Few actors were more beloved of audiences across multiple generations -- and from more different fields of entertainment -- than Edward Everett Horton. For almost 70 years, his work delighted theatergoers on two coasts (and a lot of the real estate in between) and movie audiences, first in the silents and then in the talkies, where he quickly became a familiar supporting player and then a second lead, often essaying comically nervous "fuddy-duddy" parts, and transcended the seeming limitations of character acting to rival most of the leading men around him in popularity; he subsequently moved into television, both as an actor and narrator, and gained a whole new fandom for his work as the storyteller in the animated series "Fractured Fairy Tales."
Edward Everett Horton was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1886 -- when it was a separate city from New York City -- the son of Edward Everett Horton and Isabella Diack Horton. His grandfather was Edward Everett Hale, the author of the story The Man Without a Country. He attended Boys High School and later studied at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and at Oberlin College in Ohio, and Columbia University in Manhattan. His path to graduation was thwarted when he joined the university's drama club -- despite his 6'2" build, his first role had him cast as a woman. He never did graduate from Columbia, but he embarked on a performing career that was to keep him busy for more than six decades. In those days, he also sang -- in a baritone -- and joined the Staten Island-based Dempsey Light Opera Company for productions of Michael Balfe's The Bohemian Girl and Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. His singing brought him to the Broadway stage as a chorus member, and he subsequently spent three years with the Louis Mann company honing his acting skills while playing in stock -- Horton made his professional acting debut in 1908 with a walk-on role in The Man Who Stood Still. By 1911, he was working steadily and regularly, and often delighting audiences with his comedic talents, and remained with the Mann company for another two years. He was a leading man in the Crescent Theatre stock company, based in Brooklyn, and spent the remainder of the teens playing leading roles in theater companies across the United States, eventually basing himself in Los Angeles.