Know Your Character Actor – Eric Blore

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June 28, 2013 by smumcounty

English actor, Eric Blore began a career as an insurance agent at age eighteen but after gaining theater experience while touring Australia he decided to dedicate himself to acting. After returning to England, he gave up insurance and turned to acting full-time on the London stage. By 1923, he had made his way to Broadway where he played mostly comic roles in musicals and revues. Though he had had some small experience with film in England and appeared in the silent version of “The Great Gatsby” in 1926, it was his appearance as a head waiter in 1933’s “Flying Down to Rio” (Astaire/Rogers’ first pairing) and then as a waiter in Astaire/Rogers’ “The Gay Divorcee” that same year that launched his film career.

Fred Astaire, Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton in Top Hat

Fred Astaire, Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton in Top Hat

Eric Blore specialized in playing servants or menials such as valets, butlers, and waiters whose clipped English accent fairly dripped with condescension. No cringing toady he. With the lift of an eyebrow or the roll of his eyes he could put you in your place.  He appeared in five of the ten Astaire/Rogers vehicles. (“If I were not such a gentleman’s gentleman, I could be such a cad’s cad.”) He also appeared in eleven of the “Lone Wolf” films from 1940 to 1947 as Jamison, the (you guessed it) butler. One of his most memorable characters was not as a servant but as a con man in Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” where he played Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith, who made his living posing as a member of the British aristocracy and fleecing the locals by cheating at bridge. (“The chumps? When one’s name is Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith, R.F.D., one doesn’t have to meet them. One fights them off with sticks.”)

Eric Blore, Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve

Eric Blore, Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve

Blore died of a heart attack at age 71 in 1959. His death caused a somewhat comic mishap when the British critic Kenneth Tynan jumped the gun and referred to him as “the late Eric Blore” in The New Yorker before his death. Blore’s lawyer demanded a retraction which the New Yorker promptly printed … the day after Blore’s actual death. So that day all the papers carried news of Eric Blore’s death while The New Yorker apologized for having mistakenly claimed he was dead.

Eric Blore with Edward Everett Horton in “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)

Eric Blore with Edward Everett Horton in “Shall We Dance” (1937)


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