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Arthur Q. Bryan
Born Arthur Quirk Bryan
May 8, 1899(1899-05-08)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died November 18, 1959 (aged 60)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Other name(s) Arthur O. Brian
Occupation Comedian/Voice actor
Years active 1931—1959

Arthur Quirk Bryan (May 8, 1899 – November 18, 1959) was a United States comedian and voice actor, remembered best for his longtime recurring role as well-spoken, wisecracking Dr. Gamble on the radio comedy Fibber McGee & Molly and for creating the voice of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Elmer Fudd.

Contents

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.

Bryan came to prominence in his late 30s as the voice of Egghead and Elmer Fudd at Warner Brothers animation unit, headed by Leon Schlesinger.

Along with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and 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. 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.

Radio

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.

Quinn and Leslie hired Bryan first for the new Great Gildersleeve series, to play the part of one of Gildersleeve's cronies, Floyd Munson the barber (originally played by Mel Blanc, and no relation to the later character of barber Floyd Lawson played by Howard McNear on television's The Andy Griffith Show). His work on the series (in Bryan's natural voice) so impressed the pair 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 best of McGee, which Elmer could never do with Bugs.

Films

Bryan never earned a big break in film in spite of his vocal success; his film work remained largely uncredited cameos, usually employing the Fudd persona, or minor supporting roles in B-movies. But he found regular film work regardless, 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 .

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.

Television

Bryan 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.

Death

Bryan died of a sudden heart attack in 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.

Legacy

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 (no trouble with R's and L's). 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.

External links

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