Edward Everett Horton ... hmmm

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Edward Everett Horton ... hmmm

Post by Lance » Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:35 pm

As mentioned in another thread, I watched "Little Big Shot" today with the youngster, Sybil Jason. Another actor I see in many of these 1930s films is Edward Everett Horton. It seems unusual for a character actor to come off as being "gay" during those years. Apparently he was, just a bit too "swishy" for that time period, or at least I thought it that way. Any thoughts on Edward Everett Horton?

I have a curiosity about character actors. Oddly, I never took to Edward Everett Horton's style of acting, but his role in "Little Big Shot" I thought to be quite effective.


Here's some information on Edward Everett Horton:

Edward Everett Horton was a well-known character actor in pre-1950s Hollywood, appearing in dozens of romantic comedies alongside actors such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Carmen Miranda, James Stewart, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and so on and on. It is hard to think of an actor today whose career is comparable--not even Kevin Bacon has such an impressive list of costars.
Unfortunately, these days Horton has been all but forgotten, only mentioned occasionally in documentaries on the portrayal of gay characters in film. (See The Question of Sex, below.)


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The Basics
Born: March 18, 1886 (possibly '87 or '88)in Brooklyn, NY. Though many think that Horton was British, he was born and raised in the US. He was likely named after the famous orator, Edward Everett, who was hugely popular in his day but is now best known as the guy who gave the two-hour speech before Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
Education: Attended Oberlin Academy, a sort of high school division of Oberlin College (Go Yeomen!) from 1904 to 1907. He subsequently attended Columbia University, planning to become an English professor. However, during his studies, he wrote, produced and starred in various college plays, including one called "In Newport."
Once he had a taste of the theater, Horton was forever ruined for academia and decided to pursue acting as a career instead, though he did finally receive an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College in 1953.

Career: Horton's first professional role was in a 1910 traveling stage production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado. From there, he became a stock player and worked in many productions across the United States before making his screen debut in 1921, with a silent film called "Too Much Business", in which he played the leading role for a salary of $150 per week.
From then on, Horton was a staple in Hollywood comedies of the '20s, '30s and '40s, appearing in over 130 movies during his 50-year career. Though he did play leading men, it was as the wacky best friend that Horton really shone, as he seemed somewhat reluctant to chase the ladies both in private life and on screen.

Died: Of cancer, September 29, 1970 in Encino, CA, aged 84. Buried in Forest Lawn cemetery.



The Horton Mystery House
He owned a ranch in Encino, called Belleigh Acres (ha ha). He bought it in 1926 with his earnings from his first few silent films. His career took off as he started building a house on the ranch, but as soon as it was finished the calls from Hollywood stopped coming. Thinking to occupy himself during the dry spell, he bought two adjacent acres and began work on an addition to the farmhouse.
In a later interview, he explained, "On the same day that the carpenters started to work, I was cast in a picture that I still consider my best. It was The Hottentot. The picture was still in work, but I decided to keep the carpenters." Believing that the key to his success was to continue work on the ranch, Horton kept adding buildings and remodeling them for most of his life, like a wacky version of Mrs. Winchester.

When an interviewer asked him if it was true that he owned a ranch in California, Horton replied,

"Yes and no. It's nip and tuck whether I have the ranch or it has me. You don't see that ranch taking a jog in the summer theatres to support me, do you? I have given the best years of my life to that ranch. I have tinkered and remade the ranch house for nine years, and I have every confidence that within another year I shall have ruined what was at one time a very pleasant home"

He went on to say that he had been to England recently and bought two enormous fireplaces: "I didn't need one Adam fireplace, much less two, but they were beautiful, and they were a bargain, a fatal combination to an addict such as myself." He had them shipped home, and tried storing them in various places, but they always took up too much room, so

"Finally, to get rid of the things, I called in an architect. He said those Adam fireplaces were unsuited to any present room in the house and that he would have to design a new room—but a good, big room—to set them off properly. So I wound up with a ballroom, for which I had no more use that I had for the Adam fireplaces in the beginning. And then I had to start buying up more antiques to fill up the ballroom. This is the kind of treadmill to which I have given my all."

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The Question of Sex
A bachelor (though he insisted his bachelorhood was not "confirmed") who never married, Horton is nowadays generally thought to have been gay, though I can't find any direct evidence of this. When asked about the many characters he played who never "got the girl", he would give tongue-in-cheek answers like: "I arouse nothing but respect, and not too much of that, in the opposite sex. It's one of the crosses I bear that I never seem to inspire cooperation on the part of designing females. I am a bachelor of some years standing, both in public and in private. When, in the midst of my impassioned vows, the only girl looks up and says, "My, always clowning, aren't you?" it takes the dewy edge right off the thing, and I'm right back where I started."
In fact, it wasn't until 1942, twenty years into his film career, that Horton finally "got the girl". The film was Springtime in the Rockies, a romantic comedy about a pair of Broadway dancers, and the girl was Carmen Miranda, who played a "fiery" Latin secretary.

Speaking of his role in Springtime in the Rockies, Horton said,

"It's never happened to me before. For you see, in this picture, I'm made love to for the first time. This is my hundredth role. Strange to relate, I've played only six butlers. But in my time in pictures, I've also done the parts of 35 best friends, 33 timid clerks and approximately 36 frustrated leading men. But never before have I been successfully chased, and I might say, caught! -by a woman."

Whether or not Horton was actually gay, he has now been more or less enshrined, along with his contemporary Franklin Pangborn, as a gay icon in early Hollywood. His many "Nervous Nellie" roles are often mentioned as some of the first portrayals of "gay" characters in mainstream film, though they were never explicitly shown to be homosexual. [/color]
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Re: Edward Everett Horton ... hmmm

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jan 22, 2010 4:34 pm

I had heard that voice so often in Fractured Fairy Tales that it freaked me out the first time I heard it coming from a person I could see on the screen (can't remember what it was in, though).

Years ago on the other board (I think), I remarked that I couldn't figure out the connection between Edward Everett (the orator of Gettysburg), Edward Everett Hale (author of Man Without a Country), and Edward Everett Horton, except that the last two were named in honor of the first (you know, like George Washington Carver). Someone replied that in fact the other two were both direct descendants of Edward Everett.

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smitty1931
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Re: Edward Everett Horton ... hmmm

Post by smitty1931 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:44 pm

I have seen Horton in uncounted movies and always found him a pleasure to watch. He was perfectly cast in the early Astaire movies. He was never as prissy as Pangborn and was more the "nervous nelly" type. I cannot think of a single hollywood actor today that could play his parts as well. I salute a fine actor that gave me great pleasure over a long career.

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Re: Edward Everett Horton ... hmmm

Post by Lance » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:08 am

Smitty: Odd you should mention EEHorton again! Yesterday, another movie came in featuring two fabulous favourite actors: George Sanders and Linda Darnell, and Horton (so I discovered)! See my thread on Summer Storm. Your description of his being the "nervous Nelly" type is right on! I, too, have seen him in numerous movies and he certainly played his parts well. Kind of like Monty Woolley: once scene not soon to forget!
smitty1931 wrote:I have seen Horton in uncounted movies and always found him a pleasure to watch. He was perfectly cast in the early Astaire movies. He was never as prissy as Pangborn and was more the "nervous nelly" type. I cannot think of a single hollywood actor today that could play his parts as well. I salute a fine actor that gave me great pleasure over a long career.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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