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.)

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."

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.

The Filmography

1.To See Such Fun (1977) .... Himself
2.Cold Turkey (1971) .... Hiram C. 'Mr. Tobacco' Grayson, President of Valiant Tobacco Co.
3.2000 Years Later (1969) .... Evermore
4.Perils of Pauline, The (1967) .... Caspar Coleman
5."Uncle Waldo's Cartoon Show" (1966) TV Series (voice) .... Narrator for 'Fractured Fairy Tales'
6.Sex and the Single Girl (1964) .... The Chief
7."Hoppity Hooper" (1964) TV Series (voice) .... Narrator for 'Fractured Fairy Tales'
8."The Cara Williams Show," (1964) TV Series .... Mr. Fenwick
9.One Got Fat (1963) .... Narrator
10.It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) .... Mr. Dinckler, hardware store
11."Adventures of Hoppity Hopper from Foggy Bogg" (1962) TV Series (voice) .... Narrator
12.Pocketful of Miracles (1961) .... Hutchgins, Rodney Kent's Butler
13."The Bullwinkle Show," (1961) TV Series (voice) .... Narrator (segment "Fractured Fairy Tales")
14."Rocky and His Friends" (1959) TV Series (voice) .... Narrator for Fractured Fairy Tales
15.The Story of Mankind, (1957) .... Sir Walter Raleigh
16."Holiday Hotel" (1950) TV Series .... Hotel Manager
17.Her Husband's Affairs (1947) .... J.B. Cruikshank
18.Down to Earth (1947) .... Messenger 7013
19.The Ghost Goes Wild (1947) .... Eric, Monte's Butler
20.Cinderella Jones (1946) .... Keating
21.Faithful in My Fashion (1946) .... Hiram Dilworthy
22.Earl Carroll Sketchbook (1946) .... Dr. Milo Edwards
23.Lady on a Train (1945) .... Mr. Haskell
24.Spellbound (1945) (uncredited) .... Doctor who introduces Dr. Edwards to staff
25.Steppin' in Society (1945) .... Judge Avery Webster
26.Summer Storm (1944) .... Count Volsky
27.The Town Went Wild (1944) .... Everett Conway
28.Brazil (1944) .... Everett St. John Everett
29.San Diego I Love You (1944) .... Philip McCooley
30.Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) .... Mr. Witherspoon
31.Her Primitive Man (1944) .... Orrin
32.The Gang's All Here (1943) .... Peyton Potter
33.Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) .... Farnsworth
34.Forever and a Day (1943) .... Sir Anthony
35.The Magnificent Dope (1942) .... Horace Hunter
36.Springtime in the Rockies (1942) .... McTavish
37.I Married an Angel (1942) .... Peter
38.Sunny (1941) .... Henry Bates
39.You're the One (1941) .... Death Valley Joe Frink
40.The Body Disappears (1941) .... Professor Reginald X. Shotesbury
41.Weekend for Three (1941) .... Fred Stonebraker
42.Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) .... Messenger 7013
43.Bachelor Daddy (1941) .... Joseph Smith
44.Ziegfeld Girl (1941) .... Nobel Sage
45.The Gang's All Here (1939) .... Treadwell
46.That's Right You're Wrong (1939) .... Tom Village
47.Paris Honeymoon (1939) .... Ernest Figg
48.Little Tough Guys in Society (1938) .... Oliver
49.Holiday (1938) .... Professor Nick Potter
50.College Swing (1938) .... Hubert Dash
51.Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938) .... Marquis de Loiselle
52.Danger-Love at Work (1937) .... Howard Rogers
53.The Great Garrick (1937) .... Tubby
54.Let's Make a Million (1937) .... Harrison Gentry
55.The Perfect Specimen (1937) .... Mr. Grattan
56.Wild Money (1937) .... P.E. Dodd
57.Hitting a New High (1937) .... Blynn
58.Angel (1937) .... Graham
59.Shall We Dance (1937) .... Jeffrey Baird, Petrov's Manager
60.Oh Doctor (1937) .... Edward J. Billop
61.The King and the Chorus Girl (1937) .... Count Humbert Evel Bruger
62.Lost Horizon (1937) .... Alexander P. Lovett
63.Man in the Mirror (1936) .... Jeremy Dilke
64.Her Master's Voice (1936) .... Ned Farrar
65.Hearts Divided (1936) .... Senator John Hathaway
