Edward Everett Horton (1886-1970)

Edward Everett Horton
Edward Everett Horton

Edward Everett Horton was a popular movie character actor who enjoyed a successful career starting in Silent movies in 1922 and making his last film in 1971. He came into movies from the theatre and he had no difficulty adapting to the new medium of sound and in fact became well known for his "crackling" voice. Although many of his films have faded from memory he did appear in some classic movies such as the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, 'The Gay Divorcee' in 1934 and 'Top Hat' in 1935, and 'Lost Horizon' in 1937.

Later in his career he moved into television,and gained a completely new fanbase as the storyteller in the animated series 'Fractured Fairy Tales.'

Horton never tied himself down with a long-term contract to any single studio and remained a freelancer throughout his long career.


Edward Everett Horton was born on March 18th, 1886 in Kings County, Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of four children. His father was a print typesetter for the New York Times and the family were comfortably off.

Early Years

His early education was at Brooklyn Boys High School and later at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. He took a business studies course at Oberlin College in Ohio and went on to Columbia University where he indulged his growing love of the theater and acting by joining the university's drama club.

He quickly decided on an acting rather than an academic career and he left Columbia before graduating, to join the Dempsey Company, on Staten Island singing in Gilbert and Sullivan light operas.

Theatrical Career

His rich baritone singing voice enabled him to appear in chorus on Broadway and he joined the prestigious Louis Mann company, playing in stock and learning his new trade. He made his professional debut in 1908 with a small role in 'The Man Who Stood Still' and over the next decade he worked in several theatrical companies across the country including The Baker Stock Company in Oregon, the Orpheum Players in Philadelphia, and the Crescent Theatre in Brooklyn.

During the early 1920's he managed the Majestic Theater in Los Angeles together with his brother George, who also acted as his business manager. Drawn by the booming new movie industry he entered movies in 1922 in a Vitagraph production entitled 'Too Much Business. It proved to be the beginning of a long and successful career.

Movie Actor

In 1923, his second year as a movie actor and in only his fourth film, Horton struck gold as a screen comedy performer with his starring role as the butler in ' Ruggles of Red Gap', the same role which Charles Laughton would play in the 1935 version. He followed it with a string of comedy films such as 'The Nutcracker' and 'The Whole Town's Talking' in 1926, 'Miss Information' and 'Horse Shy' in 1928 and 'The Eligible Mr. Bangs' in 1929.

With the advent of sound, Horton, as a stage-trained actor and already a well known movie performer, found himself very much in demand, and he appeared in a number of the earliest talkies including 'The Terror in 1928 and 'Sonny Boy' the following year.

Horton's first feature film in sound was 'The Front Page' in 1931, directed by Lewis Milestone, and he continued to appear in movies regularly, mainly in character roles, and interspersed with stage roles, for the rest of his career.

Amongst his early movie successes were a number of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers RKO musicals including 'The Gay Divorcee' in 1934, 'Top Hat' the following year and 'Shall We Dance' in 1937. He also made an impact playing The Mad Hatter in 'Alice in Wonderland' in 1933 and as the erratic paleontologist, Alexander P. Lovett, in the classic 'Lost Horizon' in 1937.

Other highlights of his early movie career include 'The Front Page' in 1931, 'Trouble in Paradise' the following year and 'Holiday' in 1938. In the 1940's he played a brilliant comedic role in Busby Berkeley's 'The Gang's All Here' in 1943, and appeared regularly during the decade, including in such classics as 'Here Comes Mr. Jordan' in 1941, 'Arsenic and Old Lace' and 'Summer Storm' in 1944, and 'Down to Earth' in 1947.

Television Career

Horton embraced the new medium of television with enthusiasm to the extent that he appeared in only one movie during the 1950's - the woeful 'The Story of Mankind' in 1957. His television career started in 1949 in the drama 'The Man Who Came to Dinner' and he appeared regularly on the small screen for the next 20 years in programmes such as 'I Love Lucy', 'Broadway Television Theatre', 'Matinee Theatre', 'The Red Skelton Hour ' and 'Just Dennis'. He also made an impact on the small screen in 6 episodes of 'F-Troop' and as the narrator of 'Fractured Fairy Tales' in 'The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show' from 1959 to 1961.

Theatrical Career

Despite his success as a movie actor, Horton always regarded the stage as his first love, both as an actor and producer. When he and his brother leased the Majestic Theater in Los Angeles, he acted in successful productions such 'The Ideal Husband' and 'The Nervous Wreck' during the 1920's.

He appeared in 'Springtime for Henry' in 1932 at the Hollywood Playhouse. It was a great success and he played the role of Henry Dewlip over 3,000 times in revivals over the next few decades, fitting in his movie work in between productions.

Later Career

Horton remained busy, acting in all formats, throughout the 1960's, restarting his movie career in films such as 'Pocketful of Miracles' in 1961, the highly successful 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World' in 1963 and 'Sex and the Single Girl' in 1964.

His final big-screen appearance was in the Bud Yorkin/Norman Lear comedy Cold Turkey, which was released in 1971.


Horton never married and his longtime companion was actor Gavin Gordon with whom he had appeared in a 1931 production of Noël Coward's 'Private Lives'. In 1970 Horton was diagnosed with cancer and died on September 29, 1970 at his home in San Fernando, California. He was 84 years old.

Edward Everett Horton Academy Awards

No Nominations:

Edward Everett Horton Filmography

Too Much Business
The Ladder Jinx
A Front Page Story
Ruggles of Red Gap
The Vow of Vengeance
To the Ladies
Flapper Wives
Try and Get It
The Man Who Fights Alone
Helen's Babies
Beggar on Horseback
Marry Me
Leave It to Me
La Bohème
The Nutcracker (Short)
Poker Faces
The Whole Town's Talking
Taxi! Taxi!
No Publicity (Short)
Find the King (Short)
Dad's Choice (Short)
Behind the Counter (Short)
Miss Information (Short)
Horse Shy (Short)
Scrambled Weddings (Short)
The Terror
Vacation Waves (Short)
Call Again (Short)
The Eligible Mr. Bangs (Short)
Ask Dad (Short)
Sonny Boy
The Right Bed (Short)
Trusting Wives (Short)
The Hottentot
Prince Gabby (Short)
The Sap
Good Medicine (Short)
The Aviator
Take the Heir
Wide Open
Once a Gentleman
Reaching for the Moon
Toast of the Legion
Lonely Wives
The Front Page
Six Cylinder Love
Smart Woman
The Age for Love
The Great Junction Hotel (Short)
-But the Flesh Is Weak
Roar of the Dragon
Trouble in Paradise
Soldiers of the King
A Bedtime Story
It's a Boy
The Way to Love
Design for Living
Alice in Wonderland
Easy to Love
The Poor Rich
Success at Any Price
Uncertain Lady
Sing and Like It
Hit Me Again
Kiss and Make-Up
Ladies Should Listen
The Merry Widow
The Gay Divorcee
Biography of a Bachelor Girl
The Night Is Young
All the King's Horses
The Devil Is a Woman
Mr. Faintheart
In Caliente
Going Highbrow
Top Hat
The Private Secretary
Little Big Shot
His Night Out
Your Uncle Dudley
Her Master's Voice
The Singing Kid
Nobody's Fool
Hearts Divided
The Man in the Mirror
Let's Make a Million
Lost Horizon
Romance Is Sacred
Oh, Doctor
Shall We Dance
Wild Money
Danger - Love at Work
The Perfect Specimen
The Great Garrick
Hitting a New High
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
Swing, Teacher, Swing
Little Tough Guys in Society
Paris Honeymoon
The Gang's All Here
That's Right - You're Wrong