Saturday, March 25, 2017

"Topper" Actor Alan Mowbray 1969 Holy Cross Cemetery

Alan Mowbray MM (born Alfred Ernest Allen; August 18, 1896 – March 25, 1969) was an English stage and film actor who found success in Hollywood.

Stan Laurel and Alan Mowbray


Born Alfred Ernest Allen in London, England, he served with distinction in the British Army in the First World War, being awarded the Military Medal for bravery. He began his stage career in London in 1922, as an actor and stage manager. Mowbray applied for transfer to the Royal Air Force which was granted just six days before the war ended. This placed him in London on Armistice Day. His service came to an end when the Royal Air Force wanted another seven years out of him.[1] In 1923 he arrived in the United States[2] and was soon acting with New York stock companies. He debuted on Broadway in The Sport of Kings (1926); in 1929 he wrote, directed and starred in the unsuccessful Dinner is Served.[3]

Mowbray made his film debut in God's Gift to Women (1931) playing a butler, a role in which he was thereafter often cast. He appeared in five more pictures that year, notably portraying George Washington in Alexander Hamilton. In 1935 he played one of the male leads in Becky Sharp, the first feature-length film in full-color Technicolor, as well as playing the lead in the farcical Night Life of the Gods, based on a Thorne Smith novel. 

It was for another Thorne Smith–derived film, Topper (1937), that Mowbray may be best remembered; he played Topper's butler, Wilkins, a role he reprised the following year in Topper Takes a Trip. Throughout the 1930s and '40s Mowbray worked steadily, appearing in over 120 films.[4]

In the 1950s Mowbray's film roles decreased and he began to appear on television. He played the title role in the DuMont TV series Colonel Humphrey Flack, which first aired in 1953–54 and was revived in 1958–59. In the 1954–55 television season Mowbray played Mr. Swift, the drama coach of the character Mickey Mulligan, in NBC's short-lived situation comedy The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan. He continued to appear occasionally in films.[5]

In 1956 he appeared in three major films, The King and I, The Man Who Knew Too Much and was one of the many stars to make a cameo appearance in Around the World in 80 Days.[4] His final film role was as Captain Norcross in A Majority of One in 1961. 

In 1963 he returned to Broadway in the successful comedy Enter Laughing, playing David Kolowitz's unscrupulous mentor Marlowe (played by Alan Arkin).

Mowbray was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, writing a personal check to fund the group's incorporation and serving as the first vice-president.[3][6]

Personal life

Alan Mowbray was among the founders of the Hollywood Cricket Club.[7] He was a prominent early member of the Masquers Club[8] and donated the group's long-time clubhouse on Sycamore in Hollywood.[9]

Mowbray died of a heart attack in 1969 in Hollywood and was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[10]

Raymond Chandler on Mowbray

Novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler alludes to Mowbray's screen persona in his pulp magazine story Mandarin's Jade (1937):

"The Philip Courtney Prendergast's (sic) lived on one of those wide, curving streets where the houses seem to be too close together for their size and the amount of money they represent... the house had an English slate roof and a porte-cochère, some nice imported trees, a trellis with a bougainvillea. It was a nice place and not loud. But Beverly Hills is Beverly Hills, so the butler had wing collar and an accent like Alan Mowbray.”[11]

