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Edward Everett Horton

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Edward Everett Horton
Horton in 1941
Edward Everett Horton Jr.

(1886-03-18)March 18, 1886
New York City, U.S.
DiedSeptember 29, 1970(1970-09-29) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California
Other namesE. E. Horton
Edward Horton
Edward E. Horton
Alma materOberlin College (no degree)
Brooklyn Polytechnic
Columbia University
  • Actor
  • singer
  • dancer
Years active1906–1970

Edward Everett Horton Jr. (March 18, 1886 – September 29, 1970) was an American character actor.[1] He had a long career in film, theater, radio, television, and voice work for animated cartoons.

Early life[edit]

Horton was born March 18, 1886, on the west end of Long Island in Kings County, New York, (now the Borough of Brooklyn, in the City of New York, since consolidation of five boroughs in 1898) to Edward Everett Horton, a typesetter / compositor in the press room for The New York Times, and his wife, Isabella S. (née Diack) Horton.[2] His father was of English and German ancestry, and his mother was Cuban / Spanish born in Matanzas Province, Cuba, to George and Mary (née Orr) Diack, also natives of Scotland.[3] He first attended the old Boys' High School in Brooklyn (now merged as Boys and Girls High School). Later at the turn of the 20th century, the family moved south to Baltimore, Maryland and he went to The Baltimore City College (an all-boys "magnet" and the third-oldest active public high school in the United States.[4] Its curriculum focused on humanities, social studies, the arts and the classics. He attended in 1902-1904 and later was inducted into the school's alumni/faculty Hall of Fame in 1959.[5]

He was a student at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where he majored in German language and literature. However, he was asked to leave after a prankish incident when he climbed to the top of a building and, after a crowd gathered, threw off a dummy, making them think he had jumped. Returning to New York City, he attended the old Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now incorporated as a graduate school within New York University) for one year, until the P.I.B. school discontinued its arts courses; he then moved on across the East River to the Columbia University (then as Columbia College) on Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a brief period, "until I got fouled up with The Varsity Show of 1909. This was the first time I had really ever been on the stage ... After that, to put it gently, Columbia and I came to an amicable parting of the ways. They were just as glad to see me go as I was to get out."[6] That concluded Horton's brief collegiate period.

Stage and film career[edit]

Horton had begun his stage career at age 20 in 1906, singing and dancing and playing small parts in productions during his brief college experiences, then vaudeville, and Broadway productions. His father persuaded him to adopt his full name professionally. "Originally, I went under the name of just Edward Horton. My father said, 'I think you're making a mistake, Edward. Anybody could be Edward Horton, but nobody else could be Edward Everett Horton.' I said, 'I think I like that.'"[7]

In 1919, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began acting in Hollywood films of the growing film community in southern California. His first starring role was in the silent film comedy Too Much Business (1922), and he portrayed the lead role of an idealistic young classical music composer in the comedy Beggar on Horseback (1925). In 1927–29, he starred in eight two-reel silent comedies produced by Harold Lloyd for Paramount Pictures release. He made the transition to sound films with Educational Pictures in 1929, in a series of sound-comedy playlets. As a stage-trained performer, he found more film work easily and appeared in several Warner Bros. movies, including The Terror (1928) and Sonny Boy (1929).

Horton soon cultivated his own special variation of the double take (an actor's reaction to something, followed by a delayed, more extreme reaction). In Horton's version, he smiled ingratiatingly and nodded in agreement with what just happened; then, when realization set in, his facial features collapsed entirely into a sober, troubled mask.

As Horton became known for his performances in movies, he continued to work on the legitimate stage, which he preferred.[8] He appeared with Gavin Gordon in a 1931 production of Private Lives by Noël Coward.[8]

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 remembered, however, for his work in supporting roles. These include The Front Page (1931), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Alice in Wonderland (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934, the first of several Astaire/Rogers films in which Horton appeared), Top Hat (1935), Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935), 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). His last role was in the comedy film Cold Turkey (1971), in which his character communicated only through facial expressions.

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.[9]

Horton was so prolific he sometimes found himself committed to two projects at the same time. One project would be in progress while the second project suddenly came up sooner than expected, forcing Horton to make other arrangements. In 1953, Horton announced on the ABC-TV game show The Name's the Same that his next picture would be one of the Ma and Pa Kettle comedies. A scheduling conflict compelled Horton to bow out, and his role in Ma and Pa Kettle at Home was played by Alan Mowbray.

