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Reasons To Be Happy

by Leonard Maltin
January 23, 2014 12:00 AM
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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.)

Norman Foster as seen in the early 1930s, before he left acting behind to become a director.

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.

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  • DENIS WHITBURN | February 15, 2014 5:24 PMReply

    Horton was a class act member of a Class Act community of 30's-50's character actors making the stars look good-to-great... James Gleeson, Thomas Gomez, Sydney Greenstreet, Roscoe Karns, Edgar Buchanan, William Demarest, Fred Clark, and they are the tip of the iceberg... there is a
    documentary awaiting saluting these grand masters of 'scene stealing' we never seem to tire of.

  • Richard Potter | February 1, 2014 6:59 PMReply

    Horton and his wife were so disgusted with the American K-12 education system, they pulled their children from school and took then on an around-the-world cruise on the family yacht.

  • Peter | January 31, 2014 8:27 PMReply

    Speaking of Arthur Treacher and Jeeves, I don't suppose, Leonard, you could use your influence with Turner Classic Movies and convince them to show those films? Please?

  • Dave Kirwan | January 29, 2014 11:43 AMReply

    Don't have all the details at my finger tips at the moment, but in the 1950's Mr. Horton was vacationing in Northern Minnesota. He showed up for auditions at a local amateur theatrical group, the Duluth Playhouse! He got a part, and for the next few weeks, thrilled locals rehearsed then performed on stage with an authentic movie star. I've seen old photos from the production, and everyone seems to be having the time of their lives!

  • John | January 25, 2014 6:40 PMReply

    I've never seen a movie that E.E. Horton wasn't good in. The guy was a ringer. Even in early talkies like 'Smarty' his presence lifts the proceedings up a notch. I also wear shoes.

  • Norm | January 24, 2014 11:53 AMReply

    Interesting items , but I would have chosen Alan Mowbray, quintessential or not...Now, if I could only find Colonel Flack or Frank Jenks... Harder to locate than Horton Lane.

  • Jim D'Arcy | January 24, 2014 11:12 AMReply

    My guesses are Milton Sills the sailor, Richard Dix taking a punch, - and Stu Erwin twice- sewing and whistling???

  • Lee | January 24, 2014 1:25 AMReply

    If I remember right, in addition to narrating "Fractured Fairy Tales" on "Rocky and Bullwinkle" Horton also provided voices to Jay Ward's "Fractured Flickers".

    Didn't he also play the hardware store owner in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"?

  • mike schlesinger | February 3, 2014 5:12 PM

    Yes, he was indeed Mr. Dinkler. Bit of trivia: at 76, he was the oldest actor in the film with a speaking part. (Tom Kennedy, who played the traffic cop during the final chase, was one year older.)

  • Rick Libott | January 23, 2014 11:20 PMReply

    I live in the Horton Lane condo complex in Encino which sits on part of EEH's old estate. Edward Everett Horton Lane is the cross street to the east

  • Nat Segaloff | January 23, 2014 5:26 PMReply

    Glad you've taken a shine to Edward Everett Horton, and vice-versa. I, too, first heard him narrating "Fractured Fairy Tales" and was thrilled to match the voice with the face shortly thereafter when I saw "Top Hat" on C&C Movie Time. God we're old.

  • DBenson | January 23, 2014 5:19 PMReply

    Recently revisited the Mr. Moto DVD with the featurette about Norman Foster. Could he have been musing how Moto, Davy Crockett and Zorro would all become pop icons under his direction?

  • Karen Snow | January 23, 2014 4:28 PMReply

    He was wonderful ! Made me laugh in so many movies, and never lost his touch over the later decades, like his butler in "Pocketful of Miracles" (1960) and a guest-star role in sitcom around 1971 "Nanny and the Professor".

  • Barry Traylor | January 23, 2014 11:42 AMReply

    I would hate to have to pick just one of my favorite character actors but Edward Everett Horton is in my top ten.

  • Mark Newell | January 23, 2014 5:40 AMReply

    Could the "Grooming" stills be from "Ruggles of Red Gap" (Horton) and "Strictly Dynamite" (Foster)?

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