Alfred's acting chops: Alan Napier before Batman

Napier was already impressive before he stepped foot in the Batcave.

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You know, it's not all spandex and grappling hooks that kept Batman going. Someone in Gotham needed to be trusted with the more practical aspects of the Caped Crusader's work. While the Dynamic Duo leaps into action, there needs to be someone who can handle the dry cleaning. Alfred Pennyworth is just the fellow for the job. And the only résumé more impressive than the one belonging to this fictional butler is that of the man portraying him.

In 1966, Batman premiered. The show starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin—two costumed heroes trying to make Gotham City a safer place. Batman was a stylistic, vibrant action program with larger-than-life masked villains plotting world-conquering plans. It was over the top. It was campy. But most importantly, it was tethered by some great performances, allowing the exaggerated events to take place in a reality that resembled our own. Specifically, Alan Napier, Batman's Alfred Pennyworth, grounds the show with his believable British butler.

According to a 1967 article in The Reporter-Times, Napier received his training as an actor at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After his instruction, Napier joined the legendary Oxford Players, where his first significant acting work occurred. Napier had the unique experience of performing in a "Heartbreak House" production as directed by the play's author, George Bernard Shaw.

A stroke of luck led to Napier's first serious role: His contemporary, Tyrone Guthrie, was deemed too tall for a part, and so the role was handed along to Napier. It's interesting to note that the once-and-future Alfred Pennyworth stood at 6'5". When probed about the height disparity, Napier noted, "I was seated at the time." Regardless of any height-related controversies, Napier was thrilled to have his first important role, taking to the stage as, in his words, "a rather tall coal miner." He would spend ten years on London stages before moving to Hollywood to further pursue his acting career.

Between his 1939 arrival in Hollywood and the 1966 premiere of Batman, Alan Napier starred in no less than 60 movies. Among his credits were notable features such as The Uninvited, Song of Bernadette, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and The Loved One.

In between film roles, Napier maintained a steady stream of stage work, treading the boards in Broadway, Chicago, and the West End, while adding more variety to his extensive portfolio.

Oddly enough, for an actor with so many credits before Batman, Napier hardly ever appeared on TV. His only regular role on the tube was as Genera Steele in NBC's Don't Call Me Charlie

What did this accomplished star of stage and screen think of Batman? "I love it," said Napier. "I find the comic book approach funnier on film than it ever was on paper—and it's the first time in my life that I've played a butler."

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cpcva 9 months ago
When approached to be in Batman he'd never heard of it.
forthekids 10 months ago
Al Napier had appeared in a "Bowery Boys"horror film parody "Master Minds" as the mad scientist..with character actor:Glenn Strange as"Atlas The Monster" and he played.."Willie Spears" the henchman to onscreen villian"Sir Richard Cobb"(Sir Cedric Hardwick)in"The Invisible Man Returns".
Wolfie 10 months ago
Alan Napier was a thespian who excelled in live stage - yes he did more films than television, but his theater work prepared him for TV Productions fast weekly filming schedule (a true professional and a Class act!) 😀🍸
JamesB 10 months ago
Napier was great in "The Mole People", one of the better 50's sci-fi entries along with a Hugh Beaumont supporting role!
cperrynaples 10 months ago
Why didn't they mention Napier's guest roles? My favorite is I Killed The Count, a 3 part AHP where he was one of three suspects! They got away with it until Hitchcock's postscript!
Runeshaper 10 months ago
Alan Napier was a GREAT Alfred Pennyworth! I never knew how much he had done prior to reading this article. Thanks for sharing, MeTV!
Mblack 10 months ago
I always liked the episodes where Alfred dressed as Batman
cperrynaples Mblack 10 months ago
Never really bought him in that costume! I did like the one where he had Aunt Harriet pretend to be Mrs. Batman!
Bapa1 10 months ago
He was also in The Mole men. And wasn't he related to Mccauley Caulkin?
Mblack Bapa1 10 months ago
He was related to.Neville Chamberlin
daDoctah Bapa1 10 months ago
You can see him frequently when Svengoolie airs "The Mole People". Another of his roles that might turn up on a Saturday night came years earlier in "The Invisible Man Returns".
BenSobeleone Bapa1 7 months ago
I hear Brian Forster is Alan Napier's step grandson. Brian Forster played the second Chris Patridge on The Partridge Family.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
𝐓𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐤𝐬 𝐌𝐞𝐓𝐕 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐟𝐟 𝐄𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲:
Never realized Mr. Napier's resume outside of his role on Batman. Holy Alfredo !
teire 10 months ago
I remember him from many a late late show.
Renfield teire 10 months ago
Yes ! I fell in love with Alfred Napier while watching the Uninvited movie on TV. Tall and handsome and that beautiful voice. I just have to hear the voice and I know it's him. Thanks for the memories Alfred !
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