Arnold Stang (September 28, 1918 – December 20, 2009) was an American comic actor, whose comic persona was a small and bespectacled, yet brash and knowing big-city type.
Stang once claimed he got his break in radio by sending a postcard to a New York station requesting an audition, was accepted, and then bought his own ticket to New York from Chelsea, Massachusetts with the money set aside for his mother's anniversary gift.True or not, Stang worked on New York-based network radio shows as a boy, appearing on children's programs such as The Horn and Hardart Hour and Let's Pretend. By 1940, he had graduated to teenaged roles, appearing on The Goldbergs. Director Don Bernard hired him in October 1941 to do the commercials on the CBS program Meet Mr. Meek but decided his voice cracking between soprano and bass would hurt the commercial so he ordered scriptwriters to come up with a role for him. He next appeared on the summer replacement show The Remarkable Miss Tuttle with Edna May Oliver in 1942 and replaced Eddie Firestone Jr. in the title role ofThat Brewster Boy when Firestone joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943.
Comedian Henry Morgan made him a sidekick on his program in fall of 1946 and Stang appeared in similar roles the following year on radio shows with Eddie Cantor and Milton Berle. He also did the voice of Jughead for a short while on The Archie radio show.
At this time Stang had appeared in a number of movies, including Seven Days Leave, My Sister Eileen, So This Is New York with Henry Morgan, and They Got Me Covered. He had also appeared on the Broadway stage in Sailor Beware, All In Favor and Same Time Next Week where he first worked with Berle.
Stang moved to television at the start of the Golden Age. He had a recurring role in the TV show The School House on the DuMont Television Network in 1949. He was a regular on Eddie Mayehoff's short-lived situation comedy Doc Corkle in fall of 1952. Then he made a guest appearance on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater on May 12, 1953 and joined him as a regular the following September, 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 (Marvin Kaplan), owns a gas station that Jonathan Winters destroys for defending Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers). 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).
Stang worked often as a voice actor for animated cartoons. He is perhaps best known in this field as the voice of "T.C.," the sly alley cat in the Hanna-Barbera series Top Cat(modeled explicitly after Sgt. Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show). He also 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, and Catfish on Misterjaw.
On television he appeared in commercials for the Chunky candy bar, where he would list many 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. As a pitchman for Alcoa aluminum window screens in the late 1960s, he was known for the tag line "Arnold Stang says don't get stung".
Stang once described himself as "a frightened chipmunk who's been out in the rain too long." As for his distinctive squawky, nasal Brooklyn voice, he said "I'm kind of attached to it...[it's] a personal logo. It's like your Jell-O or Xerox.
Arnold Stang reprised Top Cat in Yogi's Treasure Hunt and Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats. Stang also appeared on an episode of The Cosby Show with guest star Sammy Davis, Jr. (He also made a cameo appearance in Cosby's 1990 film Ghost Dad.) In one TV advertisement he played Luther Burbank, proudly showing off his newly-invented "squaretomato" 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 with Walter Matthau. He also provided many voices for the Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog and The Turner Program Services's original series, Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
In 1994, Stang voiced Herman the Squirrel and the honeybee in Storybook Weaver, and later in 2004, remade as Storybook Weaver Deluxe.
Also in 1994, he guest starred as the voice of Irwin the Mouse in Garfield and Friends episode, "Thoroughly Mixed-Up Mouse".
In 2000, writers Kurt Seligmann, Jr. and Martin Olson asked Stang to use his voice to talk to Pikachu in Hey You, Pikachu!.
In 2004, Arnold Stang made his last appearance in an interview with animator Earl Kress about the making of Top Cat. It is featured on the Top Cat DVD Boxset
Stang died of pneumonia in Newton, Massachusetts, on December 20, 2009. Stang was born in New York City in 1918, but often claimed Chelsea, Massachusetts as his birthplace and 1925 as his birthdate. His ashes were buried in Newton's cemetery.
Stang and his wife, the former JoAnne Taggart, lived in New Rochelle, New York and in his later years Greenwich, Connecticut, moving toward the end of his life to Needham, Massachusetts. The Stangs had two children, David and Deborah.