Edward Everett Horton

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Edward Everett Horton
Edward Everett Horton.jpg
Born (1886-03-18)March 18, 1886
Brooklyn, New York City
New York, U.S.
Died September 29, 1970(1970-09-29) (aged 84)
Encino, California, U.S.
Other names E.E. Horton
Edward Horton
Alma mater Oberlin College
Occupation Actor
Years active 1906–1970
Partner(s) Gavin Gordon[1]

Edward Everett Horton (March 18, 1886 – September 29, 1970) was an American character actor.[2] He had a long career in film, theater, radio, and television, especially in the arena of voice work for animated cartoons. He is remembered for his work in the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Early life[edit]

Horton was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Isabella S. Diack and Edward Everett Horton. His mother was born in Matanzas, Cuba to Mary Orr and George Diack, immigrants from Scotland.[3] Horton attended the Boys' High School, Brooklyn, and Baltimore City College high school in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was inducted into that school's Hall of Fame.[4] He began his college career at Oberlin College in Ohio. He was asked to leave after an incident where he climbed to the top of the Service Building, and after collecting an audience, threw off a dummy, causing the viewers to think he had jumped. Later, he attended college at Brooklyn Polytechnic and Columbia University, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi.

Stage and film career[edit]

Horton started his stage career in 1906, singing and dancing and playing small parts in Vaudeville and in Broadway productions. In 1919, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he began acting in Hollywood films. His first starring role was in the comedy Too Much Business (1922), and he portrayed the lead role of an idealistic young classical composer in Beggar on Horseback (1925). In the late 1920s he starred in two-reel silent comedies for Educational Pictures, and made the transition to talking pictures with Educational in 1929. As a stage trained performer, he found more film work easily, and appeared in some of Warner Bros.' early talkies, including The Hottentot and Sonny Boy (1929).

Horton originally went under his given name, Edward Horton. His father persuaded him to adopt his full name professionally, reasoning that there might be other actors named Edward Horton, but only one named Edward Everett Horton.

Horton's screen character was instantly defined from his earliest talkies: pleasant and dignified, but politely hesitant when faced with a potentially embarrassing situation. Horton soon cultivated his own special variation of the time-honored double take (an actor's reaction to something, followed by a delayed, more extreme reaction). In Horton's version, he would smile ingratiatingly and nod in agreement with what just happened; then, when realization set in, his facial features collapsed entirely into a sober, troubled mask.

Horton starred in many comedy features in the 1930s, usually playing a mousy fellow who put up with domestic or professional problems to a certain point, and then finally asserted himself for a happy ending. He is best known, however, for his work as a character actor in supporting roles. These include The Front Page (1931), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Alice in Wonderland (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935, one of several Astaire/Rogers films in which Horton appeared), Danger - Love at Work (1937), Lost Horizon (1937), Holiday (1938), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and Sex and the Single Girl (1964). He last appeared in a non-speaking role in Cold Turkey (1971).

Horton continued to appear in stage productions, often in summer stock. His performance in the play Springtime for Henry became a perennial in summer theaters.[5]

Radio and television[edit]

From 1945 to 1947, Horton hosted radio's Kraft Music Hall. An early television appearance came in Sham. During the 1950s, Horton worked in television. One of his most famous appearances is on an episode of CBS's I Love Lucy, in which he is cast against type as a frisky, amorous suitor. (Horton, a last-minute replacement for another actor, received a special, appreciative credit in this episode.) In 1960, he guest starred on ABC's sitcom, The Real McCoys, as J. Luther Medwick, grandfather of the boyfriend of series character Hassie McCoy (Lydia Reed). In the story line, Medwick clashes with the equally outspoken Grandpa Amos McCoy (Walter Brennan).

He remains, however, best known to the Baby Boomer Generation as the venerable narrator of "Fractured Fairy Tales" in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,[6] an American animated television series that originally aired from November 19, 1959, to June 27, 1964, on the ABC and NBC television networks.

In 1962, he portrayed the character 'Uncle Ned' in three episodes of the CBS television series Dennis the Menace. In 1965, he played the medicine man, Roaring Chicken, in the ABC sitcom F Troop. He parodied this role, portraying "Chief Screaming Chicken" on ABC's Batman as a pawn to Vincent Price's Egghead in the villain's attempt to take control of Gotham City.

Death and influence[edit]

Horton died of cancer at age 84 in Encino, California. His remains were interred in Glendale's Whispering Pines section of Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

In 1925, Horton purchased several acres in the district of Encino and lived on the property at 5521 Amestoy Avenue until his death. He named the estate, which contained Horton's own house and houses for his brother, his sister and their respective families, Belleigh Acres.[2] In the 1950s, the state of California forced Horton to sell a portion of his property for construction of the Ventura Freeway. The freeway construction left a short stump of Amestoy Avenue south of Burbank Boulevard and shortly after his death, the city of Los Angeles renamed that portion Edward Everett Horton Lane.[7] For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Horton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6427 Hollywood Boulevard.

