June 19, 1915
Addison, Alabama, United States
January 8, 1994
Los Angeles, California, United States
Actor, Comedian, Comedy writer
Lumpy, pear-shaped comedian with an inimitably whiny, rustic drawl, discovered in the audience of a Chicago World Fair and soon thereafter a popular radio personality on "The National Barn Dance" and other shows. Buttram met singing cowboy star Gene Autry while performing on the air and later became the star's comedy sidekick for the tail end of Autry's silver screen reign. Although Smiley Burnette usually rode alongside the smartly dressed Western hero, Buttram continued Burnette's bumbling antics in "B" Westerns including "The Strawberry Roan" (1949), "Riders in the Sky" (1949), "Indian Territory" (1950) and "Barbed Wire" (1952). Buttram also followed Autry into TV and continued his bumptious antics for six years on "The Gene Autry Show."Buttram subsequently wrote comedy material for several TV specials and kept busy as an entertainer on the Hollywood banquet and benefit circuit. He also played intermittent character roles in features ranging from the Elvis Presley musical, "Roustabout" (1964), to the silly comedy, "I Sailed to Tahiti with an All-Girl Crew" (1969), and the sincere if minor drama, "Choices" (1981). A versatile voice-over artist, Buttram had just the right vocal qualities to evoke whimsical cartoon characters. In addition to much TV work in this vein he lent his pipes to such Disney films as "The Aristocats" (1970, as Napoleon), "Robin Hood" (1973, as the Sheriff of Nottingham), "The Rescuers" (1977, as Luke) and "The Fox and the Hound (1981, as the Chief). Late in life he even provided the voice of one of the bullets in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (1988). Although older audiences may remember Buttram best alongside Autry, younger generations probably cherish his role as the conniving salesman Mr. Haney on the down-on-the-farm sitcom, "Green Acres" (1965-71), selling star Eddie Albert not only his ramshackle home but also a lot of other junk, to considerable comic effect.