While Hollywood films have been blessed with many striking and unusual character actors, few have been more instantly recognizable than tall, blond, gaunt Sterling Holloway. In addition to his appearance, he had an amazing voice with high, whispery, cracked tones delivered in a slow cadence that once was compared to the sound of a rusty nail being pulled slowly out of a piece of wood.
Holloway began his professional acting career on the stage in the mid-1920s and is still being imitated by voice actors today. This writer was lucky enough to interview him in 1988 when he returned for a second consecutive year to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Riders of the Silver Screen Film Caravan. Fans attending the festival were best acquainted with the comedy relief he provided in five of Gene Autry’s post World War II westerns, but they also remembered him for the voice work he had done in numerous Disney features and short subjects since 1941.
“Oh, that voice has made him,” said Kay Williams who accompanied Holloway to Knoxville, and tried, sometimes with great effort, to keep up with the then 83-year-old actor. “He’s in pretty good shape. He has great energy. And if I didn’t limit the time he spends on certain things, he’d never take a break.”