This is a topic I thought up a few months ago while watching the series “Soap” on Netflix. I asked myself, “Self, who are the best butlers of the screens?” Here’s my list but in no particular order. It was hard to pick just one, so here’s my top 10 butlers:
- Wadsworth in “Clue” played by Tim Curry – Tim’s portrayal as Wadsworth in this movie adaptation of the board game is very well executed. Quite different from his role as Dr. Frankenfurter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”!
- Alfred in “Batman” (1989) played by Michael Gough, who unfortunately passed away almost one year ago. He plays the role better than any of them I’ve seen, including Michael Caine, who is a great actor, but I just can’t believe him playing a butler.
- Benson in “Soap” is the antithesis of the perfect butler. Robert Guillaume coined the phrase: “You want me to get that?” whenever the doorbell rang in the house, as if to imply that it was not part of his duties. The character leaves a few seasons in to accept another position which in actuality is a spinoff series called “Benson”. Benson does return at one point or another to the original series just for continuity. His replacement just didn’t cut it.
- Jeeves in “Jeeves and Wooster” played by Stephen Fry. The series is based on a book series of the same name and co-stars Hugh Laurie. Jeeves is the intelligent butler that keeps his charge out of trouble and offers wonderful advice. You must watch this series to truly appreciate it. Fry and Laurie have appeared in numerous movies and series together and their chemistry cannot be duplicated. Absolutely hilarious.
- “Mr. Belvedere” stars Christopher Hewett as the main character, an English butler working in an American family home. This sitcom usually found Mr. Belvedere supporting the whole family while being part of it. I wasn’t a really big fan of the show, but this particular character was a great butler.
- Arthur Treacher played numerous roles as a butler, including a couple of movies based on the same Jeeves character as in the “Jeeves and Wooster” series noted above. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen these, but when my mother and I discussed this topic, she gave me this one right away.
- Hobson in “Arthur” by Sir John Gielgud was not one of the actor’s typical roles. It was in fact the only role in which he played a butler. This role earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and is really the type of butler I think we’d all like to have. One that does not do just out of duty, but because he cares.
- Coleman in “Trading Places” is played by Denholm Elliott alongside Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in this comedic classic. Poor Coleman is put in a tight spot when his employer, Louis Winthorpe (Ackroyd) is ousted and has to serve his successor, Billy Ray Valentine. He is torn by duty to his employer or the company that pays his cheque. Loveable all the same. Also starring in the movie is Jamie Lee Curtis
- Lurch in the “The Addams Family” whether it be the original series starring John Astin as Gomez, or Raul Julia in the newer movies, Lurch is a great butler. Ted Cassidy played Lurch in the TV series and did voices for a number of cartoons after finishing “The Addams Family”.
- Richard O’Brien as Riff-Raff in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is… Well, hard to say. But hey, he’s an alien, so… yeah. I had to add him to this list.
Butlers in many cases are the unsung heroes, whether called butlers or man servants. They really do make the movies and TV shows more enjoyable. Tip of the hat to them all.