What a Character Blogathon: Eric Blore

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.

Eric Blore, in his most common role, as butler.

Eric Blore, in his most common role, as butler.

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.  Eric blore What a character

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.  

Blore getting ready to sneer at some cad or oaf!

Blore getting ready to sneer at some cad or oaf!

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.

Blore in a cast shot from The Gay Divorcee

Blore in a cast shot from The Gay Divorcee

Blore and his foil, Edward Everett Horton

Blore and his foil, 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.

As McCrea's butler in Sullivan's Travels

As McCrea’s butler in Sullivan’s Travels

With Stanwyck in The Lady Eve

With Stanwyck in The Lady Eve

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.

Blore near the end of his acting career

Blore near the end of his acting career

Another displeased butler look from Blore

Another displeased butler look from Blore

Blore's alter ego, Mr. Toad

Blore’s alter ego, Mr. Toad

Blore, with hair(!), in a movie scene with Leslie Howard

Blore, with hair(!), in a movie scene with Leslie Howard

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22 responses to this post.

  1. Blore also made memorable impressions in Laurel & Hardy’s SWISS MISS and the Marx Brothers’ final team film, LOVE HAPPY. Excellent blog!

    Reply

  2. Isn’t it curious that the post I read before yours was about Edward Everett Horton?
    I think the Eric Blore role I memeber the best is in The Lady Eve, a wonderful film that wouldn’t be the same without him.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Greetings!

    Reply

    • Enjoyed your post on EEH. Yes, a neat coincidence that we both wrote about two great character actors who worked together several times in their careers. I wish you a great day and happy blogging!

      Reply

  3. I just clicked on the link for you post and was already smiling. I LOVE Blore! I’ve never even cared what he said although what he says is usualy so funny, it’s his entire demeanor that I find so entertaining. A one of a kind actor and always memorable. Fantastic choice and great post!

    Thanks so much, Jenni for posting this and submitting it for the blogathon.

    Aurora

    Reply

  4. I just adore him in “Shall We Dance” when he does that telephone exchange with Mr. Flintridge at the jailhouse “I’m at the Susquehannah Street Jail….Susquehannah! Susquehannah! S-U-S-Q…Q!! ..You know, the thing you play billiards with….Billiards!! B-I-L-L..”. That cracks me up everytime. How I would love to have a butler like Blore when I take my round the world cruise ( one of these days ). He was marvelous.

    Reply

    • I watched that jailhouse scene courtesy of Youtube for my research on Eric Blore. You are right, very funny! I think everyone’s workday would be endurable if we could have a butler like Blore at our homes.

      Reply

  5. I confess that Eric Blore was my first choice for this blogathon and I love what you wrote. He made me want to have a butler. Coming home to his wit and (depending on the movie) cooking after a tough day would be fun.

    Reply

  6. Blore is without a doubt one of the best butlers in film ever, but I confess my favorite role of his is THE LADY EVE. As you say, hilarious. Thanks for this really informative post.

    Reply

  7. Classic Disney was my partner in introducing my kids to classic films and actors. When Eric Blore would pop up in a movie, all I had to say was “Would you like to see Toad?” and they’d be hooked. People who don’t get hooked by the performances of Eric Blore are not to be trusted. Jenni, thanks for this look at the scene-stealer.

    Reply

  8. Eric Blore is such a memorable character. To me, if any film ever required a butler role, only Eric Blore should be the only choice. His sophisticated yet sarcastic tone and that signature voice made him the perfect charming character. Great post, Jenni! Thanks so much for contributing to our blogathon!

    Reply

  9. He just makes you smile, doesn’t he? And I loved his little lisp.

    Reply

  10. […] Eric Blore – Portraits by Jenni […]

    Reply

  11. Eric Blore is one of those actors that makes a scene better just by his presence. So glad you included him in the blogathon, and thanks for sharing that information about this life. I knew nothing about him whatsoever.

    Reply

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