Partial filmography

God's Gift to Women (1931) as Auguste, Toto's Butler
The Man in Possession (1931) as Sir Charles Cartwright
Guilty Hands (1931) as Gordon Rich
Alexander Hamilton (1931) as George Washington
Leftover Ladies (1931) as Jerry
Honor of the Family (1931) as Tony Revere
Nice Women (1931) as Mark Chandler
Lovers Courageous (1932) as Lamone
The Silent Witness (1932) as Arthur Drinton
Hotel Continental (1932) as Walter Underwood
The World and the Flesh (1932) as Dimitri
Man About Town (1932) as Ivan Boris
The Man from Yesterday (1932) as Dr. Waite
Winner Take All (1932) as Forbes - the Etiquette Teacher
The Man Called Back (1932) as King's Counsel
Jewel Robbery (1932) as Detective Fritz
Two Against the World (1932) as George 'Georgie' Walton
The Phantom President (1932) as George Washington (uncredited)
Sherlock Holmes (1932) as Colonel Gore-King
Our Betters (1933) as Lord George Grayston
A Study in Scarlet (1933) as Lestrade
Peg o' My Heart (1933) as Capt. Christopher 'Chris' Brent
The Midnight Club (1933) as Arthur Bradley
Voltaire (1933) as Count De Sarnac
Berkeley Square (1933) as Major Clinton
The World Changes (1933) as Sir Phillip Ivor
Roman Scandals (1933) as Majordomo
Her Secret (1933) as Nils Norton
Long Lost Father (1934) as Sir Tony Gelding
The House of Rothschild (1934) as Prince Metternich
Where Sinners Meet (1934) as Nicholas
Little Man, What Now? (1934) as Franz Schluter
Cheaters (1934) as Paul Southern
The Girl from Missouri (1934) as Lord Douglas
One More River (1934) as Forsythe
Embarrassing Moments (1934) as Aheam
Charlie Chan in London (1934) as Geoffrey Richmond
Night Life of the Gods (1935) as Hunter Hawk
Becky Sharp (1935) as Rawdon Crawley
Lady Tubbs (1935) as Elyot Wembsleigh
The Gay Deception (1935) as Lord Clewe
She Couldn't Take It (1935) as Alan Bartlett
In Person (1935) as Jay Holmes
Rose-Marie (1936) as Premier
Muss 'em Up (1936) as Paul Harding
Give Us This Night (1936) as Forcellini
Desire (1936) as Dr. Maurice Pauquet
The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936) as Lawrence Waterson
Fatal Lady (1936) as Uberto Malla

Mary of Scotland (1936) as Throckmorton

My Man Godfrey (1936) as Tommy Gray
Ladies in Love (1936) as Paul Sandor
Four Days' Wonder (1936) as Archibald Fenton
Rainbow on the River (1936) as Ralph Layton
On the Avenue (1937) as Frederick Sims
The King and the Chorus Girl (1937) as Donald Taylor
As Good as Married (1937) as Wally
Marry the Girl (1937) as Dr. Hayden Stryker
Topper (1937) as Wilkins
Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938 (1937) as Henry Morgan
On Such a Night (1937) as Professor Ricardo Montrose Candle
Music for Madame (1937) as Leon Rodowsky
Stand-In (1937) as Koslofski
Hollywood Hotel (1937) as Alexander Duprey
Merrily We Live (1938) as Grosvenor - Butler
There Goes My Heart (1938) as Pennypepper E. Pennypepper
Topper Takes a Trip (1938) as Wilkins
Never Say Die (1939) as Prince Smirnov
Way Down South (1939) as Jacques Bouton
The Llano Kid (1939) as John Travers
Music in My Heart (1940) as Charles Gardner
Curtain Call (1940) as Donald Avery
Scatterbrain (1940) as J.R. Russell
The Boys from Syracuse (1940) as Angelo

The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940) as Silas Cribbs

The Quarterback (1940) as Professor Hobbs
Footlight Fever (1941) as Mr. Don Avery
That Hamilton Woman (1941) as Sir William Hamilton
That Uncertain Feeling (1941) as Dr. Vengard
The Cowboy and the Blonde (1941) as Phineas Johnson
Ice-Capades (1941) as Pete Ellis
Moon Over Her Shoulder (1941) as Grover Sloan

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) as Robin Ray

The Perfect Snob (1941) as Freddie Browning
Yokel Boy (1942) as R.B. Harris - Movie Producer
We Were Dancing (1942) as Grand Duke Basil
The Mad Martindales (1942) as Hugo Martindale
Panama Hattie (1942) as Jay Jerkins, Dick's Butler
A Yank at Eton (1942) as Mr. Duncan
Isle of Missing Men (1942) as Dr. Henry Brown
The Devil with Hitler (1942) as Gesatan
The Powers Girl (1943) as John Robert Powers
Slightly Dangerous (1943) as English Gentleman
Stage Door Canteen (1943) as Alan Mowbray
So This Is Washington (1943) as Chester W. Marshall
Holy Matrimony (1943) as Mr. Pennington
His Butler's Sister (1943) as Buzz Jenkins
The Doughgirls (1944) as Breckenridge Drake
Ever Since Venus (1944) as J. Webster Hackett
My Gal Loves Music (1944) as Rodney Spoonyer

