You may not always remember their names, but you sure can’t forget their performances.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers here at the old stand. Today Joe was wracking his brian for over 20 minutes trying to think of the name of the man who’s pictured above. (Devilish Frank instantly put the name to the face but wouldn’t say.)
Our man was in comedies, dramas, musicals, even a Hitchcock film. Finally Joe had to look up a film in which he knew this guy had a pretty important supporting role. The film was That Hamilton Woman, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, or was it Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh? Anyway, this guy played Lord Hamilton, Leigh’s husband.
Then, of course, as soon as he saw the name, Alan Mowbray, it all came back.
The man made over 140 films and ran the gamut. He was in a Charlie Chan film, one of the Basil Rathbone- Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, a Jeannette MacDonald musical.
He was the butler in two of the Topper movies. He appeared in noir films too — I Wake Up Screaming and Lured -– see them both. Betty Grable and Lucille Ball in roles which will surprise you.
One of his biggest hits was as the butler in the 1938 comedy Merrily We Live. Patsy Kelly (with whom he’s pictured below) played the cook. The leads were Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne, with Billie Burke playing Bennett’s scatterbrained mother.
Mowbray often played butlers, but was versatile enough to portray all types. He acted in westerns, costume dramas, period pieces. He made an Abbott and Costello film. A Ma and Pa Kettle movie. The man worked constantly. And then he went into TV.
Mowbray was also a founding member of the Screen Actor’s Guild.
Not all his film are classics, of course, but he’s always worth watching. And in his early days the man even played dashing love-interest leading men.