Elmer Fudd via Monmouth Beach
Through my ongoing historical research of Monmouth Beach, I’m frequently amazed by the caliber of people who have called this small community home. One former borough resident — most probably never heard of him — reached legendary Hollywood status in voice animation. Once I confirmed the local connection, the story was relatively easy to uncover.
Arthur Q. Bryan, who owned a summer home on Riverdale Avenue, was the definitive voice of Elmer Fudd of Warner Brothers cartoon fame. An enduring screen character, who among us can say they’ve never heard of Elmer Fudd? Or attempted an impersonation?
From the cartoon development of Fudd in the late 1930s until his death in November 1959, it was Bryan’s voice acting that brought the character to life in classic cartoon shorts. Voice animation master, Mel Blanc, took over upon Bryan’s death but the most memorable cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (he always being the luckless loser), were via Bryan.
Known for his “slow-taking and even slower-witted nature,” the Fudd character actually pre-dates Bugs Bunny. The Bugs character first appeared in a 1940 cartoon with Bryan performing as Fudd. The next two decades would be glory years for Warner’s Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons with Bugs frequently using the fat-headed Fudd as his hapless dupe. Bryan used his own Brooklyn-life experiences to add flavor to Fudd’s animated voice and persona — chiefly the incapacity to properly use the letter R.
“West and wewaxation at wast!”
Born in Brooklyn, New York in May 1899, Bryan was also a voice on the popular radio show, Fibber McGee and Molly in the years prior to World War II and after. He played the wise-cracking physician, Dr. George Gamble, on the long-running NBC radio comedy.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Bryan never got screen credit for Fudd’s voice in more than 100 cartoons because it wasn’t required in his contract with Warner. Blanc, who never earned more than $20,000 annually in his early years of work, demanded screen credit when pay increases were denied.
Why all this about aged cartoons? Mainly for nostalgia. Like many others, I enjoyed those cartoons as boy and even get a kick out of them today when they’re on TV (which is seldom).
I tell my children that cartoons today, which as a parent I was forced to watch, are weak in comparison to those done by Warner Brothers in the 1940s and 1950s. With the exception of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, today’s cartoons are utterly lacking in plot and feeling. Kids and adults could appreciate the antics of Bugs Bunny and friends. Have a look.