|Tribute to Walter Tetley|
|Walter Tetley: Twilight of an Identity
|Walter Tetley: Fountain of Youth
|Random Thoughts in 2004
|The Incredible Magic of Paul Frees|
|Frees Frame: an Interview|
|Paul Frees: Smoke and Mirrors|
|Without Fanfare: The Bill Scott Story
|Bill Scott Revisited
|Chamber of my Mind
|Fractured Fairy Tales: The Crown Jewel
|Mysterious, Elusive Chris Allen
|Tribute to June Foray: June of the Jungle
|On the Doorstep of 1974: June Foray Trivia
|June and the Dazzling Night Sky
|June Foray: That Bewitching Cackle!!
|June Foray: More than a Woman
|Daws Butler's Corner
|Showcasing Daws' Talent
|Honorable Mentions: the Other Voices
|Walter's Radio Career
|Walter's Radio Career Part 2
|A 19th Century Carousel
|Peabody's Pony Express
PEABODY'S PONY EXPRESS (continued)
April 08, 2001
The 1923 birth date theory is interesting, and more logical, given Tetley's appearance in his 30's movies. However, I still believe his real birth year was 1915. Check out the entry for Walter Tetley in the Social Security Death Index. (http://www.ancestry.com/ssdi/advanced.htm). Although a mistake could've been made on a death certificate, it's not likely that the social security records would also be wrong. And why would a doctor who was treating him in his final days put 1915 as his birth date when completing the birth certificate? Surely he must have known his true age if he were treating him for a terminal illness. There's no reason that I can think of for Walter to give the doctor an older age.
Since there is legal documentation to support the 1915 birth year, I would like to suggest that it was necessary for Walter to represent himself as 14 or 15 years old in order to get juvenile parts in movies, and that he used the 1923 birth date during that time so that he could more easily work alongside the other juvenile actors of the day. This was, after all, the 1930's, and it was probably necessary to do this to get those movie roles.
Of course, this is just my educated guess and if proven wrong, I will eat crow.
I tried your website above and had no luck. But then I have not received some of the things, that you have mailed to me, which would facilitate this search, I guess. If you read the two or more emails, that Jonathan has sent us (about the possibility of 1923 as the correct birthdate), it can't be denied that he makes some good points. However, I tend to agree more with you about the 1915 date. I feel this way, in part, because of what I had previously mentioned to Jonathan, about Tetley's physical/medical history.
There is another part of me, which just kind of hopes that the 1915 year is true, because that makes him all the more REMARKABLE!.......That even well into his 50s, and near 60, he still had that special talent of being able to speak like a small boy.
Despite the normal wear and tear, on his vocal cords, as he aged, and despite the fact that he had hormonal treatment, which not only increased his stature, but gave his body the ability to grow facial hair, his puerile, little voice remained in tact!.........And of course, I don't think that any of us know if he smoked.........If he did smoke........you know what cigarettes have done to some people's voices (Bette Davis, for example, who was a heavy smoker).
On the other hand, perhaps "voice" actors, are less apt to smoke, since their livelihood depends on a strong, healthy voice (or perhaps they are prone to quit that habit, if they do smoke). Daws Butler told me, in 1974, that he had quit smoking, 20 years earlier, after his doctor had told him:
"Either quit smoking, or learn to drive a truck!.....Because you're not going to make it, as the kind of actor that you are, because your whole bag is versatility!".
Pardon me for getting off on a tangent, a bit. If my line of thought is somewhat hard to follow here, I'm sorry. Hopefully, however, some of the things, that I have said here, are interesting food for thought.
Back to my original point, however, I think that I am hoping that he was born in 1915, for another reason than simply the fact that that made his versatility more remarkable. I am also hoping that 1915 was the year, because that would give him close to a decade, more, of life on this earth.
April 6, 2001:The Debate, On Several Fronts, "Rages" On:
The following email is a followup, on some info recently posted on Peabody's Pony Express. Jonathan Orovitz has pointed out to us some arguments to support an opposing view, vis á vis Walter's age, and Fred Allen's role in getting the young lad started, in Hollywood.
Regarding specifically Walter's age, Jonathan had already given some valid arguments, once before, to support the fact that he was most likely 8 years younger than the age usually given for him. Now, with his comments here, he bolsters his claim one step further. The comments on Fred Allen's involvement with Tetley are also interesting.
We have also included some freeze frames, courtesy of Mr. Orovitz, which show Walter in the W.C. Fields movie, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (see some of our earlier emails, for comments about W.T. and W.C. in this movie).
