Bryan was a busy actor, lending his voice not only to comedy parts, but dramatic roles on Lux Radio Theatre. He even played a network censor on the Orson Welles Show in 1944 before being shown the door and replaced by John Brown (Ray Collins, a Welles favourite, lost his role to Jack Mather at the same time). Bryan’s most famous radio role began on March 16, 1943 when he showed up in Wistful Vista as Doc Gamble on Fibber McGee and Molly. He stayed in the part until March 22, 1956 when the show’s format was reworked as strictly a dialogue between Fibber and Molly. He came down with gastritis later in the year.
Long before Fibber and cartoons and even Hollywood, Bryan was a young singer in New York. The New York Sun of September 20, 1930 profiled him.
ARTHUR Q. BRYAN, the chief announcer at W O R, was born in Brooklyn. N. Y., in 1899, which he says makes him today of a ripe old age. At the age of eighteen years he began the study of singing with an eye to a concert career. It developed, however, that necessity demanded that his aspirations along these lines be shelved, with the result that his vocal talents were displayed only in various church choirs.Bryan left WEAF/CBS in May 1935 for a job at WHN New York working on, among other things, a variety show with M.C. Ted Claire. Within a couple of years, he was on his way to the West Coast, migrating with the big radio shows.
In 1924. Mr. Bryan went to Scranton, Pa., where he worked in the coal mines for the long space of six days quite long enough for him to be prejudiced against that sort of position forever. He returned to New York city and secured a position with a well-known insurance company, incidentally the same which once sheltered Lewis Reid.
The singing persisted, however, and he finally got into radio over both WEAF and WJZ, and was heard in a number of programs including the Seiberling Singers and the Jeddo Highlanders. This was followed by eleven weeks in the show business singing with an octette in “Follow Thru.”
About this time he heard talk of Reid’s leaving WOR and more as a joke than with any seriousness went there and took an audition for an announcer. The joke, however, turned into a position and since then his air activities have been manifold, from singing and a speaking part in Main street for dogs and birds. Mr. Bryan writes the Moonbeam verses and reads on the Choir Invisible. He particularly enjoys working with Uncle Don and thinks him one of the finest characters on the air.
As an afterthought only, he is not married!
Bryan was profiled in the Los Angeles publication Radio Life on May 12, 1946. It’s interesting Bryan should tell the writer he didn’t want a starring show. He had already starred on Major Hoople, a summer replacement show in 1942. And waaaaay down below, you can see a reference to his cartoon role.
ARTHUR ? BRYANYou needn’t ask what the “Q” stood for. Unlike Robert Q. Lewis, whose name purely an invention, Bryan had a middle name. Here it is on his World War One draft registration.
We Found Out What Mr. Bryan’s Ambition Was, But He Refuses to Tell One Well-Kept Secret
By Joan Buchanan
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday. 8 p.m.
“There’s just one role I would love to play—and what a part that is!” he continued. “It’s the lead in ‘Harvey’.”
On a trip last year to open the War Loan drive in Toronto, Arthur managed to go to New York and in ten days he saw seven plays. Frank Fay in “Harvey” was one—the one that Arthur can’t forget. Arthur is morose about his chances ever to play the part because Joe E. Brown is winning new acclaim in the West Coast company and Bing Crosby has been mentioned for the picture. However, if the chance ever presents itself—Arthur will put in his bid to play the part of Elwood P. Dowd, the lovable inebriate whose closest friend is an invisible, six-foot rabbit.
“What makes you desire the ‘Harvey’ part above others?” we wanted to know.
“Well, it’s wonderful fantasy, and it’s so terrifically sympathetic. Of course anyone who plays it will have to do it the way Frank Fay does, because he does it perfectly,” Arthur answered.
Arthur Q. is equally enthusiastic, however, about his part as “Doctor Gamble” on the “Fibber McGee and Molly” show. “Don Quinn (writer of the show) is wonderful,” he said. “Every part he writes is a good one. ‘Doctor Gamble’ is a real person—when I step up to the mike to do the ‘doctor’ I feel subconsciously that I am him. Don Quinn studies the character and your voice and writes for you. I feel that the characters on the show are all drawn by him and we just sort of aid and abet him.
“For instance, when the ‘McGee and Molly’ show was in Toronto, nobody knew or cared what our real names were. In the morning when I’d come down into the hotel lobby, people would say, ‘Good morning, Doctor’ . . . ‘How are you this morning, Doctor Gamble?’”
Arthur admits that he enjoys doing comedy more than any other type of role. “I think most comics really enjoy being comedians,” he confided, “because of the instantaneous response to humor. We revel in laughter and can actually have fun with the audience. That's something you don’t get in drama. I guess a comedian has to have a touch of conceit to be a good comic—but perhaps I shouldn’t say that!”
“Is it harder to make people laugh or cry?” we wanted to know.
“I really don’t know,” Arthur admitted. “I do know that some audiences can be awfully hard to play to, though. Sometimes at rehearsal we actors will double up laughing at what we think is a hilarious script. Then we hit a cold audience—and murder! Dead silence!”
Arthur hasn't always been a comedian—he started out to be a singer and revealed that “singing was my first choice for a career, and once you’ve been a singer you never quite get it out of your system!” He has started to study classical singing again just to keep in practice. He’s an enthusiastic record collector and to date has about 2000 records—symphonic and concert, largely vocal. Arthur was (and still is) a tenor. He sang in light opera, did many Gilbert and Sullivan roles, sang in the Broadway show, “Follow Thru,” and on many radio programs. Locally he has appeared in the light opera festivals in “The Merry Widow” and “The Vagabond King.”
He loves the stage because “it’s so phoney! Such marvelous opportunities for hamming.” And likes radio because you never know what you’re going to be doing next.
“How would you like a show of your own?” we ventured.
No Show of Own!
“I’d hate it,” Arthur replied cheerfully. “Too much to worry about, and I happen to be crazy about everybody I work with. Never been in such a pleasant organization before.”
Arthur's been in radio for 22 years now and has done dramatic roles besides comedy, "We figured it out on the ‘McGee’ show that the radio experience of the cast figured out to over 180 years," he claimed. Arthur’s most recent picture was the Rosalind Russell starrer, “She Wouldn't Say Yes,” and of course he is still immortalizing the easily hoodwinked hunter in the Warners’ “Bugs Bunny” cartoons.
“By the way,” we inquired, finishing things up, “what does the Q. in Arthur Q. Bryan stand for?” Arthur looked cunning. “I haven’t told anybody that in twenty-two years, and I don’t think I’ll start now.”
“Aw—why not ?” we protested. Arthur laughed. “ ‘Cause that way--everybody always asks me!”
Bryan’s last appearance in a Warner Bros. cartoon was in Person to Bunny, released April 1, 1960. Bryan never saw it. He died on November 30, 1959 at the age of 60.
Late note: Voice actor and historian Keith Scott sends the following clarification:
[I]t was Avery who was the one who wanted Bryan for his cartoon DANGEROUS DAN McFOO. He spoke at a college lecture once of how he listened to THE GROUCH CLUB and heard Bryan as a regular (he played "The Little Man") on that...also said he and others would go and watch radio shows at KFWB on the Warner lot a few buildings away from the cartoon facility on Sunset. He saw Blanc doing his News of the World skit and knew of him before he ever used him.