Arnold Stang (September 28, 1918 – December 20, 2009) was an American comic actor and voice actor, whose comic persona was a small and bespectacled, yet brash and knowing big-city type.
Stang once claimed he gained 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 Children's Hour and Let's Pretend. By 1940, he had graduated to teenaged roles, appearing as Seymour 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 constantly cracking voice 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 of That 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 Andrews radio show when it was broadcast by NBC.
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 as well as comedy relief on Captain Video and His Video Rangers as Clumsy McGee. Then he made a guest appearance on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater on May 12, 1953 and joined him as a regular as Francis the Stagehand 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 early 1951, Stang appeared on Henry Morgan's Great Talent Hunt, a take-off of The Original Amateur Hour, as "Gerard", supposedly recruiting "talent" for Morgan.
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. He appeared in Hello Down There (1969). He partnered with Arnold Schwarzenegger (billed as "Arnold Strong 'Mr. Universe'") in the latter's first film, Hercules in New York (1969).
In 1959, ABC Paramount Records released an album by Stang, entitled Arnold Stang's Waggish Tales.
Stang worked often as a voice actor for animated cartoons, and voiced the title role in Top Cat. The show lasted one season in prime time, 1961–62, before going into reruns. Stang 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. He also voiced the character Nurtle the Twurtle in the 1965 animated feature Pinocchio in Outer Space.
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 also appeared in "The Grave Robber," an episode of the popular horror anthology series Tales from the Darkside, playing Tapok, an ancient Egyptian mummy who encounters some unscrupulous archaeologists who lure him into a game of strip poker.
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 "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 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. He had a small role as Queasy the Parrot in the 1977 film Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure.
Stang was in many Broadway stage productions, including Front Page with Peggy Cass in the 1969 revival.
In 1994, he guest starred as the voice of Irwin the Mouse in the Garfield and Friends episode "Thoroughly Mixed-Up Mouse".
In 2004, 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 and his wife 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 couple had two children, David and Deborah. JoAnne Stang was a journalist known for writing profiles of prominent individuals in the entertainment industry.
Stang died of pneumonia in Newton, Massachusetts, on December 20, 2009. Although Stang was born in New York City in 1918, he often claimed Chelsea, Massachusetts as his birthplace and 1925 as his birthdate. His ashes were buried in Newton's cemetery. His wife, JoAnne Stang died in September 2017, also at the age of 91.
- Includes all feature films, but excludes shorts and TV movies
- My Sister Eileen (1942) as Jimmy (uncredited)
- Seven Days' Leave (1942) as Bitsy Slater
- They Got Me Covered (1943) as Drugstore Boy (uncredited)
- Let's Go Steady (1945) as Chet Carson
- So This Is New York (1948) as Western Union Clerk
- Two Gals and a Guy (1951) as Bernard
- The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) as Sparrow
- Alakazam the Great (1960) as Lulipopo (voice in the English version)
- Dondi (1961) as Peewee
- The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) as Rumpelstiltskin
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1962) as Ray, service station co-owner
- Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar (1965) as Jubal A. Bristol
- Pinocchio in Outer Space (1965) as Nurtle the Turtle (voice)
- Skidoo (1968) as Harry
- Hello Down There (1969) as Jonah
- Hercules in New York (1970) as Pretzie
- Marco Polo Junior Versus the Red Dragon (1972) as The Delicate Dinosaur (voice)
- Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977) as Queasy (voice)
- I Go Pogo (1980) as Churchy LaFemme (voice)
- Ghost Dad (1990) as Mr. Cohen, elderly patient
- Dennis the Menace (1993) as Photographer