Sterling Holloway (1905-1992)

The character actor and voiceover specialist Sterling Price Holloway Jr. was born on January 4 or 14, 1905, in Cedartown, in Polk County. He attended the Georgia Military Academy and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, graduating in 1923. After appearing in minor productions around the country, Holloway was cast in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's first Broadway musical, The Garrick Gaieties (1925), in which he introduced the now standard song "Manhattan." In the second edition of the show in 1926 he sang the hit song "Mountain Greenery."
After a slow beginning in films, Holloway was cast in Frank Capra's movie American Madness (1932) and Josef von Sternberg's film Blonde Venus (1932), and was soon playing character parts in many movies, including The Merry Widow (1934) and Capra's Meet John Doe (1941). He also became a regular on such network radio programs as The Chase and Sanborn Hour. During World War II (1941-45), Holloway, assigned to the army's Special Services unit, produced a show for servicemen and toured with it near the front lines in North Africa and Italy.
After the war Holloway played Gene Autry's comic sidekick in five Westerns and starred in short comedies for Columbia Pictures. In the 1950s he began working in television, appearing regularly in The Life of Riley (1953-58) and making guest appearances on The Adventures of Superman, The Untouchables, The Andy Griffith Show, The Twilight Zone, and Gilligan's Island, among others. Increasingly, however, Holloway grew dissatisfied with the limited parts he was assigned: rubes, eccentrics, soda jerks, and delivery boys.
He found more professional satisfaction, and his share of film immortality, in his voiceover work for animated cartoons, which he began doing at the Walt Disney Studios in 1941. His first Disney character was yet another delivery boy, the Stork in Dumbo (1941). He played a small part in Bambi (1942) and narrated a number of cartoons, including the short "Peter and the Wolf," which was released as part of a collection of shorts called Make Mine Music (1946). Thereafter he was cast in more unusual and rewarding roles. He provided the voice for a subtly eerie Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland (1951) and was shrewd and practical as the mouse Amos, the hero of Ben and Me (1953).
In 1967 Walt Disney himself asked Holloway to audition for the part of Kaa, the python, for a planned animated version of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. Others had tried out for the part, but Disney was looking for a quality he had not yet found. As veteran Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston recall, Holloway's audition was "inspirational": "Suddenly Kaa was alive!... He was menacing enough, but he was also a living, breathing, entertaining creature." Holloway's favorite animated role, however, was a bear of little brain, Winnie the Pooh, for whom Holloway found the precise tones of innocence and befuddlement in the short Winnie the Pooh films of the 1960s and 1970s.
In his last years, Holloway, in failing health, retired from acting and devoted himself to his growing collection of contemporary art, a subject about which he sometimes lectured. He also enjoyed returning to Cedartown to visit old friends. In 1991 Holloway, along with singer and actress Julie Andrews and others, was honored as a Disney legend for his contributions to the studio's creations. He died on November 22, 1992, in Los Angeles, California.


Further Reading
Gordon Sargent, "'Pooh' Boy from Polk County: The Story of Sterling Holloway," North Georgia Journal (summer 1997).

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, rev. ed. (New York: Hyperion, 1995).
Cite This Article
Brehe, S. K.. "Sterling Holloway (1905-1992)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 28 August 2013. Web. 21 September 2019.
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