Friday, July 19, 2013

Olan (not David) Soule

Here's another face that everyone knows. I was watching a 1958 episode of "Have Gun, Will Travel" and it began with the hotel desk clerk talking with Paladin. I knew his face instantly, but couldn't recall the name. So I waited for the credits...and I STILL didn't know his name!

Olan Soule (1909 - 1994) has 238 titles listed on IMDb. His screen career spans over four decades and his last name is pronounced So-LAY, in case you are wondering. He started acting on radio when he was just 17 years old. No relation to David Soul (b. 1943), but Soul is another Bit Actor.

Olan's first movie was an uncredited Bit part with Doris Day (b. 1924) in It's a Great Feeling (1949). Also that year he narrates a Bette Davis/Joseph Cotten film-noir called Beyond the Forest. A radio background is a good start for narrators.

In the early 1950s he works in more films and some early television. Included in his films were Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1950), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Atomic City (1951), Monkey Business (1952), Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) just occurred to me that some readers may not know much about some of these movies. I try to mention some of the more popular titles in my posts. In any case, any movie I mention in my blog is worth watching. Of course, as a movie blogger and Bit Actor fanatic, there are very few movies I consider not worth watching. The rest is on you.

I must mention that Monkey Business is really a Cary Grant/Ginger Rogers film, with an early Marilyn Monroe. Monroe plays a character named Lois Laurel. That's Stan Laurel's daughter's name. I have met Lois Laurel. She is very nice, but doesn't quite look like Marilyn.

1952 was a good year for Olan. He started working on a television series called "Dragnet" starring Jack Webb. At first he was just another cop, but he soon became the forensic expert, Ray Pinker. Olan had done television work before, and he would continue on the small screen through his entire career.

Other movies in the mid-1950's include Francis Joins the WACS (1954), Phffft (1954), Daddy Long Legs (1955), This Island Earth (1955, and I still want an interociter!), and Francis in the Navy (1955). Many of these roles were really extra work as a desk clerk or reporter, but that's what Olan did best.

In 1954 he was a regular on "Captain Midnight" with another great Bit Actor, Sid Melton (1917 - 2011). I'll have to write about Sid. Then, Francis in the Haunted House (1956) was the last of the mule pics. I will try to touch base with some of Olan's television work, but let's stick to the big screen for a bit more.

North by Northwest (1959) may be the finest production in which you will find Soule. He plays an assistant auctioneer and he does not get screen credit. The next year he is in Bells Are Ringing with Judy Holliday and Dean Martin.

In 1962 he is an elevator operator in Days of Wine and Roses. It appears he is not getting decent roles in movies, but on TV he is found everywhere. Actually there isn't much more to talk about as far as Olan's movies. In the 1970's you will find him in The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976). Soule's final film was Homicide in 1991, starring Joe Mantegna and William H. Macy, and he played a forensic detective similar to what he did on "Dragnet."

Olan Soule is best known for his work on television. He had a range of expressions and a big, fluid voice that worked well on the small screen. People who met him were often disappointed because he was so slight but performed with such a big voice on radio. After his success on "Dragnet" and "Captain Midnight" he was sought by producers for more guest roles on TV.

The bulk of his work and all of his important roles were on television, and he would appear in all genres with multiple appearances on such diverse shows as "The Real McCoys" to "One Step Beyond." He must have been popular with Jack Benny as he appeared on his show multiple times from 1958 to 1961.

Olan has multiple appearances on "Bachelor Father," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "The Untouchables," "77 Sunset Strip," "Mister Ed," "The Andy Griffith Show," "Perry Mason," "My Favorite Martian," "The F.B.I.," "Petticoat Junction," "Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C.," and "My Three Sons." And that only takes us up to, it EXCLUDES the westerns he was in!

Soule was the first voice of the animated Batman in 1966, and continued that gig for almost 20 years. He even voiced Batman in "The New Scooby-Doo Movies."

His westerns included all of the best series', including "Sugarfoot," "The Rebel," "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Stagecoach West," "Rawhide," "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," etc., and the aforementioned "Have Gun, Will Travel."

Olan Soule appears on screen hundreds and hundreds of times, and you can't miss him. Even when he is a ticket clerk, working in a bank, or a traveling salesman. Somehow he always stands out from the rest of the Bit Actors all around him.


  1. I saw the title of this post and had absolutely no idea who Olan Soule was. All I had to do was scroll down and take one look at his picture, "Oh, HIM!" One of those familiar faces in the background - and sometimes foreground - of dozens of TV shows. He had a great face along with that voice. Hope he made lots of money in his long career as a bit actor.

    1. Yes, Eve, that is why I had to write about him. After a few years of writing this blog, you would think I wrote about all the great Bit Actors. Then another one shows up. And that one has been paired with others that I need to write about.

      Should I ask for a raise? :-)

  2. My husband and I have enjoyed Olan Soule's character actor roles on both TV and films, starting with the Filmation animated superheroes and making our way to NORTH BY NORTHWEST and THIS ISLAND EARTH, including another character actor favorite, Les Tremaine. We're glad we finally know how to pronounce Soule's last name ("So-lay," not "sool," as we'd assumed all these years." I'll make a note of it for future reference! :-)! Great post!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Dorian. Soule is another one of those nameless faces that you see everywhere. I'm glad I can bring him some recognition.

      I have been wanting to re-watch N by NW for sometime now. I saw it when it was released at Radio City in NYC. There is nothing like that scene on Mt. Rushmore on the big screen in that theater!

    2. You're so right, and by the way, tonight's prime TCM time lineup (September 8th, 2013) continues "Sunday With Hitch" with FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT at 8 p.m., and my favorite, NORTH BY NORTHWEST), at 10:15 p.m.! Enjoy!

  3. I sorta remember his voice more than his face, but both are memorable. Of course, as Batman, but I think he did more animated work than is generally credited...or maybe it's just seeing him as an iconic Batman all the time.

    I think he lent his voice to other animated features that would be re-voiced for the American market, such as "Fantastic Planet" and others, even uncredited work.

    1. It would not surprise me to know that he did uncredited voice work. That is the nature of being an actor. Most likely, he did ad work as well, and nobody writes about that.

      Thanks for taking the time to write.

  4. After seeing his picture, I knew him immediaqtely from many roles. But the role that sprung to mind was as the nervous Choir director in The Andy Griffith Show when Barney joins the choir but cannot sing, among other episodes.

    1. Thanks, Jim. That is one of my favorite episodes! "Barney and the Choir" from 1962.

      Barney's alternate voice was sung by Delos Jewkes (1895 - 1984). Jewkes had been singing in movies since 1935, and you can also see him in The Music Man (1962).

      Olan Soule was perfect in the role as the frustrated choir director.


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