The words 'Character Actor' can be a little misleading to the uninitiated. One could be tempted to think it means and actor who can effortlessly disappear into a wide variety of characterizations in the way that, say, Meryl Streep does. Au contraire. Perhaps 'Personality Actor' would be a more fitting description. These people had a schtick, a personality type, that they would repeat (to magnificent effect) in picture after picture after picture.
It would also be tempting to think that these types died with black and white film and the studio system. Not true. While you don't see the Margaret Dumont's and the Edward Everett Horton's in movies much anymore, they aren't gone. They're given TV series'. Think Paul Lynde, Roseanne Barr, Fran Drescher, Jerry Seinfeld. You know, Character People!
All that said, it seems like it's time for a new entry, don't you think?
Ladies and Gentlemen, everybody's favorite head waiter/butler/valet:
|Butling for Warren William in "The Lone Wolf" series.|
In the years that followed, he worked at every studio in town doing his thing. Playing a butler clearly does a fella a lot better financially than being a butler. I found a 1937 newspaper article that listed a judges ruling of $150 per week in alimony Blore was to pay his ex (that's $2300 in today's dollars!). But then he was never your average butler. He was efficient, he had answers when his employers didn't, he was cute, and there was something just a little naughty in there too. In his last teaming with Astaire (The Sky's The Limit, 1943) he even says, "If I were not such a gentleman's gentleman, I could be such a cad's cad".
The gift to comedy that he was, it's only fitting that his end was a bit screwball. In 1959, legendary critic Kenneth Tynan referred, in a New Yorker article, to 'the late Eric Blore'. When the infuriated lawyer of the very much alive Blore demanded a retraction and apology, Tynan's editor frostily informed his writer that it would be the first retraction in the history of the magazine. The chastised Tynan prepared his mea culpa, the issue was put to bed, printed and delivered. On the newsstands the next morning was New Yorker magazine apologizing to the actor, next to the morning edition of the newspaper with the obituary for character actor Eric Blore, who passed away the night before!