In 1960, Horton was approached by his former director Frank Capra to work in the new film Pocketful of Miracles. Horton wanted to rejoin Capra, but had a commitment to finish a stage run of the play Once Upon a Mattress; the show wouldn't be closing for another two weeks. Horton phoned Buster Keaton, who had played the same role in an earlier production, and asked if Keaton could replace him. Keaton finished the play's run, and Horton made the Capra film.

In late 1963 Edward Everett Horton joined the national touring company of the Broadway hit A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, alongside co-stars Jerry Lester, Arnold Stang, and Erik Rhodes.[10] The show ran eleven months.

Radio and television[edit]

From 1945 to 1947, Horton hosted radio's Kraft Music Hall. An early television appearance came in the play Sham, shown on The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre on December 13, 1948. During the 1950s, Horton worked primarily in television. One of his best-remembered appearances is in an episode of I Love Lucy, broadcast in 1952, in which he is cast against type as a frisky, amorous suitor. In 1960, he guest-starred on The Real McCoys as J. Luther Medwick, grandfather of the boyfriend of series character Hassie McCoy (Lydia Reed). In the story, Medwick clashes with the equally outspoken Grandpa Amos McCoy (played by Walter Brennan).

He remains, however, best known to younger Saturday-morning-television viewers of the "baby boomers" generation (born after World War II era, 1946-1964) as the venerable narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales segments with the retelling of earlier famous fairy tales and legends from previous centuries on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show animation / cartoon program (1959–1961),[11] an American animated / cartoon television series that originally aired from November 19, 1959, to June 27, 1964.

In 1962, he portrayed the character Uncle Ned in three episodes of Dennis the Menace. In 1965, he guest-starred in an episode of The Cara Williams Show. He also played occasionally in two memorable TV shows from the 1960s as the medicine man, "Roaring Chicken" of the neighboring non-hostile peace-loving but cowardly Kioway Indian tribe, decked out in beaded / fringed deerskin native Indian garb, in F Troop (1965-1967). This spoof Western / U.S. Cavalry comedy series set after the American Civil War era also starring troopers Forrest Tucker, Ken Berry and Larry Storch at fictional Fort Courage. He echoed this funny Indian role, portraying a "Chief Screaming Chicken", on the 1966-1968 TV show version of Batman two years later, as a pawn to another guest villain portrayed by Vincent Price's "Egghead".

Personal life[edit]

Horton never discussed his private life publicly, but in 1968 he granted an interview to writers Bernard Rosenberg and Harry Silverstein in which he reviewed his life and career, punctuated by self-effacing remarks ("Nobody's older than I am. Oh, a few people are, but they are not in circulation").[7] Published in 1970, the interview only skims through his personal relationships. Horton recalled that, rather than dating or nightclubbing, he would invite his female co-stars to attend parties he was throwing. "I never married. However, I have not given up hope. This is Leap Year [1968], you know."[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

Horton died of cancer on September 29, 1970, at age 84 in the Encino area of Los Angeles, California, where he had lived for 45 years, since buying property there in the mid-1920s, early in his Hollywood career. His remains were interred in nearby Glendale's Whispering Pines section of Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.[12]

In 1925, Horton purchased several acres in the district of Encino, Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley and lived on the property at 5521 Amestoy Avenue until his death. He named the ranch estate "Belleigh Acres", and it contained Horton's own house and several adjacent houses for his brother, his sister and their respective families.[1] In 1939, just before the Second World War, the famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald (also from Baltimore), rented a house on the estate. He was working on his unfinished last novel The Last Tycoon in his final years. In the 1950s, the State of California forced Horton to sell a portion of his property for construction of the adjacent 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 of the avenue as Edward Everett Horton Lane in his honor / memory.[13]

Later British radio DJ and comedian Kenny Everett adopted the last name of Everett in honor of Horton, who was a childhood hero of his. (His real name was Maurice Cole).[14]

Horton is commemorated with a plaque / photo since the 1960s among dozens of other alumni and faculty in the Hall of Fame corridor at the "Castle on the Hill" current building / campus since 1928 of his alma mater, The Baltimore City College (high school) on "Collegian Hill", at 33rd Street and The Alameda, 21218, in northeast Baltimore.