Though I will admit that, judging from these pictures, it seems more plausible that he was 15 years old here, rather than 23, I had read, extensively, that he was a very small person, and had hormonal treatment, with a urologist, later on in life, which allowed him to grow a few inches. The fact that he was a very small person, and possibly even had a baby face (for all we know??......) could lend credence to the fact that perhaps he just really looked young........But who knows?........Consider all the evidence as you will, Readers. Naturally the expression "rages on", in the above heading, was intended purely in jest !
Thanks again, Jonathan, for your wonderful, really neat photos!!.......and for your information which continues to stimulate intriguing thought and debate!
I just took a journey through Peabody's Pony Express and noticed the remarks about Walter's appearance in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1938). Once again, I have it on tape. Unfortunately he is only on screen for a few seconds and has no lines. Tetley's role goes something like this: W.C. Fields doing a poor job of replacing Edgar Bergan as carnival ventriloquist. To make matters worse, Walter is in the front row sucking on a candy cane and eating a lemon. My guess is that he had some lines, an exchange of barbs with Fields, that were cut.
I don't know anything about a radio tradition between W. Fields and W. Tetley. There was famous radio feud between Fields and Charley McCarthy (co-star of You Can't Cheat an Honest Man).
Stills courtesy of Jonathan Orovitz
The two attached stills pretty much capture Walter's performance in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. I hope he didn't spend the check all in one place. Frankly, he looks more like 15 than 23 years old in these pictures, lending support to my suggestion of a 1923 birthdate.
This film, and another remark in the Pony Express, also suggests that my source about Walter's tenure on Fred Allen was wrong. He probably went west at the end of the 1937 radio season (June) rather than staying on until 1940. I can't find any trace of him on Fred's show after spring 1937. From my other sources (Dunning), I would not say that Fred discovered Walter but may have been the first to give him national exposure. In his article on Raising Junior (1930-32), Dunning said that starting at age 9, Tetley "... went on to do thousands of radio broadcasts (an estimated 2,300 appearances on 150 separate series by the late 1930s, with the bulk of his work still ahead), specializing in wiseguy kid roles on The Fred Allen Show, Easy Aces, The Great Gildersleeve, and the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.
April 5, 2001
Subject: RE: Re: W.C. Fields
You'll see in the obituary that Walter was first doing live radio somewhere back east, at WABC and WOR, and Fred Allen did discover him there and took him to Hollywood. It also mentions that he worked on radio with W.C. Fields. I'd like to hear those skits with Fields, if any recordings still exist.
When you read the death certificate, that I am sending, you'll notice that the "length of stay in California" was 38 years, putting his arrival in California around 1937. But the "number of years in occupation" is 50 years, which means he was working in 1925 at the age of ten before moving out west. It even gives his "last employing company" as Hanna-Barberra. This is why I want you to see these documents--they will help you put some of the pieces together, and along with what you already know from speaking to other voice actors who knew him, maybe we can finally see a decent (and true) biography of Walter Tetley.
Interestingly enough Daws Butler did tell me, in his taped letter to me (from March, 1974) that he had seen Walter Tetley, three years earlier, at Hanna-Barbera, when they were taping a Christmas cartoon special together. But that was the last time that he saw him. Daws Butler was like the Mel Blanc of Hanna-Barbera, so he would probably have run into Walter, quite a bit, had he been working there a lot.
I did kind of suspect that Walter was not doing a whole lot for Hanna-Barbera........Because I had researched some of their cartoon shows, and his name really did not come up, at all, as part of the voice talent.........not as a regular cast member anyway.
I too would love to hear the exchanges between W.C. Fields and Tetley, since he was so famous for being "the man who HATED kids and dogs"!!
April 4, 2001
Although I love old time radio, I'm not really in the "OTR Club" and I don't know some of the other folks who have emailed you. My interest in Walter Tetley began like yours-- when I was a kid I watched Rocky & Bullwinkle, and then the Bullwinkle Show. I was born in 1955, so my older sisters and I never missed these shows and then the reruns of them as I grew older.
One time my mother was in the room when Sherman was speaking, and she remarked that she recognized Sherman's voice as being from radio. That's when I started getting curious about connecting the voice with a name and a face, but I wasn't able to do this until a few years ago.
Speaking of movies that Walter has appeared in, I would recommend "It's in the Bag" in which Walter does a great scene with Fred Allen. "They Shall Have Music" features quite a few scenes with Walter, and also "Who Done It" with Abbott and Costello. I'm mailing the copies today, of the obituary and death certificate for Walter, for your observation. If they help lead you to uncover more information about Walter's life, please let me know.
Thanks! I tried to rent that Abbott and Costello movie, "Who Done it", last night; someone else had told me about it. Wouldn't you know it was checked out. I will try to rent some of those others. I am also looking for a W.C. Field's movie, that Walter was in, called "YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN", but I have not been able to find a store that carries it as of yet.
