Character actor Arnold Stang, whose long career in radio, television, and the movies included playing oppisite Frank Sinatra in the 1955 film The Man With the Golden Arm and doing the voice of the cartoon character Top Cat, died of pneumonia Sunday night. He was 91 years of age.
Diminutive in stature and readily identified by his recognizable mannerisms and trademark heavy glasses, he was a serious actor who ended up playing more comedic roles than sober ones. He once described his image this way: “I look like a frightened chipmunk who’s been out in the rain too long.”
But his distinctive voice alone could carry him, as evidenced in the Top Cat cartoon clip above, in which Stang played the lead character T.C. (Top Cat), the leader of a gang of trouble making New York City alley cats. He effectively played this character, apparantly styled after Phil Silvers, for the 30 episodes of the Hanna-Barbera animated television series that were made in the early sixties and then ran for many years afterwards. In fact, it still runs on TV to this day.
As well as Top Cat, Stang did the voices for numerous other cartoons, including the 1965 film Pinocchio in Outer Space, for which he did the voice of Nurtle the Turtle. In the Otto Preminge-directed Frank Sinatra film The Man With The Golden Arm, a dark tale of heroin addiction, he played the role of Sinatra’s buddy Sparrow. One of the last acting roles Stang played was as the photographer in the 1993 film Dennis The Menace with Walter Matthau.