Hans Georg Conried Jr.
April 15, 1917
|Died||January 5, 1982 (aged 64)|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
Hans Georg Conried Jr. (April 15, 1917 – January 5, 1982) was an American actor and comedian. He was known for providing the voices of George Darling and Captain Hook in Walt Disney's Peter Pan (1953), Snidely Whiplash in Jay Ward's Dudley Do-Right cartoons, Professor Waldo P. Wigglesworth in Ward's Hoppity Hooper cartoons, was host of Ward's "Fractured Flickers" and Professor Kropotkin on the radio and film versions of My Friend Irma. He also appeared as Uncle Tonoose on Danny Thomas' sitcom Make Room for Daddy, and twice on I Love Lucy.
Conried was born on April 15, 1917, in Baltimore, Maryland to parents Edith Beryl (née Gildersleeve) and Hans Georg Conried. His Connecticut-born mother was a descendant of Pilgrims, and his father was a Jewish immigrant from Vienna, Austria. He was raised in Baltimore and in New York City.
He studied acting at Columbia University and went on to play major classical roles onstage. This led him into radio in 1937, when he appeared in a supporting role in a broadcast of The Taming of the Shrew on KECA in Los Angeles, California. Four years later, a newspaper reported about his role on Hedda Hopper's Hollywood: "But at the mike, he's equally convincing as old men, drunks, dialeticians, or Shakesperean tragedians. Miss Hopper favors him for her dramatizations when the script will allow him, as she puts it, 'to have his head.'" A scout for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, impressed with Conried's versatility, signed him as a character player in 1938.
His early screen roles were incidental bits, usually comic but sometimes shady or cowardly, depending on the context. He stayed with M-G-M for three years, then began freelancing. His first major featured role was at Columbia Pictures as a worldly, architectural visionary who disrupted the household in Blondie's Blessed Event (1942). That established him as a comic figure in feature films. His Germanic surname got him cast as enemy agents in many wartime films, and he became a dialect specialist.
During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1944. Conried trained at Fort Knox as a tank crewman until the army decided he was too tall. He became a heavy mortar crewman then was sent to the Philippines as an engineer laborer until fellow actor Jack Kruschen obtained his release for service with the Armed Forces Radio Network.
Conried remained active in radio during the 1940s and 1950s. He was in the regular cast of Orson Welles' Ceiling Unlimited, for which he wrote the December 14, 1942, episode, "War Workers". On The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, he played a psychiatrist whom George regularly consults for help in dealing with the ditzy Gracie. Conried was also a regular on the CBS Radio program Life with Luigi, portraying Schultz, a German classmate. He also played occasional dialect roles on CBS's detective series Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.
Even as a younger man, Conried appeared much older than his actual age and he was frequently cast as middle-aged or even elderly pompous, scholarly types. His inimitable growl and impeccable diction were well suited to the roles he played, whether portraying the dim Professor Kropotkin in the radio show My Friend Irma or as comic villains and mock-sinister or cranky types. In 1949, the movie version of My Friend Irma was threatened when character actor Felix Bressart, cast as Kropotkin, died suddenly during production. Conried, the radio Kropotkin, stepped in to finish the picture. Most of the footage shows Bressart; Conried appears in a few scenes in identical costume and makeup, with Conried's voice used throughout.
Hans Conried's first leading film role was the independent science fiction comedy The Twonky in 1953. Two years later, Conried appeared as a riverboat gambler in Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.
Ted Geisel, better known as children's author Dr. Seuss, was preparing a documentary feature largely made up of captured Japanese newsreel footage, Design for Death (1948). Geisel hired actor Kent Smith as the "American" narrator, and Hans Conried as the "Japanese" narrator. The film won an Academy Award.
Geisel remembered Conried when he was preparing an expensive Technicolor fantasy, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953), which included the dominant role of a demanding, dictatorial piano teacher. Conried was cast as the foreboding "Dr. Terwilliker" and turned in a bravura performance that might have changed his career. Unfortunately the film was too arty and eccentric for critics and moviegoers of the day, and was a costly failure. He reflected on the film's boxoffice fate in a 1970 interview with Leonard Maltin: "The picture never made its print money back. It was comparable only to Wilson as one of the great money-losers of all time; it would stop conversation for some years at any Hollywood social gathering."
The film didn't affect his working relationship with Geisel, so he went on to work in three Dr. Seuss television specials.
Conried's colorful voice gained him much work in animated cartoons. He was featured (as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook) in Walt Disney's Peter Pan (following the tradition of having both characters portrayed by the same actor) and later served as a live-action reference for Aurora's father, King Stefan, in another Disney animated film, Sleeping Beauty. Conried hosted several episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color as the Magic Mirror from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Conried also became a charter member of the Jay Ward-Bill Scott stock company. He voiced the character of Snidely Whiplash in the Dudley Do-Right segments of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and Professor Waldo P. Wigglesworth on Hoppity Hooper. Ward and Scott cast him as the live-action host of Fractured Flickers, a wildly satirical, tongue-in-cheek salute to silent movies.
He also voiced Wally Walrus on The Woody Woodpecker Show and Dr. Dred on Drak Pack. According to the DVD commentary of Futurama, he was the inspiration for the voice created for Robot Devil.
From 1955 to 1964, Conried made 19 guest appearances as "Uncle Tonoose" in Make Room for Daddy on ABC and then CBS, and four appearances as other characters.
He was featured in the 1958 episode, "What Makes Opera Grand?", on the anthology series Omnibus. The episode, an analysis by Leonard Bernstein, showing the powerful effect of music in opera, featured Conried as Marcello in a spoken dramatization of Act III of Puccini's La Bohème. The program demonstrated the effect of the music in La Bohème by having actors speak portions of the libretto in English, followed by opera singers singing the same lines in the original Italian.
Conried was a regular guest on Jack Paar's Tonight Show from 1959 to 1962. He was a regular panelist on the pantomime program Stump the Stars and a semi-regular guest on the Ernie Kovacs-hosted game show Take a Good Look.
His many guest appearances included I Love Lucy, Davy Crockett, The Californians, Hey, Jeannie!, The Ray Milland Show, The DuPont Show with June Allyson, The Real McCoys, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Mister Ed, The Islanders, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Lost in Space, Daniel Boone, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Lucy Show, Gilligan's Island, The Monkees, Have Gun – Will Travel, Love, American Style, Here's Lucy, Kolchak, Alice, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat, Hogan's Heroes, Match Game, Maverick, The Donna Reed Show, Fantasy Island, The Tony Randall Show, and Quark.
Conried made his Broadway debut in the Cole Porter musical Can-Can, where he played a struggling artist and sang two musical numbers. In 1971, he appeared in 70, Girls, 70 and two years later was a replacement performer in the revival of Irene starring Debbie Reynolds.
Conried married Margaret Grant on January 29, 1942; they had four children.
Conried had a long history of heart problems and suffered a stroke in 1974 and a mild heart attack in 1979. He remained active until his death on January 5, 1982, one day after suffering a major heart attack. His body was donated to medical science.
Conried was interviewed in 1970 and said that he told Oboler during production of The Twonky that he was worried that the film was not working and that it would bomb at the box office. According to Conried, the producer replied, "That's all right. I need a tax write-off this year anyway." - no doubt to offset the enormous profits reaped from Bwana Devil.