Bring on the Girls (1945) as August

Earl Carroll Vanities (1945) as Grand Duke Paul
The Phantom of 42nd Street (1945) as Cecil Moore
Where Do We Go from Here? (1945) as General George Washington
Tell It to a Star (1945) as Colonel Ambrose Morgan
Men in Her Diary (1945) as Douglas Crane
Sunbonnet Sue (1945) as Jonathan
Terror by Night (1946) as Maj. Duncan-Bleek
Idea Girl (1946) as J.C. Crow

My Darling Clementine (1946) as Granville Thorndyke

The Pilgrim Lady (1947) as Clifford Latimer

Lured (1947) as Lyle Maxwell

Merton of the Movies (1947) as Frank Mulvaney
Captain from Castile (1947) as Prof. Botello (the astrologer)
The Main Street Kid (1948) as The Great Martine
The Prince of Thieves (1948) as The Friar
An Innocent Affair (1948) as Ken St. Clair
My Dear Secretary (1948) as Deveny (Bryant Detective Agency)
Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) as Mr. Spitzer
The Lone Wolf and His Lady (1949) as Jamison, Lanyard's Valet
The Lovable Cheat (1949) as Justin
You're My Everything (1949) as Joe Blanton
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) as Melton

Wagon Master (1950) as Dr. A. Locksley Hall

The Jackpot (1950) as Leslie
Dick Turpin's Ride (1951) as Lord Charles Willoughby
Crosswinds (1951) as Sir Cecil Daubrey
Just Across the Street (1952) as Davis
Androcles and the Lion (1952) as Editor of Gladiators
Blackbeard the Pirate (1952) as Noll

Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1954) as Alphonsus Mannering

The Steel Cage (1954) as Lee Filbert (segment "The Chef")
The King's Thief (1955) as Sir Gilbert Talbot
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) as Val Parnell
The King and I (1956) as Sir John Hay
Around the World in 80 Days (1956) as British Consul - Suez
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1956, short) as Gordon
A Majority of One (1961) as Captain Norcross

TV appearances

The Patty Duke Show, as director of the high school play in which both Patty and Cathy appear
Four Star Playhouse in Dick Powell's episode "The House Always Wins" (1955)
Whispering Smith, in "Poet and Peasant Case" episode (1960)
Maverick, in "The Misfortune Teller" episode as Luke Abigor (1960)


1. Wearing, J.P. (2014). The London Stage 1920–1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 190–200. ISBN 978-0-8108-9302-3.
2. Moreno, Barry (2008). Ellis Island's Famous Immigrants. Arcadia. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-4396-2003-8.
3. Mank, Gregory W. (2007). Hollywood's Hellfire Club: The Misadventures of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn and the "Bundy Drive" Boys. Feral House. pp. 152–53. ISBN 978-1-932595-24-6.
4. Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 531–32. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
5. Alan Mowbray at the Internet Movie Database
6. Prindle, David F. (2012). The Politics of Glamour: Ideology and Democracy in the Screen Actors Guild. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-299-11813-6.
7. Sentance, P. David (2006). Cricket in America, 1710–2000. McFarland. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-7864-2040-7.
8. "Masquers Club". SAG–AFTRA. 
9. Dean, Paul (25 April 1985). "Unmasking Masquers: End of a Landmark?". Los Angeles Times. 
10. Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). Laid to Rest in California: A Guide to the Cemeteries and Grave Sites of the Rich and Famous. Globe Pequot. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7627-4101-4.
11. Chandler, Raymond T. 1937. 'Mandarin's Jade' originally published in Dime Detective Magazine, November, 1937. Republished in Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. 2002. Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 667.

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