Monday, January 7, 2019

Vital Viewing (Gotham City Domestic Help Edition)



Thespian Alan Napier was born on this day in 1903 (he died in 1988.) He is best know for playing Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred in the tongue-in-cheek, 1960s superhero TV series Batman. The very first actor cast for the show, the  6′ 5″ Napier describes in the following clip how it all came about:


Now here's a clip from Batman itself (note just how much the 6'2'' Adam West, who played the series eponymous costumed crimefighter, and the 6'3" Cesar Romero, who played the villainous Joker, are both literally cut down to size in Napier's presence):




Wow! Did you see Alfred handle the Joker? He could be a superhero himself!



 Albeit a superhero in desperate need of a tailor.

It may be his most famous role, but Napier's career was hardly confined to playing Alfred. A graduate of London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he worked alongside John Gielgud and Robert Morley. In 1937, he appeared in a revival of Heartbreak House, supervised by that play's author, George Bernard Shaw. He moved to Hollywood in 1941, becoming a member of the British expatriate community there, and over the years had roles in such films as The Invisible Man Returns, Random Harvest, Lassie Come Home, The Uninvited, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Hangover Square, Johnny Belinda, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Court Jester, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Marnie. These were all just supporting parts, but in an early (1949) television production of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of a Speckled Band, Napier got a chance to play...




...the world's greatest consulting detective. See for yourself:


 Will Benedict Cumberbatch ever play Alfred? Stay tuned. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

10 comments:

  1. Hi, Kirk!

    Way to go, good buddy! I never missed an episode of the 60s TV series Batman, and I admired the cool character Alfred the butler. It was interesting to meet Alan Napier, the actor behind the character, and learn more about his life. I didn't realize there were so many tall actors on Batman. I knew from my career in television production that a camera shot with a tall person next to a short person in the same frame is problematic. I didn't know about Napier's other acting credits. He was convincing as Sherlock Holmes. Over the years I have watched The Invisible Man Returns, Lassie Come Home, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Marnie. I think Mrs. Shady watches the British series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes.

    Happy 116th birthday in heaven to Alan Napier, and to you a happy Monday, good buddy Kirk!

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    1. Shady, I knew Adam West was tall, but not that Cesar Romero was even taller. If I recall, I think much of the time they avoided having Batman and Alfred in the same frame as much as possible, and instead, if they were speaking to each other, a close-up of Alfred, followed by a close-up of Batman.

      I've seen all those movies, too, which is why I listed them (he was in even more than that), but don't recall ever saying "Hey, it's the butler from Batman". I think the glasses is what makes the difference. Since he's not wearing them in that interview, I wonder if he really needed them, and only wore them because they just brought something to the character. Actors sometimes do that.

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  2. Alan Napier made a very handsome Sherlock Holmes!

    Will Benedict Cumberbatch ever play Alfred? He will, if he follows in the footsteps of those other two distinguished British actors, Michael Caine and Jeremy Irons.

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    1. He was fairly handsome as an old man, Debra. I think the glasses just hid it.

      Sherlock Holmes seems to be a stepping stone to Alfred.

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  3. Ah, such great fun. i didn't know "Alfred's" history. Had a good friend in Southern California. Very successful Shakespearean actor at San Diego's Old Globe, he did do some commercials and TV, among other successes. He looks amazingly a lot like Napier and, also being 6'5" had lots of difficulty going mainstream. That Batman clip was wonderful. I don't think I ever saw it before.

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    1. I don't recall seeing the Batman clip, either, Mitchell, and I'm a fan of the show. He comes across as a 6'5'' tall Errol Flynn. Incidentally, Tad Cassidy, who played Lurch on the Addams Family was even taller, at 6'9''. Lot of TV families out there in need of tall butlers apparently.

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  4. He actually died two days before I was born.

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    1. One generation ends, and another begins. It was always thus, Adam.

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  5. Loved the Sherlock Holmes clip ! Wonderful. You and Shady find the best clips and know how to post them.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. That's why the viewing is so vital, parsnip.

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