Filled Under: Edward Everett Horton
“I have my own little kingdom. I do the scavenger parts no one else wants and I get well paid for it.” ~ Edward Everett Horton
Edward Everett Horton was an American character actor. He had a long career in film, theater, radio, television and voice work for animated cartoons. Horton is especially known and remembered for his work in the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Edward Everett Horton was born on March 18, 1886 in Brooklyn, New York, to Isabella S. Diack and Edward Everett Horton. 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. He began his college career at Oberlin College, 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. His sense of humor had exceeded that of the College administration. Horton then attended college at Brooklyn Polytechnic and Columbia University, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. 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, and started getting roles in Hollywood silent films. His first starring role was in the 1922 silent comedy film “Too Much Business”, and he portrayed the lead role of an idealistic young classical composer in “Beggar on Horseback” in 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” (1929) and “Sonny Boy” (1929). His distinctive voice was one of his trademarks. 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. 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. Some of his noteworthy films include “The Front Page” (1931), “Trouble in Paradise” (1932), “Alice in Wonderland” (1933), “The Gay Divorcee” (1934) and “Top Hat” (1935) two 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), and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963). He last appeared in a non-speaking role in “Cold Turkey” (1971).
From 1945 to 1947, Horton hosted radio’s Kraft Music Hall. Horton also has a large body of television work to his credit. Among his many television credits are: “I Love Lucy” (1952) in what became one of his most famous television appearances where he is cast against type as a frisky, amorous suitor; Beginning in 1959 he narrated twenty three episodes of the “Fractured Fairy Tales” segment of the “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”; and in 1965 he played the medicine man, Roaring Chicken, in the hit television sitcom “F Troop”. All told Horton has 179 titles to his credit in cinema and television in a career that spanned fifty years.
Edward Everett Horton died of cancer on September 29, 1970 at the age of 84 in Encino, California. He is buried in Glendale’s Whispering Pines section of Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
Shortly after he died, the city of Los Angeles renamed a portion of Amestoy Avenue, the dead-end street where he lived in the district of Encino, “Edward Everett Horton Lane”.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Edward Everett Horton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6427 Hollywood Boulevard.