Arthur Q. BryanArthur Q. Bryan (May 8, 1899 - November 18, 1959) was born and raised in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. Growing up with a deep desire to go into show business, he stumbled through the industry for several years before finding steady if unsatisfying work as a bit player and occasional film narrator in Hollywood.
Bryan first came to prominence in his late 30s as a voice artist for Warner Brothers animation unit, headed by Leon Schlessinger.
Before there was a Bugs or a Daffy, Warner's two biggest stars were Mel Blanc's Porky Pig and Bryan's Elmer Fudd, a slow-talking, slower-witted hunter whose Brooklynesque speech (courtesy of Bryan's own childhood upbringing in the borough) was exaggerated for memorable effect by his inability to employ the letter "R".
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" (1940).
Bryan's work in animation was not left 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 team responsible for the "Fibber McGee and Molly" universe of characters, including such well-remembered creations as "Beulah" and "The Great Gildersleeve".
The onset of World War II and the spin-off of the Gildersleeve character into its own series left Quinn and Leslie short of male vocal talents. Series regular Gale Gordon's departure for the Coast Guard in early 1942 took two more central characters (the town Mayor and the local weather forecaster) out of the mix, while the drafting later that year of MGM cartoon voice extraordinaire, Bill Thompson, nabbed nearly every other remaining male voice.
Quinn and Leslie hired Bryan first for the new series, to play the part of one of Gildersleeve's cronies, Floyd the barber (no relation to the later character played by Howard McNear on television's Andy Griffith program). His work there (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, the titular Fibber McGee. Playing the town doctor, "old" Doc Gamble, Bryan was in many ways the polar opposite of the Fudd character which had brought him his first acclaim. Well-respected, well-spoken, even-tempered Gamble nearly always got the better of McGee -- something Fudd could never say about Bugs.
Despite his success in voice acting, both on film and over the air, Bryan never had a big break in film, his body of work there remaining mostly uncredited cameos, usually employing the Fudd persona, or minor supporting roles in B-movies. Still, Bryan appeared in dozens of films over the years, in such successful releases as "Samson and Delilah" (1949), two Bob Hope - Bing Crosby "Road" films ["Road to Singapore" (1940) and "Road to Rio" (1947)] and the Ozzie and Harriet feature, "Here Come the Nelsons" (1952).
Bryan continued as the "Fibber" show's secondary male lead, even after the returns of Thompson and Gordon, through its final incarnation on the NBC "Monitor" series in 1959, as well as 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" (1960). Bryan died of heart failure in November, 1959.