Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.


Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

I'm reading this obituary of a character actor:


That's from 1946. I was interested in Charles Butterworth because I just watched the 1932 movie "Love Me Tonight." I was going on about that movie in the comments to yesterday's post about 3 movies from the 1930s. The other 2 were "The Smiling Lieutenant" and "One Hour With You." 

All 3 starred Maurice Chevalier, and all 3 featured the character actor Charles Ruggles, but this morning I was clicking around and reading about Charles Butterworth, reading his Wikipedia page, wondering if he killed himself and fascinated by the information that "His distinctive voice was the inspiration for the Cap'n Crunch commercials created by the Jay Ward studio."


In the comments to yesterday's post, I linked to video of the entire movie "Love Me Tonight" (which was directed by Rouben Mamoulian). I specified that I loved the first 18 minutes, which features some brilliant use of what I think is called musique concrète. Sound effects like hammering and street noise converge into music. I'll just embed the video below.

We're introduced to Paris in general and then Maurice Chevalier specifically and to his highly sexualized relationship to Paris. Eventually, the montage of sound and the music carries us to the Princess who's longing for love but cloistered in her chateau (and singing her lungs out).

The 18 minutes I love are completed as a ladder comes into view. Scroll to that point and you'll experience the entrance of Charles Butterworth (as the Comte de Savignac, the extreme opposite of a desirable lover):

Here's something interesting about Butterworth: He was friends with Robert Benchley and other literary wits of the time and "became so famous for his dry quips and cynical asides that Hollywood screenwriters began writing only fragmentary scripts for him, hoping that the actor would 'fill in the blanks' with his own bon mots." We're told he once "complained," exclaiming, "I need material as much as anyone else!" 

Was that a complaint or an example of the wit?

18 Comments on Althouse: Forced into acting by a steady diet of chicken patties and canned peas.

  • rhhardin
    on March 25, 2023 | 11:17 rhhardinsaid :
    "The woman who reads the high school menu for the week on the local radio always makes it sound like "chicken panties.""
  • Kate
    on March 25, 2023 | 11:26 Katesaid :
    "Wit, definitely. Anyone who claims to enter acting because of canned peas is brilliant."
  • Terry di Tufo
    on March 25, 2023 | 11:51 Terry di Tufosaid :
    "Recently saw The Smiling Lieutenant via a Miriam Hopkins binge. "
  • William
    on March 25, 2023 | 11:56 Williamsaid :
    "I know Maurice Chevalier mostly from Gigi. Very few performers have ever been so lucky to be graced with such a tremendous closing act. He looked a little smarmy as a younger man. He was more charming in the older version....If Charles Butterworth had this accident today, he would have walked away from it. We should all take this moment to reflect on the vast improvements in vehicle safety. We might all going to hell in a hand basket, but we'll arrive there safely. "
  • wild chicken
    on March 25, 2023 | 12:22 wild chickensaid :
    "I grew up watching old movies on local TV in LA. I even ditched school for a week in sixth grade because I was so wrapped up in 1930s Hollywood.

    And I liked the character actors better than the leads. Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Edna May Oliver, and I remember Butterworth too. What a great name!

    IRL my favorite people were the eccentric ones, the characters."
  • RMc
    on March 25, 2023 | 12:38 RMcsaid :
    "Ernie Kovacs went the same way."
  • john
    on March 25, 2023 | 12:50 johnsaid :
    "You didnt mention his interracial marriage, quite groundbreaking for the time. His wife went on to considerable success in the breakfast food industry."
  • Rory
    on March 25, 2023 | 13:27 Rorysaid :
    "Robert Benchley himself a fine character actor."
  • ALP
    on March 25, 2023 | 13:43 ALPsaid :
    "Am I the only one that thinks chicken patties and canned peas doesn't sound that awful? Granted, frozen or fresh peas are way better, but it sounds like the way I used to eat as a powerlifter - meat and veg. "
  • Krumhorn
    on March 25, 2023 | 13:48 Krumhornsaid :
    "Rogers and Hart!

    - Krumhorn"
  • Krumhorn
    on March 25, 2023 | 13:49 Krumhornsaid :
    "Correction: Rodgers and Hart

    - Krumhorn"
  • Lloyd W. Robertson
    on March 25, 2023 | 14:38 Lloyd W. Robertsonsaid :
    "OK, the Jay Ward reference and link hooks me. I somehow recently read something about the Rocky and Bullwinkle "statues" on the Sunset Strip. Here.I think their original construction was intended to mock something right across the street: a huge cocktail waitress, rotating around, advertising the current shows at one of the Vegas casinos or hotels. The Strip probably tended to present some of the biggest stars before Vegas got big (Ciro's, the Mocambo, the Trocadero); so even for some time after, as if reaching out to tourists who were slightly lost, it made sense to say: here's a show on at Vegas, only an hour away.

    Then I read about Jay Ward's somewhat goofy series of enterprises, and how Allan Burns got his start with him. Burns saw himself as an animator/artist, and walked in to that Sunset Strip office with no appointment, but with a portfolio. He thought he had missed Burns completely, but before the day was out he was hired--mostly to produce posters, reproducing someone else's art, to begin with. Burns got a feel for dialogue, timing, setting up jokes, and I think this all helped him co-create the Mary Tyler Moore show. "
  • Roger Sweeny
    on March 25, 2023 | 14:40 Roger Sweenysaid :
    "I've seen a lot of Robert Benchley shorts on TCM and they don't do anything for his reputation as a wit. Perhaps he was a literary one but the shorts are mediocre. I actually prefer the Joe McDoakes "So You Want To _______", which don't pretend to be anything other than what they are."
  • Roger Sweeny
    on March 25, 2023 | 14:43 Roger Sweenysaid :
    "Charles Butterworth gets billing above Myrna Loy!"
  • Rusty
    on March 25, 2023 | 17:46 Rustysaid :
    "What happened to Mrs. Butterworth?"
  • Lurker21
    on March 25, 2023 | 17:48 Lurker21said :
    "Quaker Oats (or their ad agency) must have been a fun place to work.

    Remember Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, the cereals shot from guns (to the accompaniment of the 1812 Overture)?

    Remember Quisp and Quake and the short-lived Quangaroos?

    Remember giving Life cereal to Mikey?

    He won't eat it. He hates everything!"
  • rcocean
    on March 25, 2023 | 20:28 rcoceansaid :
    "I liked the first 18 minutes. Too it reminds me in a way of Under the Roofs of Paris. Lots of singing."
  • AMDG
    on March 25, 2023 | 21:42 AMDGsaid :
    "49??????? He looked like he was over 60."
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