Plus a similar memorial photo/plaque in a wall exhibit listing famous successful graduates of Baltimore City Public Schools at their Alice Pinderhughes Administrative Headquarters at East North Avenue and North Calvert Street, Baltimore 21218, from the 150th Anniversary celebration of 1829-1979 and the renovation / reconstruction of the old 1913-1967 building of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (high school) as BCPS offices in 1983-1984.

For his contribution to the Hollywood motion picture industry, Horton has a star on the famed list of sidewalk stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6427 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.[15]


Year Title Role Notes
1922 Too Much Business John Henry Jackson (film debut)
The Ladder Jinx Arthur Barnes
A Front Page Story Rodney Marvin
1923 Ruggles of Red Gap Ruggles Credited as Edward Horton
The Vow of Vengeance
To the Ladies Leonard Beebe
1924 Flapper Wives Vincent Platt
Try and Get It Glenn Collins
The Man Who Fights Alone Bob Alten
Helen's Babies Uncle Harry with Clara Bow and Baby Peggy
1925 Beggar on Horseback Neil McRae
Marry Me John Smith No. 2
The Business of Love Edward Burgess
1926 La Bohème Colline
The Nutcracker Horatio Slipaway
Poker Faces Jimmy Whitmore
The Whole Town's Talking Chester Binney
1927 Taxi! Taxi! Peter Whitby
No Publicity Eddie Howard silent short
Find the King Eddie Fairchild silent short
1928 Dad's Choice Eddie silent short
Behind the Counter Eddie Baxter silent short
Horse Shy Eddie Hamilton silent short
Scrambled Weddings Eddie Howe silent short
Call Again Eddie silent short
Vacation Waves Eddie Davis silent short
The Terror Ferdinand Fane
Miss Information Representative Vitaphone sound short
1929 Ask Dad Dad sound short
The Eligible Mr. Bangs Mr. Bangs sound short
The Right Bed Bobby Kent sound short
Trusting Wives sound short
Prince Gabby sound short
Good Medicine sound short
Sonny Boy Crandall Thorpe
The Hottentot Sam Harrington
The Sap The Sap
The Aviator Robert Steele
1930 Take the Heir Smithers
Wide Open Simon Haldane
Holiday Nick Potter
Once a Gentleman Oliver
Reaching for the Moon Roger - the Valet
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
Six Cylinder Love Monty Winston
Smart Woman Billy Ross
The Age for Love Horace Keats
1932 But the Flesh Is Weak Sir George Kelvin
Roar of the Dragon Busby
Trouble in Paradise François Filiba
1933 Soldiers of the King Sebastian Marvello
A Bedtime Story Victor Dubois
It's a Boy Dudley Leake
The Way to Love Prof. Gaston Bibi
Design for Living Max Plunkett
Alice in Wonderland The Mad Hatter
1934 Easy to Love Eric
The Poor Rich Albert Stuyvesant Spottiswood
Success at Any Price Fisher
Uncertain Lady Elliot Crane
Sing and Like It Adam Frink - Producer
Smarty Vernon
Kiss and Make-Up Marcel Caron
Ladies Should Listen Paul Vernet
The Merry Widow Ambassador Popoff
The Gay Divorcee Egbert Fitzgerald
1935 Biography of a Bachelor Girl Leander 'Bunny' Nolan
The Night Is Young Baron Szereny
All the King's Horses Count Josef von Schlapstaat
The Devil Is a Woman Gov. Don Paquito 'Paquitito'
$10 Raise Hubert T. Wilkins leading role
In Caliente Harold Brandon
Going Highbrow Augie Winterspoon
Top Hat Horace Hardwick
The Private Secretary Reverend Robert Spalding
Little Big Shot Mortimer
His Night Out Homer B. Bitts leading role
Your Uncle Dudley Dudley Dixon leading role
1936 Her Master's Voice Ned Farrar leading role
The Singing Kid Davenport Rogers
Nobody's Fool Will Wright leading role
Hearts Divided John
The Man in the Mirror Jeremy Dilke dual role, lead
Let's Make a Million Harrison Gentry leading role
1937 Lost Horizon Alexander P. Lovett
The King and the Chorus Girl Count Humbert Evel Bruger
Oh, Doctor Edward J. Billop leading role
Shall We Dance Jeffrey Baird
Wild Money P.E. Dodd leading role
Danger – Love at Work Howard Rogers
Angel Graham
The Perfect Specimen Mr. Grattan
The Great Garrick Tubby
Hitting a New High Lucius B. Blynn
1938 Bluebeard's Eighth Wife The Marquis De Loiselle
College Swing Hubert Dash
Holiday Professor Nick Potter
Little Tough Guys in Society Oliver
1939 Paris Honeymoon Ernest Figg
The Gang's All Here Treadwell
That's Right—You're Wrong Tom Village
1941 You're the One Death Valley Joe Frink
Ziegfeld Girl Noble Sage
Sunny Henry Bates
Bachelor Daddy Joseph Smith
Here Comes Mr. Jordan Messenger 7013
Week-End for Three Stonebraker
The Body Disappears Professor Shotesbury
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 Her Primitive Man Orrin
Summer Storm Count 'Piggy' Volsky
Arsenic and Old Lace Mr. Witherspoon
San Diego, I Love You Philip McCooley
Brazil Everett St. John Everett
The Town Went Wild Everett Conway
1945 Steppin' in Society Judge Avery Webster
Lady on a Train Mr. Haskell
1946 Cinderella Jones Keating
Faithful in My Fashion Hiram Dilworthy
Earl Carroll Sketchbook Dr. Milo Edwards
1947 The Ghost Goes Wild Eric
Down to Earth Messenger 7013
Her Husband's Affairs J. B. Cruikshank
1955 Max Liebman Presents: The Merry Widow Baron Zelta TV movie
1956 Saturday Spectacular: Manhattan Tower Noah TV movie
1957 The Story of Mankind Sir Walter Raleigh
1961 Pocketful of Miracles Hudgins, butler
1963 One Got Fat Narrator short subject
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Mr. Dinckler
1964 Sex and the Single Girl The Chief
1967 The Perils of Pauline Caspar Coleman
1969 2000 Years Later Evermore
1971 Cold Turkey Hiram C. Grayson (non-speaking role) (final film role); released posthumously

