Eyes: dark brown.
Graduated from Brown University (post graduate: University of London, University of Iowa).
At one time he was assistant
professor in the Brown University (Rhode Island) speech department.
By the 1930’s, Butterfield had regular showcases on Chicago-based programs like Jack Armstrong (1933), Kitty Keene, Inc. (1939) and Wayside Theatre (1938). In Jack Armstrong (1933), Jack and the Fairfields had a long -running fight with the master spy Weissoul, who had a thousand faces (thanks to his skill at makeup) and a thousand voices (thanks to Herb). Herb Butterfield also directed the Chicago NBC Key Station's productions of The Story of Mary Marlin (1934) in which he also played a Russian antique dealer. Butterfield's early recurring role as Preacher Jim in the serial drama Kitty Keene, Inc. (1939) first established him as an attractive and reliable co-star.
After living for 11 years in a crowded Chicago apartment in "the loop" the actor then relocated to California in September 1947. The couple both were agog with their spacious new six room home in Sherman Oaks. Herb put in gardens all around the house, and happily learned the hammering, puttering and gadgeting details of "being a settler."
As one Chicago director, Sherman Marks, sadly said when Herb left for the West Coast: "Hollywood gains one of the finest actors who has ever faced a microphone. His playing range of parts is unbelievable and inexhaustible. Every superlative I can think of, when applied to Herb Butterfield becomes an accurate and modest description of his great ability!". This excellent reputation seems to have bounded ahead of him, and the effort to make himself known in entirely new radio territory evolved into no effort at all.
He found continuing work in most of the
early detective and suspense dramas of the Golden Age of Radio such
as Author’s Playhouse (1942), Suspense
The Lux Radio Theatre (1946), Lights Out
The Whistler (1947),
Favorite Story (1948) and
Indeed, Herb Butterfield's very recognizable voice was most associated with virtually every radio noir detective and crime drama aired over radio. A favorite of Jack Webb, Herb Butterfield appeared in virtually every Jack Webb radio and television vehicle he ever produced, invariably playing either a crusty detective or a world-wisened, sympathetic tough.
He had small roles on Webb’s short-lived Johnny Madero, Pier 23 (1947) and was the first actor to play Anthony J. Lyon, boss of Jeff Regan, Investigator (1948) (Jack played the titular gumshoe).
He emoted opposite Lawrence Dobkin on ABC’s Ellery Queen in the 1947-48 season, playing Inspector Queen to Larry’s sleuth. He quickly replaced Bill Smith and thus became the last actor in the role of Inspector Queen in the popular radio series.
One of Herb’s best known radio roles was on one of the medium’s fondly remembered sitcoms. On The Halls of Ivy (1949), Butterfield played the irascible Clarence Wellman, a board member at the college where William Todhunter “Toddy” Hall (Ronald Colman) was president. At the same time, Herb was a regular on Dangerous Assignment—a vehicle for actor Brian Donlevy that featured him as special agent Steve Mitchell, globetrotting to various hot spots in order to encounter adventure and intrigue. Butterfield played “the Commissioner,” Mitchell’s superior who was in charge of handing out his (dangerous) assignments; he didn’t have a first or last name on the show but he did make the transition to the TV version in 1952. (Butterfield also reprised his Clarence Wellman character on Ivy when it briefly appeared on the boob tube for a season in the fall of 1954.)
Although the movie The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, it wouldn't be until December 25, 1950 that Judy would recreate her role as "Dorothy" for radio audiences in this CBS Radio Lux Radio Theater broadcast. Sponsored by Lux Soap. Judy's co-stars were: Hans Conreid, Herb Vigran, Edwin Max, Herb Butterfield (playing the wizard), Betty Lou Gerson, and Noreen Gammill.
Other TV shows on which Herb guested included Father Knows Best (1956), Dragnet (1951-55), The Millionaire (1955-56), Lassie (1957) and You are There (1956-57). Sharp-eyed movie buffs will be able to spot him in features such as Never Fear (1949), The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), Shield for Murder (1954, see picture above left) and as Royal physician in The Ten Commandments (1956).
By then a frequent CBS player, Herb Butterfield appeared in seven of the CBS Radio Workshop (1956-1957) experimental radio broadcasts in a wide variety of roles.
His career was cut short in 1957 when he passed away at the age of 64, with his last TV appearance—an episode of Frontier Doctor ("Apache Uprising") — aired in October of 1958. Despite appearing on TV he kept active on radio his last appearance there in Heartbeat Theatre (1957)
It's generally believed Herb died on May 2, 1957 in Los Angeles, California, USA despite his tombstone indicating the date to be May 1st.
|This actor profile is a part of the Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Richard Queen in the Ellery Queen radio series.|
Page first published on January 13. 2018
Last updated January 13, 2018
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