- Bill Thompson (voice actor)
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. Fieldsvoice, 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 catch phraseand surfaced in Warner Bros.cartoon shorts, notably "Tortoise Wins by a Hare" in which Bugs Bunnydisguises himself as a bearded old man and tries to trick the tortoise into telling him "how he beat that rabbit!")
Wallace Wimple, an expansion of Thompsons "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 horrid 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 animationdirector Tex Averyto build a dog character around the voice. This character, eventually named Droopy Dog, was also voiced by Thompson in most of his appearances. Thompson also played the title role, an Adolf Hitlertake-off, in Avery's Academy Award nominated short "The Blitz Wolf".
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, and continued to work on radio until the late 1950s, notably in several episodes of " CBS Radio Workshop". Upon his return to civilian life, Thompson's animation voice-overcareer also began to build steam. At MGM, he returned as Droopy and also played Droopy's recurring bulldog nemesies Spike, alternately known as Butch, and many other shorts characters (also voiced Tom's cousin George in 1957's " Timid Tabby".
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 filmcredits included the parts of the White Rabbit and the Dodo in "Alice in Wonderland" and Mr. Smee (and the other pirates) in Peter Pan (reprising his roles in radio adaptations for Lux Radio Theater). 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 Jaques the friendly Scottish terrier, Bull the Cockney bulldog, Dachsie the German dachshund, Joe the Italian cook, and the Irish policeman in the park. In shorts, he was heard as Ranger J. Audobon Woodlorein several Donald Duckand Humphrey the Bearentries and as Professor Owl in two music related shorts, including the Academy Award winning "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".
In 1957, Thompson joined the Los Angeles branch of
Union Oilas 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").
His final role was as Uncle Waldo in "
The Aristocats", released shortly before his death from a heart attack. Thompson was 58.
Dunning, John. "On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio". New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-507678-8
* [http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/05/bill_thompson_k.html Bill Thompson: King of Wimps]
*voice actor|id=1241|name=Bill Thompson
*imdb name|id=0859892|name=Bill Thompson
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