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Bill Thompson

Show Count: 79
Series Count: 1
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Old Time Radio
Born: July 8, 1913 , Terre Haute, Indiana, USA
Died: July 15, 1971, Los Angeles, California, USA

Bill Thompson (July 8, 1913 – July 15, 1971) was an American radio actor and voice actor whose career stretched from the 1930s until his death.

Early career 

Born to vaudevillian parents, Thompson began his career in Chicago radio, where his early appearances included appearances as a regular on Don McNeill's morning variety series The Breakfast Club in 1934 and a stint as a choir member on the musical variety series The Sinclair Weiner Minstrels around 1937. While on the former series, Thompson originated a meek, mush-mouthed character occasionally referred to in publicity as Mr. Wimple. Thompson soon achieved his greatest fame after he joined the cast of the radio comedy Fibber McGee and Molly around 1936 and brought back the Wimple voice in 1941.

On Fibber McGee and Molly, Thompson essayed a variety of roles, including a boisterous conman with a W. C. Fields voice, originally named Widdicomb Blotto but soon re-christened Horatio K. Boomer, and Nick Depopulis, the Greek restaurant owner. His two most famous roles on the series, however, were as the Old Timer and Wallace Wimple. The Old Timer, introduced in 1937 was a garrulous old gent who would drop in and listen to McGee's rambling stories and jokes. He inexplicably referred to McGee as "Johnny," as in: "That's pretty good, Johnny, but that ain't the way I heerd it!" This soon became a national catchphrase and surfaced in Warner Bros.cartoon shorts, notably Tortoise Wins by a Hare in which Bugs Bunny disguises himself as a bearded old man and tries to trick the tortoise into telling him "how he beat that rabbit!")

Wallace Wimple 

Wallace Wimple, an expansion of Thompson's Breakfast Club role, would prove to be his most enduring character, however. Wimple was a timid birdwatcher, appropriately nicknamed "Wimp" by McGee, who lived in constant terror of his "big old wife," ironically named "Sweetie Face," who was often mentioned but never heard. (The term "wimp" for an unmanly character was in common usage already, as with the cartoon character J. Wellington Wimpy). The character, whose greeting was a mild "Hello, folks," became very popular, and inspired animation director Tex Avery to build a dog character around the voice. This character, eventually named Droopy, was also voiced by Thompson in most of his appearances. Thompson also played the title role, an Adolf Hitler take-off, in Avery's Academy Award nominated short Blitz Wolf.

World War II 

Around 1943, however, Thompson's thriving career was interrupted when he joined the US Navy during World War II, and all of his radio characters were temporarily dropped. He returned to Fibber McGee full-time in 1946, however, and also became a semi-regular on Edgar Bergen's radio series as lecturer "Professor" Thompson. On February 21, 1950, he married Mary Margaret McBride, who was also an important radio figure.

Thompson continued to work on radio until the late 1950s, notably in several episodes of CBS Radio Workshop, and his animation voice-over career also began to build steam during the 1950s. At MGM, he returned as Droopy and also played Droopy's recurring bulldog nemesis Spike, known as Butch in his appearances that were produced after Avery's departure from MGM, and many other characters in the studio's cartoon shorts (he used the Wimple/Droopy voice for the titular Native American caricature in Big Heel-Watha and for Tom's lookalike cousin George in a 1957 Tom and Jerry entry Timid Tabby, for two examples).

Disney 

For Walt Disney, he was heard in many shorts and features, often in either dialect parts or a variation of his Wimple/Droopy voice. His animated feature film credits included the parts of the White Rabbit and the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Smee (and the other pirates) in Peter Pan (reprising his roles in radio adaptations for Lux Radio Theater), and King Hubert in Sleeping Beauty. Many of the characters he played in Disney productions are now voiced by Corey Burton and Jeff Bennett.

His best showcase may well have been in Lady and the Tramp (1955), where he was heard in no less than five dialect parts, as Jock the Scottish Terrier, Bull the Cockney bulldog, Dachsie the German dachshund, Joe the Italian cook, and the Irish policeman in the zoo. In shorts, he was heard as Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore in several "Donald Duck andHumphrey the Bear" entries and as Professor Owl in two music related shorts, Melody and Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom (directed by Ward Kimball), amongst many others. He reprised both of these roles in Disney's various television series, and was the first actor to voice the comic book character Scrooge McDuck (the theatrical featurette Scrooge McDuck and Money). Another prominent role is that of Irish station manager Flannery in "Pigs Is Pigs" (directed by Jack Hannah), and the voice of Uncle Waldo from The Aristocats.

Union Oil 

In 1957, Thompson joined the Los Angeles branch of Union Oil as an executive, working in community relations and occasionally reprising his radio characters. He remained sporadically active in animation, however, going on to play King Hubert in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, and as Touché Turtle for Hanna-Barbera's Touché Turtle and Dum Dum (plus a guest role in an early episode of The Flintstones).

During this period, around 1958, Thompson appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show To Tell the Truth.

Death 

Thompson's final role was as Uncle Waldo in The Aristocats, released shortly before his sudden death from acute septic shock on July 15, 1971, at 58 years old. Thompson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio. His wife, Mary Margaret McBride, has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, just across the street from her husband's star.

Source: Wikipedia

Fibber McGee & MollyFibber McGee & Molly
Show Count: 713
Broadcast History: 16 April 1935 to 2 June 1935, 8 July 1935 to 7 March 1938, 15 March 1938 to 30 June 1953, 5 October 1953 to 23 March 1956, and 1 June 1957 to 6 September 1959
Sponsor: Johnson's Wax, Pet Milk, Reynolds Aluminum
Cast: Gale Gordon, Harold Peary, Marian Jordan, Jim Jordan, Bea Benaderet, Arthur Q. Bryan, Cliff Arquette, Shirley Mitchell, Hugh Studebaker, Bill Thompson, Marlin Hurt, Isabel Randolph, Ransom Sherman, Gene Carrol
Director: Frank Pittman, Cecil Underwood, Max Hutto
Producer: Frank Pittman, Cecil Underwood, Max Hutto
Broadcast: 28th January 1953
Added: Feb 15 2011
Broadcast: 26th December 1948
Added: Dec 26 2009