Note: Don told me, in a subsequent email, that Walter does not even have a speaking part in that movie; he's just seen eating candy (which is a shame because W.C. Fields always touted himself as a man who "hated kids and dogs".........As Don pointed out, there could have been some great dialogue, with kid-hating W.C. and Walter).
I have so much to do now, not that I'm not looking forward to it, but, there are so many radio spots, that I need to listen to now..........so many of Tetley's films, that I should view. Since I am doing this web page, I kind of feel that I do have an obligation to inform myself as much as possible about Walter and his career.
Though listening to, and seeing, these things, will be fun for me, enough of them are piling up, that I just realize, all too well, that I have my work cut out for me. Fortunately this is not quite as stressful, or overwhelming for me, as graduate school was!!
Note: In a subsequent email, Don told me that it was actor, Fred Allen, who brought Walter Tetley out to Hollywood, from New York, around 1936 or 1937, and he used Walter in his own radio show, before he went on The Great Gildersleeve.
April 3, 2001
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.
I'm embarrassed that I didn't read your mail section before. I guess I'm only the 149th person to tell you about Walter's radio work. You don't need to put me in touch with any of your email contributors as I already know many of them.
Your web page is big news to the Gildersleeve fans. For the size of his contribution to the program, he was the performer we knew the least about.
As to the length of the Gildersleeve program, I believe the extra years others tack on were re-runs only. I don't believe that Willard Waterman would have been in the radio show and the television show at the same time.
For your readers who want to buy the CD-Rs, we Gildy fans refer all sales to Gary L. Mercer, at firstname.lastname@example.org. There was a time when The Great Gildersleeve was one of the harder-to-find shows in mp3. Gary put in hundreds of hours encoding his Gildy collection, and now 88% of the programs are readily available (the other 12% still "lost" to collectors).
Thanks again for replying, and give me a mailing address if you'd like the CD-Rs.
Don't ever feel embarrassed folks, if you miss reading something on our web page. We are very much aware that there is a lot of detail and there are lot of articles. While it is flattering to find someone, who has left no stone unturned, on our web page, I think I understand, better than ever NOW, how time-consuming our site can be.
I say this because, with all the new information that I, too, am learning, from YOUR OWN EMAILS, to me, I have a very firm grasp of how long it can take, to read detailed information. But make no mistake........I am truly enjoying everything that you are sending us. I do think that it is very exciting to learn from each other (that was my philosophy too, with my students, as a former Spanish Instructor).
Hopefully the fact that few people can read all that we have posted, in one sitting, is an encouragement to y'all to revisit us many times (and hopefully with pleasure). In the same vein, I know that I will definitely need to revisit Peabody's Pony Express quite a few times........and with enthusiasm, to boot!
April 2, 2001
I want to thank you for your wonderful Walter Tetley page. You've helped clear up a lot of questions I've had about Mr. Tetley. I am very familiar with his voice, not so much as Sherman but as Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve radio program.
Walter's contribution to The Great Gildersleeve is a big factor in it's entertainment value. His character is somewhat of an enigma to the program as well. He plays a ten-year old boy, and the fact that Walter's voice couldn't age caused the writers to have his sister age backwards as the program endured in popularity. Finally, the sister married and had children, and by the end of the show's run (13 years), Leroy's nieces and nephews were catching up in age to him (still 10-years old).
Walter also was a major character in the Phil Harris Alice Faye show (as an obnoxious juvenile neighbor).
Also, Walter makes a good foil for Lou Costello in "Who Done It?" if you can catch that movie on AMC.
If you're interested, I have some CD-Rs of The Great Gildersleeve program recorded in the mp3 sound format I could give you. I just installed my new CD burner, so I happen to have some extras I just made (had to play with it). Just give me a mailing address and I will ship them right out to you.
Anyway, thanks again for the web site. I have a Gildersleeve web site you might like:www.softcom.net/users/gildersleeve
I did mention to Richard that, when I clicked on his website, it mentioned that the Gildersleeve series ran 1941-1954 on radio. I added that I had seen varying lengths of longevity, for that series, including as long as 17 years (1941-1958).
I also told him that it was a shame that the TV version of Gildersleeve only lasted one year (his website claimed that there was a TV version in 1950 and it was over by the next season).
March 30, 2001
I captured about 6 minutes of video from "Gildersleeve on Broadway" into a low resolution AVI file....
stills courtesy of Jonathan Orovitz
...I have attached two stills from that video. These scene with Walter Tetley and Harold Peary together suggest that Tetley, though not very tall, was far from being a Munchkin. The third person is Richard LeGrand who reprises his radio role as Mr. Peavey, the druggist. In the couch scene, the bellboy gives Gildy tips on making it with women, using the pillow as a prop. "Gildersleeve on Broadway" was the second of four Gildy films made in 1943 and Tetley appears uncredited.
