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

Eyes: dark brown.
Sergeant in US Army
(1) Isabel(le) Lenowitz/Leonard (May 28, 1924 - Aug 26, 1926, divorced)
(2) Mildred Siemon (Mar 30, 1928 - May 2, 1957, his death)

      Percy (b. Sep 14. 1885 in England - d. May 6. 1929)
                  furniture salesman

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

Graduated (1918) from Brown University. During World War I, while in the Army of Occupation, he attended the University of London. Upon his return to the US, he studied at the American Academy of the Theatre and the University of Iowa where he received his Master's Degree.

On March 10 and 11 1921 he took part in the Brown Alumnae play Green Stockings in the Talma Theatre, Infantry Hall, R.I.

Herb joined a stock company which during the 1923 Fall Season at the Star Theatre, Pawtucket, R.I. as The Henry Carleton Players offered plays such as: The Silver Dagger (Oct 25.); The Girl Who Came Back (Dec 13.); Little Lord Fauntleroy (Dec 26.); and Why Wives Go Wrong (Jan 1. 1924).

In 1924 he married Isabelle Lenowitz in Manhattan, N.Y. only to divorce her two years later in 1926.

Herbert was seen with George Arliss in the play Old English (Ritz, Dec 23. 1924 - Jun 1. 1925) on Broadway.

As early as August 1927 he was noted as a player in Charley's Aunt with the Wright Players who performed in the Faurot Theatre, Ohio. Basil Loughrane was one of his co-actors there (see 1938).

In March 1928 he remarried Mildred Siemon, a secretary and former real estate woman, in Allen County, Indiana.

He left the Wright Players around 1932 to become founder/director of "The Old Fort Players" at Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Indiana. The new drama group headed by Herbert opened its second season with Enter Madame showing in three performances to approximately 2,000 persons. The group comprised entirely of locals, took over old Majestic. Edith Nickel Baihle, former concert star, and Jane Hopklins, once of Abie's Irish Rose cast were the only professionals. (Ft.Wayne Oct 2. 1933)

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, Indiana, 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.

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.

During the 1935-36 season Herb directed "The Old Fort Players" in plays such as The Post Road (Civic Theatre, Dec 11. 1935).

At one time he was assistant professor in the Brown University (Rhode Island) speech department. (1935-36)

After being four years in charge of the little theatre group on Jan. 21. 1936 Herb Butterfield, director of the Old Fort Players and lecturer in the speech department for Indiana University extension division, left for Chicago to join the radio department of Lord & Thomas Advertising Agency. He went to work there as an assistant to Basil Loughrane, with whom he had previously worked with the Wright Players.

A newspaper article on July 9. 1937, mentions our "assistant production director" vacationing in Providence, R.I. In December 1937 he was lining up the The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air.

Herb Butterfield as Rex Kramer in "Dan Harding's Wife" (1938).In "Jack Armstrong" (1942), 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).
Above left: Herb Butterfield in his new role as Rex Kramer in Dan Harding's Wife (NBC, 1938).
Above right: In Jack Armstrong (1942), 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 really focused in radio on being a director, and reportedly turned actor only by "accident". "We needed a heavy in 'Margo of Castlewood.' " Butterfield once 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. According to another account of events, Herb did so well showing another young actor auditioning for the role of "Blaine Witherspoon" how to put "more feeling" into the role that he was persuaded by Basil Loughrane, Lord & Thomas radio chief, to play the part (NBC Blue, Jan 1938 -) himself. He stopped rehearsal. "That's enough, Herb. You're doing the role yourself just like we want it. We'll cast you as Witherspoon and I'll direct."

His first credited roles came in the late 1930s with frequent appearances in Chicago-based programs as a character actor in most of the more popular dramas of the era. The Wayside Theatre (WBBM, 1938-39) and 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.

Herb was in (1942-43) the juvenile adventure serial Jack Armstrong (1933-51), in it 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 who also voiced the criminal Lorenzo) (above right).

Other radio broadcasts from Chicago were:
Author's Playhouse (NBC, 1942-45), Five After The Hour (CBS, Sep 12. 1945), Grand Marquee  (NBC, Jul Aug 1946), and The Human Adventure (Mutual in association with the University of Chicago, 1946).

Some of his most satisfying radio work, he recalled, was on the documentary series The Human Adventure in Chicago, where in one season he played Socrates, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Franklin, Charles Darwin, Harvey Cushing and Samuel Pepys!

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 left: Butterfield and Muriel Bremner as Mr. & Mrs. Carter Colby in the radio program Lonely Women (1943).
Above 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)

On April 1. 1946 a newspaper reported the return of vets to daytime serial shows. A gentleman by name of Ted Hill, for instance returned to Woman in White (NBC, five-a-week, 1:30 PM, WOW), portrayed by Herbert Butterfield. Ted, in his previous appearances, was a very nasty guy, but he's reformed now, and the author has brought him back from California to prove it. Judge and Catherine Colby, of Today's Children (NBC, five-a-week, 1:15 PM, WOW), haven't been away, really, but the characters to whom they're most closely related have been in Rio, so the Colbys took a rest. They are now played by Nannette Sargent and Herbert Butterfield.

