Tuesday, December 22, 2009

IN MEMORIAM: Arnold Stang (1918-2009)


Arnold Stang (28 September 1918 – 20 December 2009) was an American comic actor who played a small and bespectacled, yet brash and knowing big-city type. Never known as a solo performer, he worked best in an ensemble cast in which he played one of a diverse group of comic characters.

Early life

Stang was born in New York City in 1918, but often claimed Chelsea, Massachusetts as his birthplace and 1925 as his birthdate.


He was popular on radio in the 1940s as a sidekick to cantankerous comedian Henry Morgan. That led to a recurring role in the TV show The School House on the DuMont Television Network in 1949. Then, during television's Golden Age, Stang became a supporting player on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, often berating or heckling the big-egoed star for big laughs. Stang also had guest roles on several variety shows of the day including The Colgate Comedy Hour.

In films, he played Sparrow in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) with Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) he played Ray, who along with his partner Irwin (played by Marvin Kaplan), owns a gas station that is destroyed by Jonathan Winters. He appeared in Hello Down There (1969). In one of the oddest movie pairings, he partnered with Arnold Schwarzenegger (billed as "Arnold Strong") in the latter's first film, the camp classic Hercules in New York (1970).

As a voice actor for animated cartoons, Stang provided the voice for Popeye's pal Shorty (a caricature of Stang), Herman the mouse in a number of Famous Studios cartoons, Tubby Tompkins in a few Little Lulu shorts, the famous Hanna-Barbera lead character Top Cat (modeled explicitly on Phil Silvers's Sgt. Bilko), and Catfish on Misterjaw. He also provided many extra voices for the Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog. On television, he appeared in commercials for the Chunky candy bar, where he would list all of its ingredients, smile and say, "Chunky, what a chunk of chocolate!" He provided the voice of the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee in the 1980s and was also a spokesman for Vicks Vapo-Rub.

Stang appeared on an episode of The Cosby Show with guest star Sammy Davis Jr. In one TV ad he played Luther Burbank, proudly showing off his newly-invented "square tomato" to fit neatly in typical square slices of commercial bread, then being informed that the advertising bakery had beat him to it by producing round loaves of bread. He played the photographer in the 1993 film Dennis the Menace.


Arnold and his wife, the former JoAnne Taggart, lived until his later years in New Rochelle, New York, moving toward the end of his life to Needham, Massachusetts. He died of pneumonia in Newton, Massachusetts on December 20, 2009. The Stangs had two children, David and Deborah.

And another holiday gem (featuring the voice of Mr. Stang at Herman) courtesy of Drew Friedman...

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