Actor and Disney voice artist
Thursday 02 September 2004
Although playing the town banker Mr Anderson in
Little House on the Prairie made Sam Edwards's face familiar to television viewers when he was in his sixties, his voice had already made an impact on the lives of many. He was a stalwart of thousands of shows during the early years of US radio and was the voice of the rabbit Thumper as an adult in Walt Disney's classic film
Sam Edwards, actor: born Macon, Georgia 26 May 1915; married 1969 Beverly Motley (three stepchildren); died Durango, Colorado 28 July 2004.
Although playing the town banker Mr Anderson in Little House on the Prairie made Sam Edwards's face familiar to television viewers when he was in his sixties, his voice had already made an impact on the lives of many. He was a stalwart of thousands of shows during the early years of US radio and was the voice of the rabbit Thumper as an adult in Walt Disney's classic film Bambi (1942).
He was also one of the regulars who narrated and provided multiple voices on the Disneyland label's "Storyteller" albums, and on its Winnie the Pooh releases his was the singing voice of Owl, Rabbit and, perhaps best known, Tigger for the original recording of "The Wonderful Things About Tiggers".
Edwards was born into a theatrical family in Macon, Georgia, in 1915. His father, Jack Edwards, was an actor and producer with his actress mother's company, the Edna Park Players. The young Sam made his stage début as a baby cradled in his mother's arms.
In their teens, Sam and his younger brother Jack, Jnr, acted the title roles and sang popular songs of the day in the early radio serial The Adventures of Sonny and Buddy, about two boys travelling with a medicine show. It was written by their mother, featured their father in the adult male roles and ran for nine months.
In 1933, at the height of the Depression, the family moved to San Diego and signed a deal to continue The Adventures of Sonny and Buddy. It was the first drama serial recorded at RCA Victor Studios in Hollywood and ran for 100 episodes.
On relocating to San Francisco in 1937, the family produced another radio programme, The Edwards Family, in which they all played themselves. Sam Edwards also took the role of Tracy Baker in the long-running radio soap opera One Man's Family and appeared in films such as East Side Kids (1940) and Captain Midnight (1942).
In 1942, after the US entered the Second World War, Edwards was drafted into the Army Air Corps but soon seconded to a group of entertainers who wrote and performed in a fundraising show titled Hey Rookie, starring Sterling Holloway (later the voice of Winnie the Pooh). By the time the production was entertaining troops in North Africa, then Naples and India, Edwards had established himself as the troupe vocalist.
After the war, Edwards resumed his career in radio and films. His best-known role of the time was as Dexter Franklin, teenage boyfriend of the title character, in the hugely popular radio sitcom Meet Corliss Archer (1946-56) - even though he was then in his thirties.
Edwards appeared in the first episode of the television police series Dragnet (1951) and 12 more (1952-70), taking different parts in each. This and roles in series such as I Love Lucy (1956), Gunsmoke (1958-74), Perry Mason (1959), The Andy Griffith Show (1960-66), The Virginian (1963-67), Cannon (1971-75) and Barnaby Jones (1974-77) established him as a versatile character actor.
He then joined the wholesome family drama Little House on the Prairie as the bank manager, Bill Anderson, on and off (1978-83) for the second half of the show's long run.
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