Partial television credits[edit]

Year Title Role Episode(s)
1949 The Ford Theatre Hour (The Man Who Came to Dinner) 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 Narrator, Fractured Fairy Tales All episodes
1960 The Real McCoys J. Luther 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 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

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Musical Comedy Theater On an Island with You[16]


  1. ^ a b Fowler, James (April 12, 1997). "Horton's House Grew with Film Career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  2. ^ "Actor Edward Everett Horton Dies at 84". Dayton Beach Morning Journal. October 1, 1970.
  3. ^ "Edward Everett Horton, Jr". Ancestry.com. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  4. ^ Anft, Michael. "Contrasting studies". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on September 9, 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  5. ^ Bernstein, Neil (2008). "Notable City College Knights". Baltimore, Maryland: The Baltimore City College Alumni Association.
  6. ^ Edward Everett Horton, interviewed by Bernard Rosenberg and Harry Silverstein in The Real Tinsel, Macmillan, 1970.
  7. ^ a b c Edward Everett Horton, to Rosenberg and Silverstein.
  8. ^ a b "Edward Everett Horton - Hollywood's Golden Age". hollywoodsgoldenage.com.
  9. ^ Aliperti, Cliff (December 7, 2011). "Edward Everett Horton – Biography of the Beloved Character Actor". Immortal Ephemera. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  10. ^ The Internet Broadway Database: https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-the-forum-529329#OpeningNightCast
  11. ^ Desowitz, Bill (August 27, 1999). "Something 'Fractured,' Something New". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  12. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 353. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  13. ^ "Edward Everett Horton's Encino Ranch Estate and the 101 Freeway; How A Celebrity Lost His Ranch to Suburbanization". San Fernando Valley Blog. April 4, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Seventies Music. Virgin, Muze. p. 148. ISBN 0753501546.
  15. ^ "Edward Everett Horton".
  16. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 16, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved May 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon

Listen to[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Rosenberg, Bernard, and Silverstein, Harry (1970). "Edward Everett Horton". The Real Tinsel (hardcover) (First ed.). New York: MacMillan. ISBN 978-1199462787.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Edward Everett Horton". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 125–128. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External links[edit]

Media related to Edward Everett Horton at Wikimedia Commons