Why does a balding, short Englishman always make me chuckle in classic, comedic films? Eric Blore, an excellent character actor, usually portrayed kind yet fussy butlers who had a way with a smarmy, sarcastic answer that sailed over the heads of the rude people asking him questions. The audiences who viewed Blore in the movies were able to catch his polite barbs, eye rolls, and the laughs would ensue.
When I learned of the What a Character Blogathon being hosted Nov. 9th-11th by three great classic movie bloggers I had to sign up and participate. Be sure to visit these sites for more great posts about wonderful character actresses and actors: Outspoken and Freckled, Once Upon a Screen, and Paula’s Cinema Club.
Blore was born in 1887 in England. At the age of 18, he began a career as an insurance agent, but the acting bug bit when he had the opportunity to tour Australia and joined a theatre troup there. WWI happened, and Blore enlisted with the Artists Rifles, commissioned to serve with the South Wales Borderers. After the war was over, he toured England in several shows and musical revues. In 1923 he sailed for the United States and successfully played character roles on Broadway. In 1926 he appeared in the silent movie version of The Great Gatsby, which starred Warner Baxter. His first movie role as the butler was in the first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers teaming, 1933’s Flying Down to Rio. Also in 1933, Blore was cast as a butler in the Broadway production of The Gay Divorcee and he was asked to reprise that same role in the movie version, which starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. From that role, Blore went on to appear in over 80 movies. There were a few dramatic roles, 1937’s The Soldier and The Lady, and 1939’s Island of Lost Men, but on the whole, Blore played his characters in comedic films. With his expressive face, excellent timing with lines, and his crisp, uppercrust English accent, he was the perfect butler in many comedies.
After appearing in Flying Down to Rio and The Gay Divorcee, Blore went on to appear in 5 of the 9 Astaire and Rogers movies. Two of his best apperances were in Top Hat and Shall We Dance?, sparring verbally and bringing up the laughs with Edward Everett Horton.
In the 1940s, Blore again appeared as a butler, namely Jamison, the butler for Warren William’s character in the Lone Wolf mystery movies series, which was 11 movies in all. Famed writer/director Preston Sturges tagged Blore to be in two of his comedic films, Sullivan’s Travels and The Lady Eve, both made in 1941. In Sullivan’s Travels, Blore is Joel McCrea’s butler, but his role for Sturges’s in The Lady Eve is funny and different. Blore is a conman, Pearly, working with a father/daughter team of conmen, Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck. They are teaming to outsmart and get money from Henry Fonda. Blore pretends to be Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith and he is to try and convince Fonda that Stanwyck is a twin daughter, born from the lady of the manor’s dalliance with a coachman. It’s a hilarious scene, and Turner Classics will be airing The Lady Eve on November 29th, at 8:00 pm/eastern, 7:00 pm /central.
Nearing his retirement from acting, Blore appeared in the second Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road movie, 1941’s The Road to Zanzibar. One more notable stint was in 1949, when Blore did the voice of Mr. Toad for Walt Disney Studio’s animated classic The Wind in the Willows. To end my post on Eric Blore, I’ll just share various pictures I found of him on the internet, and please visit his site at IMDB to see his filmography.