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Appeared on radio showHerb Butterfield (Oct 28, 1895 - May 2, 1957)

 

 

Eyes: dark brown.
Sergeant in US Army
Sibbling:
      Percy (b. Sep 14. 1885 in England - d. May 6. 1929)
                  furniture salesman
Marriages:
(1) Isabelle Lenowitz (May 28, 1924 - Aug 26, 1926, divorced)
(2) Mildred Siemon (Mar 30, 1928 - May 1, 1957, his death)


Herbert Butterfield was born on October 28, 1895 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA to William Butterfield and Emma Lockwood (both born in Dewsbury, England, immigrating in 1886 and 1887 respectively)

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.

The combining of emotion with the most ordinary things was Herb's absolute second nature. Early on, following one of his performances in the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre (which, incidentally, Herb started and directed), he was accosted by an intent young man with a curious proposition. "Mr. Butterfield," the fellow began, "you have something I want and I'm willing to pay for it! I've watched you act at the theatre, and every week you're different. I want to be able to do that." "You mean you want to be an actor ?" asked Herb. "No, I just want to express that same change of emotion in my own life and business. And I have a few friends who feel the same way. Would you be willing to teach us ... in some sort of class ?" Not a bit confounded, Herb got the group together. "It was a very revealing experience!". The class included some very shy and inhibited young people, oblivious to almost everything but the ordinary processes of waking, working, eating and sleeping. The project, Herb contended, enriched him as a person as much as, if not more than, any of the youngsters he helped.

In 1924 he married Isabelle Lenowitz only to divorce in 1926.


Herb first entered Radio that same year in various East Coast melodramas and daytime serials during the mid-1920’s, when the medium was in its infancy. Herb really started out in radio as a director, and turned actor only by "accident". "We needed a heavy in 'Margo of Castlewood.' " Butterfield explained, "So I read the part temporarily till we could get one. I read the script twice and then kept as a permanent role." It sounded much too easy to be true, till the shy virtuoso admits he'd been on the stage for years before all this happened.
He remarried Mildred Siemon, a secretary and former real estate woman, in 1928 in Allen County, Indiana. His first credited roles came in the late 1930s with frequent appearances as a character actor in most of the more popular dramas of the era.

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) (below left).  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. 


     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 as Rex Kramer in "Dan Harding's Wife" (1938).
Above right: Herb Butterfield as Rex Kramer in Dan Harding's Wife (1938). 

   Butterfield and Muriel Bremner as Mr. & Mrs. Carter Colby in the radio program "Lonely Women" (1943).Cast of the radio program "Girl Alone" taking a break at a Merchandise Mart restaurant (Chicago) in January 1941. Seated, from left:Herbert Butterfield (Zeihm), Laurette Fillbrandt (Virginia Richman) and John Larkin (Frankie McGinnis)
Above bottom left: Butterfield and Muriel Bremner as Mr. & Mrs. Carter Colby in the radio program Lonely Women (1943).
Above bottom right: Cast of the radio program Girl Alone taking a break at a Merchandise Mart restaurant (Chicago) in January 1941. Seated, from left: Herbert Butterfield (Zeihm), Laurette Fillbrandt (Virginia Richman) and John Larkin (Frankie McGinnis)


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 (1944), The Lux Radio Theatre (1946), Lights Out (1946), The Whistler (1947), Favorite Story (1948) and Escape (1949).
A Mutual-Don Lee player for many years, Herb Butterfield was a regular performer in many of the network's earliest syndicated West Coast productions.

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.

      Here's the "Mr.President" cast for the ABC broadcast of the show Aug 14, 1949 which was also performed by the hospitalized vets at Sawtelle. Left to right, Ted Osborne, Ted De Corsia (!), Edward "Mr. President" Arnold, Bea Benaderet, Herb Butterfield and Irvin Lee. 
Above: Here's the Mr.President cast for the ABC broadcast of the show Aug 14, 1949 which was also performed by the hospitalized vets at Sawtelle. Left to right, Ted Osborne, Ted De Corsia (!), Edward "Mr. President" Arnold, Bea Benaderet, Herb Butterfield and Irvin Lee.


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.)

Butterfield in "Shield for Murder" (1954) as Cabot a reporter.As grandpa Herb Butterfield in Lux Video Theatre (Dec 22. 1955)

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 (above right). 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, 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.

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References
(1) IMDb
(2) Wikipedia

(3) RUSC
(4) Happy Birthday Herb Butterfield 2013 Radiospirits article
(5) The Digital Deli Too Herb Butterfield radiography

Additional video & audio sources
(1)
Old Time Radio Downloads
(2) Shield for Murder Full Movie 1954
(3) The Young Lovers Full Movie 1949


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 September 26, 2018 

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