The Early Years of Edward Everett Horton

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Beloved character actor Edward Everett Horton (1886-1970), foil of Fred and Ginger, (and player in dozens more Hollywood movies), narrator of Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, and even a comical Indian on F Troop and Batman, spent his formative years (1906-1919) on the vaudeville stage. In the 20s he moved to Hollywood and began acting in silent films. He made silent comedy features and shorts from 1922 through 1929. His character was markedly similar to the one we know from the talkies: usually wealthy, impeccably attired, a little skittish, a little prissy. Often a bookworm. I caught a couple of these at Slapsticon a couple of years ago. I remember finding Horse Shy (1928) surprisingly amusing, with a strong slapstick comedy concept worthy of a Lloyd, Langdon or Keaton — a young man is terrified of horses, so naturally circumstances compel him to constantly be on one. These silents have since been largely forgotten, overshadowed by his better remember career as a reliable character actor duing the talking era. With that unique voice of his his, he was just made to play countless hand-wringing butlers. Today is his birthday!

For more on the history of silent and slapstick film please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube

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