Great Voice Actors Past and Present: Arthur Q. Bryan and Casey Kasem

Past:Arthur Q. Bryan

Arthur Q. Bryan was born in 1899 in Brooklyn, where he grew into a man with a passion for showbusiness. Despite the insistence of other sources that he was
“famous” for his roles in this movie or that, Bryan only ever had minor supporting roles (many of which went uncredited) in forgettable films such as the Bela Lugosi flick Devil Bat.  For a time he also worked as a narrator for various movies, most notably in Killing To Live.

What really got Arthur noticed was his voice as Elmer Fudd. I’ll wager money that there isn’t one of you reading this right now who hasn’t imitated his famous speech impediment as the  slow-witted, bumbling hunter that Bugs Bunny always got the best of. (Money wager not endorsed by MRFH and will in fact be deleted from this article and wild weasels will be unleashed in your house in the event that you try to call me on it. So don’t even bother.).

The character of Elmer Fudd was arguably begun as Egghead, a bulbous-nosed, green-suited guy with a brown derby atop a shiny bald head that would put Mr. Clean to shame. Mel Blanc, as well as a couple of others, voiced the Egghead character before Arthur Bryan was brought in. In Bryan and Elmer’s first appearance, Elmer’s Candid Camera, Fudd is trying out a new hobby of photographing wildlife, but finds the wildlife aren’t so anxious to be photographed. Mainly the rabbits. You can still see the similiarites to Egghead, before Elmer was given his distinctive new persona as the wascally wabbit hunter in A Wild Hare. Elmer’s nemesis in Candid Camera looks and acts an awful lot like Bugs Bunny, (though Wild Hare is his first official appearance) and honestly…I can understand why Elmer dropped shooting photos for bullets. Bugs is kind of a jerk.

Arthur’s fantastic vocal abilities as Elmer got him attention by radio producers as well. Although it was difficult to convince people that he had more to offer than just “the Fudd voice” he eventually was given his second  most famed role as Dr. Gamble in the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly. The show holds the title of being one of the longest-running radio shows of all time at an impressive 24 years.

Mr. Bryan died of a sudden heart attack in 1959 at the age of 60. For a while Mr. Blanc took up the post as Elmer Fudd, and today the job has mostly gone to Billy West, the amazingly talented voice actor from Futurama. As with all of these past vocal greats it’s not just their talent at the voice that makes them so awe-inspiring, but the ability to create these absolutely unforgettable characters and make them theirs. Others have and will take up the likes of Fudd and other classic characters, but the most admiration goes to the pioneers of these pieces of our childhood. Thank you, Arthur.

You’ve Probably Also Heard Him As:

  • The ultra sleepy hotel guest in the WB short A Pest In The House,  where he uses his natural voice. Give it a watch. It’s one of my favorite Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd cartoons.

Present: Casey Kasem

Born Kamal Amin Kasem back in 1932, “Casey” Kasem got his radio career started in the 1950’s in Detriot, but it was in the ’60s in California that Kasem really honed his rock trivia DJ persona.  The 70’s brought the launch of his astronomical hit radio show, American Top 40. Though animation is the focus of the GVA series, Kasem’s speaking voice deserves a mention alongside Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones for being able to read the stock market section of the newspaper and gather a rapt audience.

It’s for this very reason that so many people’s eyes cross when they realize that this mellifluous DJ is the scratchy, squeaky, cowardly voice of Shaggy Rogers from Scooby Doo. You know yours did. They didn’t? Liar. By now I think most of us here already knew that he was Shaggy, but far less known is that he voiced Robin of Superfriends in the 70’s and 80’s. That’s right, geekazoids, we have Batmanage.

For forty years Kasem voiced one of the best-loved characters from one of the best-loved cartoon series ever created. Four decades is impressive enough, and even more so is that fact that he voiced Shaggy in every appearance of the character except for two.

Sadly Kasem ended both his radio and voice acting career last year in 2009. Like Ms. June Foray in my last installment, this puts a tiny damper on the whole continuity of my article as he’s not “presently” voice acting any longer. But hey… I can always hope that the voice acting bug bites him again.

You’ve Probably Also Heard Him As:

  • Aha! You thought I was gonna leave out his turn in Transformers didn’t ya? Didn’t ‘ya!? Check him out, mostly as Teletraan, but also Cliffjumper and Bluestreak.
  • Peter Cottontail in the Rankin-Bass special Here Comes Peter Cottontail -thanks to reader starwenn for pointing that out.

12 comments

  1. Fans of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials may also recognize Kasem as the voice of Peter Cottontail.

  2. Ah, thanks for the comment. I’m definitely gonna add that in.

    It’s amazing that I have no memory of that particular Rankin-Bass special at all. And Vincent Price had a role in it as January Q. Irontail? I need to watch this. I love to listen to Vincent Price.

  3. Arthur Q. Bryan also did a fair bit of radio work. Among his more notable roles were Doc Gamble on Fibber McGee and Molly, Floyd Munson (who curiously was a barber) on The Great Gildersleeve, and Lt. Walt Levinson on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, as well as being a regular on The Milton Berle Show.

    • It seems you may have missed the fourth paragraph of the article, where I talk about Mr. Bryan’s role as Dr. Gamble. Also there’s been more than one mention in this series of articles that animation and video games, rather than radio programs, commercials, TV appearances etc., are the focus.

      • A legitimate point. However, I could counterargue that vintage cartoons and vintage radio shows were more intertwined than just sharing the same pool of actors. Particularly with Warner Brothers cartoons, many of the characters and sketches were lifted from radio shows, had the serial numbers filed off, and were given an anthropomorphic critter paint job. Foghorn Leghorn is probably the most notorious example of this.

      • I suppose you could, if my argument had been that radio shows have never had anything to do with animation. Or if the radio shows you have mentioned in previous comments were ones in which the featured voice actors had starred and used to create the role of their animated character.

        What you mention, though, is an interesting idea for a future article about radio shows that have been the genesis of beloved animated characters. Feel free to share any suggestions on that one.

  4. I did think you were going to leave Transformers out! But, it would appear that I have underestimated you. You may have outsmarted me this time, but there will be others! Poof!

    • I may make my next GVA a Transformers special just to spite you. Except that you’d enjoy that and I have actually been planning one for a while.

  5. The Voice of Casey Kasem appeared in Ghostbusters as the Voice of Casey Kasem. I’m pretty sure that’s the highest honor any man could have.

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