Hans Conried: From Radio to Wrongway Feldman

Hans Conried (1917-82) specialized in playing funny martinets, pedantic schoolteachers, eccentric orchestra conductors, and cartoon villains. His Germanic name, mid-Atlantic speech, and stiff manner created a general impression that he was European, though he was born and raised in Baltimore. (His father immigrated from Austria, no doubt a partial model for some of his characterizations).

Conried studied drama at Columbia, and was so talented that he began working in radio and films immediately. That crazy voice is instantly recognizable! In radio he worked with Orson Welles, Burns and Allen, and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy early in his career. His first film was Dramatic School (1938). Other early screen work included Dulcy (1940), Maisie was a Lady (1941), Blondie’s Blessed Event (1942), Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942), Mercury Theatre’s Journey into Fear (1943), and Crazy House (1943) with Olsen and Johnson. In the role of Professor Kroptokin, he was in both the radio and film versions of My Friend Irma (1949) featuring Martin and Lewis. He would work with Jerry again nearly a decade later in Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958).

Conried is especially associated with an outsized number of children’s classics. His work for Walt Disney included Peter Pan (1953, he played the voice of Captain Hook), followed by Ben and Me (1953), Davy Crockett, KIng of the Wild Frontier (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Shaggy D.A. (1976), and The Cat from Outer Space (1978). His Dr. Seuss classics include The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953), Horton Hears a Who (1970), and Dr. Seuss on the Loose (1973). He did the voice of Snidely Whiplash in Dudley Do-Right cartoons on The Bullwinkle Show (1960-63). His voice is also in the animated classics Cricket on the Hearth (1967), The Phantom Tollboth (1970), and The Hobbit (1977).

Conried was also a mainstay on television. One of the first places I ever saw him was undoubtedly in the role of Wrongway Feldman in two episodes of Gilligan’s Island (episodes based on William Peter Blatty’s John Goldfarb, Please Come Home). He had a recurring role on Danny Thomas’s various sitcoms as Uncle Tonoose, and has guest shots on all three of Lucille Ball’s shows, I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy. He did turns on a half dozen installments of The Red Skelton Show, and was also on Lost in Space, The Monkees, Love American Style, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Tony Randall Show, and Fantasy Island et al.

Other films included The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), On the Town (1949), Summer Stock (1950), Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964), and the John Astin comedy western The Brothers O’Toole (1973). In the 1980s, he mostly did voice-over work for Saturday morning cartoon shows. Conried was 64 when felled by a heart attack in 1982.

To learn more about show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.