the same upper berth, he kept uttering the phrase "They're not mawwied" (they're not married).
Bryan continued as the Fibber show's secondary male lead, even after Thompson and (for a time) Gordon returned to the show, and he stayed as Dr. Gamble all the way through its final incarnation on the NBC Monitor series in 1959, as well as playing Floyd on "Gildersleeve" through its conclusion in 1954. Bryan's final original work as Fudd came in the Warner Bros. Edward R. Murrow spoof Person To Bunny.
Bryan was a panelist on the early TV quiz show Quizzing the News (1948–49). He would be found in numerous productions in the early 1950s predominantly in 1-episode bit parts, such as in the early filmed for television comedy, Beulah. He also landed a minor television role in 1955, as the handyman Mr. Boggs in the short-lived CBS sitcom, Professional Father, starring Stephen Dunne as a child psychologist and family man.
Bryan died of a sudden heart attack on November 18, 1959. Hal Smith assumed the voice of Elmer Fudd in later Looney Tunes productions, and beginning in the early 1970s Mel Blanc would do him for various special television appearances. Bryan is buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.
The DVD specials for some cartoons such as What's Opera, Doc?, in Looney Tunes Golden Collection, includes bits of conversation between Bryan and Mel Blanc, affording a rare opportunity to hear them working together, and to hear Bryan's natural voice. Bryan's natural voice is also heard as the ultra-tired hotel guest in A Pest in the House, in which Bryan "talks to himself", Elmer Fudd being the hotel manager.
- See the September 12, 1918 draft card of Arthur Q. Bryan, available on ancestry.com
- "Arthur Q. Bryan Credits". Tvguide.com. Retrieved 2014-06-17.
- Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. P. 150.