Most people would recognize Arthur Anderson only by the Irish brogue he put on for his most famous role: the Lucky Charms leprechaun.
But Anderson, who died Sunday in Manhattan at age 93, was much more than just the voice of Lucky Charms.
“His range was incredible,” Sean Dougherty, an organizer of Friends of Old Time Radio conventions, told The New York Times. “He made himself famous playing a leprechaun, though he wasn’t in any way Irish. On ‘Let’s Pretend,’ he played a troll, a parrot, a giant in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ He was always the oddball voice. Arthur said: ‘I never got the girl, not in 19 seasons. I was never starred, I was never featured. But I always worked.'”
Arthur began working in radio at only age 12. According to The New York Daily News, Anderson’s voice was first heard on “Uncle Nick Kenny’s Radio Kindergarten” and then on the NBC show “Tony and Gus,” where he played an orphan with a talent for the ukulele. And for 20 years, he lent his voice to the show “Let’s Pretend,” which re-enacted fairy tales; Anderson worked on the program from 1936 to 1954.
In 1963, at age 41, he auditioned for the famous, and oft-mimicked, role of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. The Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample advertising agency was looking to sell its toasted oats and marshmallow bits cereal, sold by General Mills. He got the part, and considered it a wedding present after marrying his wife, Alice. She died last year.
Anderson’s Irish brogue became famous, and NPR provided a script of his most well-known lines.
“Pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers.”
Or, “They’re always after me Lucky Charms!”
“Frosted Lucky Charms — they’re magically delicious.”
Of course, Arthur wasn’t in the least bit Irish (he was born on Staten Island to immigrants from Denmark and England), but he said he had an “Irish-sounding name.” Anderson provided the voice for the animated character from 1963 to 1992, and didn’t regret a single minute of it.
“It was a fun character to play. Hardly a day goes by when somebody doesn’t ask me to sing the Lucky Charms jingle, and I’m proud of that.”
And if you think one of the perks of providing the iconic voice is free Lucky Charms, you’d be wrong. Arthur said he “never got free cereal. But they gave me lots of green money.”
Anderson did much more than help General Mills sell cereal. In 1937, he played alongside 22-year-old Orson Welles in a Broadway production of Julius Cesar that was set in Fascist Italy. He played Lucius and strummed a ukulele camouflaged as a lute.
In his memoir, Arthur wrote about his most memorable moment working on that play. Only 15 at the time, he was chided for throwing light bulbs against a brick wall backstage. So he moved on to lighting matches near the sprinkler heads. This set off the alarm and sprinklers when Welles (who played Brutus) was on stage; the water spayed on him as he climbed the pulpit over Cesar’s body.
Arthur made a run for it, but paused to call his mother first on a pay phone. As the story goes, he told her, “Hey, Mom, I’ll be home early.”
After getting his teenage mischief out of his system, Arthur Anderson had roles in movies Midnight Cowboy, Zelig, I’m Not Rappaport, and TV shows Car 54, Where Are You?, and Law & Order. He was the voice of Drake’s Cakes mascot Ducky Drake; performed with the Metropolitan Opera; was a puppeteer with “The Rootie Kazootie Club”; wrote two memoirs; and regularly appeared at Friends of Old Time Radio conventions.
Many will remember Arthur Anderson for one role above all: the impish leprechaun with red hair and a green coat, singing, “Frosted Lucky Charms, they’re magically delicious.”
[Photo By Pamela D. Maxwell/Shutterstock]