In a scene in Friz Freleng's cartoon Hare Trigger, Yosemite Sam (in his debut) calls himself "the meanest, toughest, rip-roarin'-est, Edward Everett Horton-est hombre what ever packed a six-shooter!"

Partial filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1923 Ruggles of Red Gap Ruggles Credited as Edward Horton
1924 Helen's Babies Uncle Harry
1926 La Bohème Colline
1929 Ask Dad Dad Short film
Sonny Boy Crandall Thorpe
The Aviator Robert Steele
1930 Wide Open Simon Haldane
Holiday Nick Potter
1931 Kiss Me Again René Alternative title: Toast of the Legion
Lonely Wives Richard Smith/Felix, the Great Zero
The Front Page Roy V. Bensinger
Smart Woman Billy Ross
1932 Trouble in Paradise François Filiba
1933 Soldiers of the King Sebastian Marvello
A Bedtime Story Victor Dubois
Alice in Wonderland The Hatter
Design for Living Max Plunkett
It's a Boy Dudley Leake
1934 Kiss and Make-Up Marcel Caron
Smarty
Ladies Should Listen Paul Vernet
The Merry Widow Ambassador Popoff
The Gay Divorcee Egbert Fitzgerald
1935 The Private Secretary Reverend Robert Spalding
The Devil Is a Woman Governor Don "Paquitito" Paquito
Little Big Shot
All the King's Horses Count Josef von Schlapstaat
Going Highbrow Augie Winterspoon
Top Hat Horace Hardwick
1936 Man in the Mirror Jeremy Dilke
1937 Lost Horizon Alexander P. Lovett
Shall We Dance Jeffrey Baird
Danger - Love at Work Howard Rogers
Hitting a New High
The King and the Chorus Girl
The Great Garrick Tubby
Angel Graham
1938 Bluebeard's Eighth Wife The Marquis De Loiselle
College Swing Hubert Dash
Holiday Professor Nick Potter
1939 That’s Right You’re Wrong Tom Village
The Gang's All Here Treadwell
1941 Ziegfeld Girl Noble Sage
Sunny Henry Bates
Here Comes Mr. Jordan Messenger 7013
1942 The Magnificent Dope Horace Hunter
I Married an Angel Peter
Springtime in the Rockies McTavish
1943 Forever and a Day Sir Anthony Trimble-Pomfret
Thank Your Lucky Stars Farnsworth
The Gang's All Here Peyton Potter
1944 Arsenic and Old Lace Mr. Witherspoon
Brazil Everett St. John Everett
The Town Went Wild Everett Conway
1945 Lady on a Train Mr. Haskell
1947 Down to Earth Messenger 7013
1947 Her Husband's Affairs
1957 The Story of Mankind Sir Walter Raleigh
1961 Pocketful of Miracles Hudgins
1963 One Got Fat Narrator Short subject
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Cameo as Mr. Dinckler
1964 Sex and the Single Girl The Chief
1967 The Perils of Pauline Caspar Coleman
1971 Cold Turkey Hiram C. Grayson (non-speaking role) Released posthumously
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1949 The Ford Theatre Hour Sheridan Whiteside 1 episode
1952 I Love Lucy Mr. Ritter 1 episode
1956 General Electric Theater Mr. Parkinson 1 episode
1957 Playhouse 90 Mr. Carver 1 episode
1959–1964 The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends Many Roles All episodes
1960 The Real McCoys Mr. Medwick 1 episode
1962 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Senator Crabtree 1 episode
1962–1963 Dennis the Menace Ned Matthews 3 episodes
1963 Our Man Higgins Rawley "Who's on First?" with Don Drysdale
1965 Burke's Law Wilbur Starlington 1 episode
1965–1966 F Troop Roaring Chicken 6 episodes
1966 Batman Chief Screaming Chicken episodes 47 and 48
1969 It Takes a Thief Lord Pelham-Gifford 1 episode
1970 Nanny and the Professor Professor Clarendon 1 episode
1971 The Governor & J.J. Doc Simon 2 episodes

References[edit]

  1. ^ Slide, Anthony (13 November 1998). Eccentrics of Comedy. Scarecrow Press. p. 65. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  2. ^ a b Fowler, James (12 April 1997). "Horton's House Grew with Film Career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  3. ^ "Edward Everett Horton, Jr.". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  4. ^ Bernstein, Neil (2008). "Notable City College Knights". Baltimore: Baltimore City College Alumni Association. 
  5. ^ Aliperti, Cliff (7 December 2011). "Edward Everett Horton – Biography of the Beloved Character Actor". Immortal Ephemera. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  6. ^ Desowitz, Bill (27 August 1999). "Something 'Fractured,' Something New". Los Angeles Times (LATimes.com). Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  7. ^ "Edward Everett Horton's Encino Ranch Estate and the 101 Freeway; How A Celebrity Lost His Ranch to Suburbanization". San Fernando Valley Blog. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 

Listen to[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Edward Everett Horton at Wikimedia Commons