66.Nobody's Fool (1936) .... Will Wright
67.The Singing Kid (1936) .... Davenport Rogers
68.The Private Secretary (1935) .... Rev. Robert Spalding
69.Your Uncle Dudley (1935) .... Dudley Dixon
70.His Night Out (1935) .... Homer Bitts
71.Little Big Shot (1935) .... Mortimer Thompson
72.Top Hat (1935) .... Horace Hardwick
73.Going Highbrow (1935) .... Augie Winterspoon
74.In Caliente (1935) .... Harold Brandon
75.Ten Dollar Raise (1935) .... Hubert T. Wilkins
76.The Devil Is a Woman (1935) .... Don Paquito
77.The Night Is Young (1935) .... Szereny
78.Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935) .... Leander 'Bunny' Nolan
79.The Gay Divorcee (1934) .... Egbert
80.The Merry Widow (1934) .... Ambassador
81.Ladies Should Listen (1934) .... Paul Vernet
82.Kiss and Make Up (1934) .... Marcel Caron
83.Success at Any Price (1934) .... Harry Fisher
84.Uncertain Lady (1934) .... Elliot
85.Sing and Like It (1934) .... Adam Frink, Producer
86.Smarty (1934) .... Vernon Thorpe
87.The Poor Rich (1934) .... Albert Stuyvesant Spottiswood
88.All the King's Horses (1934) .... Peppi
89.Easy to Love (1934) .... Eric Schulte
90.It's a Boy (1933) .... Dudley Leake
91.Soldiers of the King (1933) .... Sebastian Marvello
92.Alice in Wonderland (1933) .... The Mad Hatter
93.Design for Living (1933) .... Max Plunkett
94.The Way to Love (1933) .... Prof. Gaston Bibi
95.Bedtime Story, A (1933) .... Victor
96.Trouble in Paradise (1932) .... François Filiba
97.Roar of the Dragon (1932) .... Busby
98.-But the Flesh Is Weak (1932) .... Sir George Kelvin
99.The Age for Love (1931) .... Horace Keats
100.Smart Woman (1931) .... Billy Ross
101.Six Cylinder Love (1931) .... Monty Winston
102.The Front Page (1931) .... Roy V. Bensinger
103.Kiss Me Again (1931) .... René
104.Lonely Wives (1931) .... Richard 'Dickie' Smith/Felix, the Great Zero
105.Reaching for the Moon (1930) .... Roger, the Valet
106.Once a Gentleman (1930) .... Oliver
107.Holiday (1930) .... Nick Potter
108.Wide Open (1930) .... Simon Haldane
109.Take the Heir (1930) .... Smithers
110.Hollywood Snapshots #11 (1929) .... Himself
111.The Aviator (1929) .... Robert Street
112.The Sap (1929) .... The Sap
113.The Hottentot (1929) .... Sam Harrington
114.Sonny Boy (1929) .... Crandall Thorpe
115.Miss Information (1928)
116.Vacation Waves (1928)
117.The Terror (1928/II) .... Ferdinand Fane
118.Dad's Choice (1927)
119.Taxi! Taxi! (1927) .... Peter Whitby
120.The Whole Town's Talking (1926) .... Chester Binney
121.Poker Faces (1926) .... The hero
122.The Nutcracker (1926) .... Horatio Slipaway
123.La Boheme (1926) .... Colline
124.Beggar on Horseback (1925) .... Neil McRae
125.The Business of Love (1925)
126.Marry Me (1925) .... Johnn Smith #2
127.Helen's Babies (1924) .... Uncle Harry
128.The Man Who Fights Alone (1924) .... Bob Alten
129.Try and Get It (1924) (as Edward Horton) .... Glenn Collins
130.Flapper Wives (1924) (as Edward Horton) .... Vincent Platt
131.To the Ladies (1923) (as Edward Horton) .... Leonard Beebe
132.Ruggles of Red Gap (1923) (as Edward Horton) .... Ruggles
133.A Front Page Story (1922) (as Edward Horton) .... Rodney Marvin
134.The Ladder Jinx(1922) (as Edward Horton) .... Arthur Barnes
135.Too Much Business (1922) (as Edward Horton) .... John Henry Jackson

The Sources

Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences clippings file on Horton, including:
Universal Studios press kit biography circa 1937
Los Angeles Times article "Belleigh Acres Goes to War", by Lucille Leimert, June 11, 1944
Los Angeles Times article "'Milquetoast' Horton Never Gets His Girl", by Inez Robb, July 24, 1939
20th Century Fox press release circa 1942

The Internet Movie Database

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