I know it’s been a while since I did a “look who died” piece here- and I know that there are some of our viewers who find them tedious- but I did want to mention the passing of two prominent people from the realm of TV… Connie Hines and Arnold Stang.
I think, in more recent years, newer viewers would recognize Miss Hines first- since “Mr. Ed” has continued to run on television, on and off. She was the little blond wife of Wilbur (Alan Young)- the owner of Mr. Ed and only person who the famed talking horse would speak with. In real life, this “Mrs. Post” played many parts in 1960s movies and TV shows, including guest spots on “the Millionaire” (a show where, each week, a wealthy guy- who you’d never see- would give some random person a check for a million dollars- and the story would follow how it affected them) –“Whirlybirds” (a show about a helicopter company that was hired for all sorts of jobs) and “Bonanza” (finally- a show some of you younger viewers might have heard of!) Miss Hines fully realized that her role on “Mr. Ed” wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, and her usual contribution was a line like “Lunch is ready!” If you can find it, she wrote an autobiography – “Mr. Ed and Me and More” that came out in 2007.In recent years, she did a cable access show about animal care- maybe she picked up some interest in that while working with the talking horse. I always recall that one of my friends had a huge crush on “Mrs. Post”- the petite attractive blonde was still a favorite of his to this day. I’m sure he’s saddened by her passing.
The other recent departure is perhaps only vaguely familiar to some- but, for many years in the 1950s and 60s, he played the types of roles that a Wally Cox or Don Knotts might portray- a skinny little milquetoast of a guy. Arnold’s signature huge thick glasses were only slightly less recognizable than his high-pitched, slushy New Yorkish voice. He started in radio as a kid back in 1934, continued acting mainly in radio, and then moved on to movies and finally television. He was tutored in acting by Victor Mature, which is kind of funny, since Mature was a he-man leading man, and Arnold was- well, Arnold.
He was a well-respected comedic actor, working with the like of Milton Berle and Jack Benny. He was especially good at ad-libbing (that’s what we used to call it before it became “improv”, kids) and could turn flubbed lines and mistakes into even funnier comedy with his quick thinking, which came in handy in live television. He was famous for his old commercials for Chunky candy, in which his tag line, delivered in his trademark voice, was “Chunky- whatta chunk o’ chocolate!” You have to remember him if you ever saw “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”- in which he was a gas station attendant along with Jonathan Winters. However, the role most people would recognize him for today was one in which his voice was markedly different from his usual character voice. He was the voice of Hanna Barbera’s animated feline “Top Cat”! Since the characters were essentially supposed to be like Phil Silver’s “Sgt. Bilko” and his men, Arnold did a smooth, lugubrious voice similar to Silvers’- and very unlike his high-pitched watery standard delivery. He was proud of his serious work too- having played opposite Frank Sinatra in “The Man with the Golden Arm”. To be honest, I had no ideas that Stang was still around- I can’t remember the last time I actually saw him or heard his voice in something new- though I’m told he did a couple voices in “Courage the Cowardly Dog” on the Cartoon Network.
And so, two more of the familiar faces – and voices- who seemed to have been around since almost when I started watching TV have passed. Especially in the case of Stang, more connections to a whole different world of comedians and celebrities continue to slowly disappear.