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 (NBC, 1942-45), Suspense (CBS, 1944-57), The Lux Radio Theatre (At least 162 episodes, CBS, 1946-55), Lights Out (1946), The Cavalcade Of America (NBC, 1946-1947), The Whistler (CBS, 1947-55), Favorite Story (KFI, 1947-48), The City (CBS, 1947), Your Movietown Radio Theatre (ZIV, 1947-1948), The First Nighter Program (CBS, 1948-50), and Family Theatre (Mutual, 1948-1955)  
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 e.g.
Let George Do It (Mutual Don Lee, 1948-1951)

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 (Mutual, 1947) and was the first actor to play Anthony J. Lyon, boss of  Jeff Regan, Investigator (CBS, 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.

"Lux Radio Theater" (1948) (L-R): Herb Butterfield, Produced William Keighley, Announcer John Milton Kennedy, Ira Grossel.
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. 
Top: Lux Radio Theater (1948) (L-R): Herb Butterfield, Produced William Keighley, Announcer John Milton Kennedy, Ira Grossel.
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.
Herb appeared many times in Escape (CBS, 1949-54) radio's leading anthology series of high-adventure radio dramas as was the case for This Is Your FBI (ABC, 1949-52), The Railroad Hour (NBC, 1949-54), The Adventures of Philip Marlowe (CBS,1949-50), Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar (CBS, 1949-1957), Night Beat (ABC, 1949-52), Richard Diamond, Private Detective (NBC, 1949-52), Broadway Is My Beat (CBS, 1949-1953), and Screen Directors Playhouse (NBC, 1949-51)

One of Herb’s best known radio roles was on one of the medium’s fondly remembered sitcoms. On The Halls of Ivy (NBC, 1949-52), 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 (NBC, 1950-53) - 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 from June 1954 until June 1955).
(L-R) Herb Butterfield, Ronald Colman, Benita Humein TV's "The Halls of Ivy" (1954-55) in an episode which aired December 7, 1954.
Butterfield in "Shield for Murder" (1954) as Cabot a reporter.As grandpa Herb Butterfield in Lux Video Theatre (Dec 22. 1955)
Top: (L-R) Herb Butterfield, Ronald Colman, Benita Humein TV's The Halls of Ivy (1954-55) in "The 11th Commandment" an episode which aired December 7, 1954.
Above left: Butterfield in Shield for Murder (1954) as Cabot a reporter.
Above right: 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.

On radio he appeared in Presenting Charles Boyer (NBC, 1950), Hallmark Playhouse (later The Hallmark Hall of Fame, CBS, 1950-53), The Line-Up (CBS, 1950-52), Tales Of The Texas Rangers (NBC, 1950-51), Mr. President (ABC, 1950-53), The New Adventures Of Nero Wolfe (NBC, 1950-51), The Great Gildersleeve (NBC, 1951), Romance (CBS, 1951-56)

Other TV shows on which Herb guested included Dragnet (1951-55), The Millionaire (1955-56), Father Knows Best (1956), Lassie (1957) and You are There (1956-57).

Sharp-eyed movie buffs will be able to spot him in features such as Never Fear (The Filmmakers, Jan 1950), The House on Telegraph Hill (20th Century Fox, May 12. 1951), Shield for Murder (Camden, Aug 27. 1954, picture above left) and as Royal physician in The Ten Commandments (Motion Pictures Associated, Oct 5. 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.

Or for charity in radio's Heartbeat Theatre (Salvation Army Syndication, Nov 4. 1956 & Oct 6. 1957) probably his last contribution to a phenomenal radio career.

His career was cut short in 1957 when he passed away at the age of 64. His last TV appearance was an episode of Frontier Doctor ("Apache Uprising") and aired in October 25. 1958.

It's generally believed Herb died on May 2, 1957 in Sawtelle, Los Angeles, California, USA despite his tombstone indicating the date to be May 1st.

During his career in radio, Herb Butterfield appeared in over 4,000 episodes. He also made forty appearances on television before his career was cut short by his death. Consistently endearing in every role he appeared in, Herb Butterfield's characteristic fatherly tone harkens back to a time when American society was far more basic, forthright, and genuine.


All dates for movies are for the official US release.
All dates for TV programs are original first airdates.
All dates for (radio) plays are for the time span the actor was involved.

Facts in red still need confirmation.

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Other references
(1) IMDb
(2) Wikipedia

(3) RUSC
(4) Happy Birthday Herb Butterfield 2013 Radiospirits article
(5) The Digital Deli Too Herb Butterfield radiography via WaybackMachine
(6) Radiogoldindex
(7) OTRRpedia and OTRRpedia

Additional video & audio sources
Old Time Radio Downloads
(2) Knock on Every Door (1956) movie (short) (Herb at 8:26)
(3) Lassie (1957 episode "Boy's Day") (Herb at 12:13)
(4) The Adventures of Fu Manchu (1956 episode Dr. Fu Manchu's Raid)

This actor profile is a part of Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Richard Queen in the Ellery Queen radio series.   Click Uncle Sam if you think you can help out...!
Many of the profiles on this site have been compiled after very careful research of various sources. Please quote and cite ethically!

Page first published on January 13. 2018 
Last updated March 3. 2024 

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