Today is the birthday of radio and voice actor Bill Thompson. Although he also sang for a bit with The Sinclair Weiner Minstrels, he was best known for voicing the characters Wallace Wimple and Droopy Dog.
William H. Thompson was born on July 8, 1913, in Terre Haute, Indiana to a Vaudevillian family. Bill began his career making regular appearances on Don McNeill’s variety show, The Breakfast Club, on Chicago radio in 1934.
Around 1936, he joined the cast of Fibber McGee and Molly, where he played several characters including Widdicomb Blotto (aka Horatio K. Boomer) and Nick Depopulis. In 1937 he introduced The Old Timer, whose classic statement, “That's pretty good, Johnny, but that ain't the way I heeerd it!” became a national catch phrase. In 1941, McGee’s frequent foil, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, left the show to star in his own sitcom, The Great Gildersleeve.
Thompson ultimately reintroduced Mr. Wimple in 1941 to fill "The Great Man’s" newly-created vacancy. Wallace Wimple was a henpecked milquetoast who lived in fear of his abusive, oft-discussed but never seen/heard wife, “Sweetie Face.” His mush-mouthed greeting, “Hello, folks,” was another big laugh-getter and inspired Tex Avery to build a character around his voice. The result was one of MGM’s most enduring cartoon characters, Droopy Dog. The jowly Droopy Dog was one of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time; he was a mild-mannered basset hound who was usually motivated by his romantic pursuit of various beautiful, vaguely disturbing anthropomorphic beauties. Given his lethargic demeanor and small stature, he was frequently exposed to bullying which would provoke hilarious displays of surprising physical strength, albeit meted out with his normal, stone-faced stoicism.
Thompson's career as a voice actor was put on hold when he joined the Navy during World War II. During his time in the service, Droopy was voiced by Don Messick and Avery himself. After the war’s conclusion, Thompson returned to Fibber McGee and Molly as well as playing the character “Professor Thompson” on The Chase and Sanborn Program, additionally taking a role on The CBS Radio Workshop. In 1943, the still unnamed Droopy starred in the cartoon Dumb-hounded. As part of MGM's amazing, if under-recognized, animation department, Thompson also voiced for Big Heel-Watha and Tom (of Tom & Jerry)'s cousin, George.
The Chase and Sanborn Program was cancelled in 1948. The same year, Thompson made his final appearance as Droopy in 1958, in Droopy Leprechaun. Fibber McGee and Molly ended its remarkable 24 year run the following year. Soon Thompson was getting regular work at Disney, providing the voices of the White Rabbit and the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland (1951); Mr. Smee in Peter Pan (1953); and as Jock, Bull, Dachsie, Joe and the Irish policeman in my brother's favorite movie, Lady & the Tramp (1955). He also was the voice of Disney characters Ranger J. Audobon Woodlore, Professor Owl and Scrooge McDuck. After providing the voice of King Hubert in Sleeping Beauty (1959), he voiced characters at Hanna-Barbera, including Touché Turtle and various others in Yogi Bear and The Flintstones.
His final role was as Uncle Waldo in The Aristocats, which was released on December 24th, 1970. He died of a heart attack the following year on July 15 in Los Angeles.