On This Gay Day: Actor Edward Everett Horton was born

Actor Edward Everett Horton had a fascinating career in film, radio, theatre and animated cartoons.

Edward Everett Horton was born on this day in 1886. He would go on to have a successful career as a character actor in film, theatre, television, radio and animated cartoons.

In the 1930’s he appeared in many memorable films, often as a side-kick to song-and-dance star Fred Astaire, in the 1950’s he appeared in popular television programs, but in the 1960’s he undertook one of his most memorable roles, the narrator of the Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Born in Brooklyn, back when Brooklyn was a completely separate city to New York, he completed his education in Brooklyn and later Baltimore City College. He initially went to college in Ohio, but was asked to leave after playing a prank. He finished his education at Brooklyn Polytechnic, and later attended Columbia University.

He began his performance career in vaudeville in New York in 1906, in 1919 he moved to Hollywood and began appearing in silent films. He found success through his comical acting and expressive facial reactions. One of Horton’s most famous features was his ability to do a ‘double take’ and then follow it up with another farcical facial expression.   

In the 1930’s and 1940’s he appeared in many films as a supporting actor including The Front Page (1941), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Alice in Wonderland (1933), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and Pocketful of Miracles (1961). His final film role was in the 1971 comedy Cold Turkey, where is character only communicated through facial expressions.  

His most memorable roles though were alongside Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. He appeared in their 1934 film The Gay Divorcee, and the following year joined them for Top Hat. He later appeared with the duo in Shall We Dance. All up, he appeared in over 175 films during his long career.

Horton had an equally successful career on radio, and in television where he appeared everything from Batman, to F-Troop, I Love Lucy, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, and Dennis the Menace.

He never publicly discussed his private life. In an interview undertaken in 1968, when Horton was 82 he joked, “”I never married. However, I have not given up hope. This is Leap Year, you know.”

Horton’s longtime companion was fellow actor Gavin Gordon, but little is known about their relationship. Gordon is remembered for starring opposite Greta Garbo in the 1930 film Romance, and while he appeared in dozens of film up until the mid 1960’s by the end of his career he was appearing small, often uncredited roles.

Edward Everett Horton passed away in 1970 aged 84 after battling cancer. Gordon died in 1983 aged 82.

In the 1950’s Horton was forced to sell a portion of his Los Angeles property to allow for the construction of the Ventura Freeway. The freeway cut through his property and split his street into two sections. After his death, the section near his home was renamed Edward Everett Horton Lane.

British comedian Kenny Everett, whose real name was Maurice Cole, created his stage name as a homage to Horton.

Take a look at Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore in the classic film The Gay Divorcee

In 2017 Peter Dutton made his infamous “Stick to their knitting” comment

Back in 2017 Liberal MP Peter Dutton made what might go down as the most quoted line of his political career.

Bob Hawke is remembered for saying that by 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty, while John Howard delivered his “We will decide” speech, and Julia Gillard had her misogyny speech, the current leader of the opposition advised business leaders to “stick to their knitting”.

As the push to allow same-sex marriages in Australia intensified business leaders like Alan Joyne were calling on the government to take action, and publicly voicing support for the laws to be changed.

In a speech to a Liberal National Party conference in Queensland Dutton took aim at Joyce, the prominent gay CEO of QANTAS.

“Mr Joyce is an exceptional CEO — he’s a good person and I know him personally — I have no gripe against him,” Dutton said. “But if he has a particular view on any issue it should be expressed as an individual.”

The ABC reported that Dutton said it was inappropriate for the heads of companies to be utilising the resources of their organisations to advocate for social issues.

Dutton said CEO’s like Alan Joyce “should stick to their knitting” and not be voicing their concerns about the government’s policy.

“It is unacceptable that people would use companies and shareholders money of publicly listed companies to throw their weight around,” Dutton said.

Earlier in the week Dutton had declared that the government would not “bullied” into taking action on the issue.

Days later Greens MP Senator Janet Rice, who is part of the LGBTIQA+ communities, pulled out some knitting needles in parliament and began knitting a rainbow scarf.

Despite Dutton saying the government would not be pushed into dealing with the issue of marriage equality, the laws were changed just a few months later.

OIP Staff, This post was first published in 2021 has been updated. 

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