I dropped by my local NPR radio station this afternoon (WAMU in Washington, DC) to sit in on the taping on next Sunday night's old time radio show. I have become popular there since last September when I started them on the road to using CD-Rs and MP3 for their old time radio broadcasts. I mentioned your web site to Ed Walker, the host of the show. He was very interested in your web site. Ed and Willard ("Today Show weather man") Scott used to be a radio duo in DC until the mid-1970s. I mentioned to Ed that I thought Walter was actually a few years younger than his official bio states. Rather than being born in 1915, 1923 makes more sense. According to John Dunning's Old TIme Radio Encyclopedia, he was 18 we he joined the Gildersleeve program in 1941. In another article in the same book, Dunning describes how Walter, at age 9 was drafted onto a show called "Raising Junior" which ran from 1930 to 32. He then appeared on New York radio as a real juvenile in the 1930s before his voice failed to change. Why would he lie about his age? My guess is that it had to do with getting '"working papers" when is was under 16 years old old. When I was growing up, I need them to get a part time while I was in high school (in New York).
Ed instinctively disagreed with my age idea bring up an appearance Walter had made on a Fred Allen Christmas show, as Scottish poet Robert Burns, circa 1938. Walter was a regular on Fred Allen's program from 1936 through June 1940. That was a one-hour comedy-variety show out of New York. I didn't see any inconsistancy in this. I then remembered I had seen a photo of Walter, as a child, in full Scottish garb. I have attached that fuzzy photo, scanned from Frank Buxton's book "The Big Broadcast." BTW, Dunning's book is great and Buxton's is crap.
I gleaned one more fact from Dunning: June Foray worked a season (or two) on the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show (1946) when it was still the Fitch Bandwagon.
March 29, 2001
Here are the promised images. Enjoy!
I included a few photos of William Conrad with his Gunsmoke cast. Like Walter Tetley, Conrad was not able to take his radio character to television. Conrad's radio career began in 1946 with an episode of The Whistler and by the earlier 1950s, he was one of the busiest voice actors in Hollywood.
photos courtesy of Jonathan Orovitz
This evening I revisited he film "Gildersleeve on Broadway" and sure enough, Walter Tetley appears uncredited as a hotel bellboy. It's a little more than a cameo as he exchanges a few good lines with Harold Peary. The voice is unmistakably Leroy. I'll try to do a video capture for you but I must warn you that my video capture hardware is limited.
That would be neat to get a clip of that!! Thanks for the photo of William Conrad too. We just recently added a small amount of info, on him, on our feature HONORABLE MENTIONS. Thanks also for the beautiful photos of Sevilla, Spain. I really loved my time over there, as a student, 20 years ago. That photo is an example of just how beautiful Sevilla's buildings are!!
March 29, 2001
Attached is the preshow Gildersleeve banter from 2/25/45. Dates on many of these old shows are hard to pin down exactly. There is an outside chance it is actually a week later than that. Although Peary and Tetley are out of character, by force of habit (I guess) they still refer to each other by their character names. The idea of Leroy having a girlfriend in San Diego is absurd since the character is about 14 years old and lives in mid-wedtren town called Summerfield.
I have been to lots of OTR sites but I will try your links. I collect most of my shows from the binary newsgroups. It's fun since you never know what is going to be there from day to day. To date I have collected almost 250 Gildersleeve shows (on 3 CDs), the majority of which are from the Harold Peary era (pre-1950). There is also a one-time show in which Peary and Tetly replace an ailing Jim Jordan on Fibber McGee and Molly. Gildy was a spinoff from that show. I also have more than 90 Phil Harris-Alice Faye shows. I can send you some if you like.
Because radio was less demanding than TV or movies, Tetley performed these characters concurrently!
I am sending a second e-mail with some JPGs attached. These are two 3-D pairs I took myself. Feel free to use the Bullwinkle statue on your site (credited, of course). I do not know who owns the third picture.
Photo by Jonathan Orovitz
Your site mentioned that Tetley died in obscurity. I remember that Stan Laurel spent his final years in a small Hollywood apartment and kept his name in the phone book so he could easily meet his fans. Stan died in 1965 (if memory serves), 8 years after Ollie.
Good luck. Jonathan O
I told Jonathan that we would be very happy to use any of the radio links that he has. I am looking forward to seeing them and listening to them. I also mentioned that we would try to get a larger version of our color photo, of Walter Tetley to him. Jonathan is certainly very knowledgable and thorough. He sheds some light on some extremely fascinating and interesting nuggets about Tetley and the celebrities from his era in general. We are very grateful to him for his wonderful contributions to us. I daresay that Jonathan appears to be as fascinating as his information!!