In 1922, The Oregonian ran an ad for Too Much Business, a silent sex comedy whose tag line was “Let your love affairs be strictly business”.
The ad for Too Much Business features Edward Everett Horton sitting on a desk putting a ring on the finger of a surprised secretary. He is billed as “Edward Horton, formerly with the Baker Stock Co., Portland’s Own Popular Matinee Idol”.
Horton came to acting after dropping out of Columbia University, a journey of self discovery he later said was paralleled by Columbia classmate Wallace Beery. A character actor whose double takes can be found in some of Hollywood’s most well loved films, Horton is most well known for playing Fred Astaire’s comically asexual sidekick in Top Hat, The Gay Divorcee, and Swing Time. One of those casting choices which makes you realize how smart those guys in the studios really were – next to Horton, the elegant, balding Astaire looked like Tarzan.
The exquisitely silliness for which Horton was famous is on display in numerous Ernst Lubsitch and Frank Capra films. I recommend them all. If you would like to see Horton play it straight watch Holiday (1930) or Holiday (1938). He plays the same role, that of a happily married man, in each.
In Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) Charles Laughton plays an English valet who arrives in Yakima because his former master lost him in a bet to a cowboy. Laughton gives a tremendous performance, but it is a reprise of the role originated by Horton in a 1923 silent version of the same story.
Born in 1886, Horton was still working in the 1960’s, entertaining children as a voice artist narrating the Fractured Fairy Tales segments of the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons from 1959 – 1961 and appearing on TV in Batman and F Troop. He died in 1970.