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"All through my life people have tried to foist the role of leader on me; a role that I can play on stage but have no will to assume in life." ~ Alan Napier
The Silver Screen Oasis is pleased to announce an online visit with James Bigwood, the editor and annotator of actor Alan Napier's autobiography, Not Just Batman’s Butler: The Autobiography of Alan Napier (McFarland) on Sat., Dec. 5th and Sun., Dec. 6th with questions and answers to be posted in this thread.
Almost 30 years after Napier’s death, writer and producer James Bigwood, who first read the versatile actor's manuscript in 1975 when interviewing him for a Films in Review profile, was allowed by the actor’s daughter to arrange for its publication. A bit facetiously but honestly at the time, Napier described to Mr. Bigwood how, despite the fact that the actor had "written an autobiographical work full of fascinating stories"..."unfortunately, since I've never committed a major crime and I'm not known to have slept with any famous actresses, it's very difficult to get it published." That gentle, amused perspective on life and his career ups and downs comes across vividly in this charming book, allowing the reader to travel with him from an Edwardian boyhood to the height of the studio system through the dismantling of Hollywood in the '60s.
Supporting player Alan Napier (1903-1988) became a household name late in life thanks to the runaway success of the television series Batman (1966-1968), which spoofed comic books, pop art and the American penchant for heroics. It also allowed the severely myopic Napier to wear his own (much needed) spectacles, and to receive some of the attention he deserved for the droll elegance he brought to each of his scenes.
Long before this hit show the actor who became identified with the role of Alfred, the butler to Bruce Wayne/Batman had worked for decades with great actors and directors on stage and screen. Among those long remembered and sometimes sadly forgotten who shared the stage and screen with him during his forty+ years career were Gerald du Maurier, Marlon Brando, Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Laurence Olivier, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Muni, Sean Connery, Alfred Hitchcock, James Whale, Douglas Sirk, Fritz Lang, Edmund Goulding, Otto Preminger, Val Lewton and Edgar Ulmer, among others!
Above: Three Faces from Alan Napier--Left: in Orson Welles' version of MacBeth (1948), Middle: in Hangover Square (1945), & The Invisible Man Returns (1940).
Fortunately for those of us who cherish the warmth, style and authority of a skilled, expressive character actor such as Napier in classic films, we will have a chance to explore the life and times of an actor who was a valuable ensemble player--not a star--for much of his career. This new memoir presented by James Bigwood in this lively, touching and informative first person account with his annotations, is just one of the many projects that our guest has been involved in during his career. Mr. Bigwood has written articles for Films in Review, American Film, American Cinematographer, and Film Fan Monthly on topics as diverse as Salvador Dali's films and character actress Norma Varden. Our guest previously published The Films of Peter Lorre (Citadel) with Stephen D. Youngkin & Raymond Cabana (prior to Mr. Youngkin's publication of his seminal Lorre biography, The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre). The list of Mr. Bigwood's work as a film and television producer and production manager include films and series such as Bob Roberts (1992), A Bright Shining Lie (1998), Iron Jawed Angels (2004), Ugly Betty (2006), The Red Road (2014), & Being Mary Jane (2015).
In what is clearly a labor of love, our guest has also compiled several video clips of interviews with Alan Napier and posted them online. The actor discusses his first steps in Hollywood in We Are Not Alone (1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), House of Seven Gables (1940), and the superb The Uninvited (1944), as well as a few comments on becoming Alfred. Each of these brief clips can be seen on James Bigwood's Youtube Channel, found here: