Wednesday 27 August 2014

Hans, the Personality

It’s an amazing concept, if you think about it. A late night network talk show with people who can actually talk. Not audience noise. Not cameras flying around. Not vapid, non-spontaneous chats to push coming movie or TV projects. But raconteurs, literate people with a command of the language and something interesting, relevant or amusing to say.

Such people were found on television at one time, and one place to find them was the Jack Paar Show (aka “Tonight”). And one was Hans Conried.

I suppose Conried is known today as the voice of Snidely Whiplash on the Dudley Do-Right cartoons. In the ‘40s, he made a good living with other over-the-top characterisations on radio sitcoms and variety shows. When radio started dying in the ‘50s, he put his dialect humour to use as Uncle Tonoose on “Make Room For Daddy” and his quickness to the test on the game show “Pantomime Quiz.”

Yet Conried made a bit of a name for himself with somewhat regular appearances on the Paar show. Paar assembled kind of a stock company of folks who would come on and tell stories, including Alexander King, Oscar Levant and dotty Dody Goodman. And as this Associated Press story indicates, Conried had mixed feelings about it, though he surely couldn’t have disliked the exposure. It ran August 18, 1959.

Hans Conried Is Paar Personality

NEW YORK (AP)—Hans Conried was brooding the other day over the new phenomenon of “personality” as introduced to modern life by American television.
After years of steady employment as a perfectly respectable actor everything from Shakesperean roles to mad scientists, Conried went on the Jack Paar Show and quite soon found himself a “personality.”
“At first I felt naked,” he recalled. “There I was, Conried playing Conried, with no role to hide behind. I had to talk, and that wasn’t too hard, of course. I’ve been talking since I was a year old. Then, I guess. I began creating the personality of Hans Conried, a role to hide behind.”
But who, asked a fellow, really is Conried? What is he?
Conried fixed his dark eyes on the fellow somberly, and offered an item, a clue: The true Conried lives happily with his wife and two sons in a large California house that contains 7,000 books, most of which he’s read.
But he refused to divulge anything further about the secret life of Hans Conried except that he wants another bookcase in his house and there doesn’t seem to be room for it.
Conried has become a “personality” thanks to his appearances on the Paar show and other TV panel programs. But it hasn’t hurt his professional career as an actor. In fact, his career has been enhanced, with more offers for better roles.
Next Sunday, for example, he will co-star with William Bendix in “The Ransom of Red Chief,” an which also NBC-TV features special Mickey Rooney’s 9-year-old son, Teddy.
Conried admits that he enjoys playing the role of Conried, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, on TV panel programs. But he won’t confide how he became a “wit”—or even that he is one. He is, he insists, just an actor.


  1. Hans' handling of the introductory and scripted segments on "Fractured Flickers" are all wonderful, with a self-awareness and cynical tone towards the TV medium that would become the standard for late-night hosts by the 1980s.

  2. I concur with J Lee on the praise for his hosting duties on "Fractured Flickers" and their influence on TV hosting ever since; his performance at Prof. Waldo Wigglesworth on Jay Ward's lesser-known "Hoppity Hooper" series was also impressive, especially in it being the most morally-ambiguous "anti-hero" on a Saturday Morning cartoon to that date. But his greatest voice-acting performance (and one I think is at least as well known as Snidely Whiplash) had to be as Captain Hook on the Disney version of "Peter Pan". Between that and "The 50,000 Fingers of Dr. T" (an obvious reference in the article to "mad scientists", 1953 was a great year for Hans. The author of the 1959 article obviously had no interest in the lesser art of cartoon voicing (by that time, Hans had also taken over the role of The Magic Mirror in everything Snow-White-related at Disney). I'm just a little disappointed that you didn't mention Captain Hook yourself...