Obituary: Pat Buttram

Pat Buttram, actor and comedian: born Addison, Alabama 17 June 1917; married 1950 Sheila Ryan (died 1975; one daughter); died Los Angeles 8 January 1994.

'I'M THE last sidekick left,' Pat Buttram said in the 1980s. 'Gabby Hayes is gone. and Andy Devine, and Chill Wills . . . it's gettin' lonely.' Gene Autry's sidekick from 1949 to 1954, the tall, lumbering Buttram's trademark was his croaking voice, which he often described as sounding like 'a handful of gravel thrown into a Mix-Master'.

The son of a minister, Buttram won a scholarship to Birmingham Southern University, Alabama, where acting in college plays decided him on a show-business career. In 1934, while visiting the Chicago World's Fair, he was stopped by a radio reporter and asked a series of questions about the exposition. His answers were so consistently funny that he was immediately booked as a comedian on the local radio series National Barn Dance. Billed as 'the Sage of Winston County, Alabama', he soon became nationally known.

When Paramount made a film called National Barn Dance (1944), they signed Buttram to play himself. In 1946 he was invited by Gene Autry (a friend from the early 1930s) to supply the comedy relief for his radio series Melody Ranch. Later they made 17 films and over 90 television shows together, despite Buttram's deep distrust of horses. 'I didn't get on too well with 'em,' he later claimed. 'Horses are hard in the middle and dangerous at both ends.'

Mule Train (1950) was his favourite film because the cast also included Sheila Ryan, a beautiful brunette who became Mrs Pat Buttram that same year. Their 25-year marriage ended with her death in 1975.

In 1965 Buttram was given the role of the rascally Mr Haney in the CBS-TV sitcom Green Acres, which ran for six seasons. He was now in demand as a night-club comedian, college lecturer and toastmaster, and provided voices for Disney cartoon characters, particularly the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood (1973). A wolf with a western sheriff's badge pinned to his paunch, the Sheriff was given to barging into peasants' hovels with a mockingly cheery 'Greetin's from yore friendly neighbourhood tax-collector]' Buttram also provided the voices for Napoleon, the militaristic farm dog in The Aristocats (1970), Luke, the drunken muskrat in The Rescuers (1977), and Chief, the nasty old hunting dog in The Fox and the Hound (1980). His big-budget films included Elvis Presley's Roustabout (1964) and Back to the Future III (1990).

Autry, who warmly praised Buttram's wit after his death, was often the butt of it. 'Gene's one of the toughest businessmen and richest fellers there ever was,' Buttram would tell his audiences. 'He used to ride off into the sunset; now he owns it.' In his autobiography Autry recalled the day he said, 'Pat, let's make a promise. I'm not going to your funeral and I don't want you to come to mine.'

'Well, Gene, I'm afraid we can't work it that way,' Buttram drawled with a smile. 'It has to be one way or t'other.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'