He possessed the sexual allure of a vegetable grown in poor light.
A cartoon version of Dust-Bowl produce, prematurely uprooted from the parched earth... Was this etiolated radish a batty answer to audiences in need—some unhinged nostrum for a nation suffering under otherwise incurable blues? Depression Lesson #12 argues Sterling Holloway (oh, yes!) delivered.
And he did so mainly by playing a miracle of employability.
No character actor embraced his inner schlump with such acquiescent sideways momentum, flung at a framed, highly realistic world of earnings by an invisible hand. His ample red pate and prodigious honker had more mass than his entire body, which resembled a crimped and wavering line, unsettled by the slightest vibration. The free enterprise system—holographic beyond the movie palace, tantalizingly real within it—gave Holloway's bellhops and cabbies the chance to mock our glimmering vision.
He handed it back to us with a smile seesawing between sly and dopey.
Holloway's side-kick roles usually meant shrugging through life. And yet, he could also muster glowering fatalism with the best of them. In 1933's Wild Boys of the Road, the odd example where he's utterly destitute, his face curdles as he ejects a profound "Phooey!" Played for laughs, it echoes in the baffling malignity of the universe.