By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin January 23, 2014 at 12:00AM
My wife knows how to make me smile: she just gave me some
shoeshine cloths featuring Edward Everett Horton on the package! As a fan and
connoisseur of character actors from Hollywood’s golden age, nothing could
please me more. And who knows, maybe I’ll even use the disposable wipes to make
my shoes look better.
I don’t imagine the people at The Decent Man’s Grooming Tools could identify Mr. Horton: whoever designed their product line probably looked for amusing shots in a photo morgue, and that’s that. If the researcher had been more movie-savvy he or she might have sought out a pose of Arthur Treacher, who, after all, was the ultimate movie butler. (He even played P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves character in a couple of late 1930s movies.)
But I’m not complaining. It’s fun to see Edward Everett diligently shining shoes with a wry smile on his face. (Trivia note: did you know that there is a street named after the actor in Encino, California? He purchased a substantial amount of land there in 1926 and built a mansion with 17 rooms and 14 fireplaces…but when the city of Los Angeles built the 101 Freeway in 1960 he was forced to surrender part of his property. In return, the city named a portion of Amestoy Avenue in his name.)
I checked the other packages in the Decent Man’s catalog and while there are some other vintage movie stills, I could only peg one other actor for sure: Norman Foster in an early 1930s movie, wearing shirtsleeves and agonizing over something he’s writing on his vintage typewriter. The product: Pit Protectors…because we all sweat.”
A final note on Edward Everett Horton. I first became acquainted with his name, and voice, when he narrated the “Fractured Fairy Tales” segments on Jay Ward’s Rocky and his Friends TV series. He was in his 70s at the time but his voice was as distinctive as ever. Writer-producer (and voice artist) Bill Scott told me that he marveled at Horton’s energy and asked him about it one day. Edward Everett replied, “Well, Bill, let me put it this way: when we’re done with this recording session, I’m attending a birthday party for my mother.” He lived to be 84.