Not Just Batman’s Butler

The Autobiography of Alan Napier

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About the Book

In January 1966, Alan Napier became a household name on ABC’s hit series Batman (1966–1968) as Alfred Pennyworth, loyal butler to the show’s title character. This “overnight success” came after 16 years of stage work (and the occasional film) in his native England and 26 years of film and television work (and the occasional play) in the United States.
In the early 1970s, Napier wrote an autobiography, detailing his childhood as a “poor relation” of the famous Birmingham political family the Chamberlains (Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was a cousin), and his collaborations over the years with the likes of John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, George Bernard Shaw, Noël Coward, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock.
Almost 30 years after Napier’s death, James Bigwood, who first read the manuscript in 1975 when interviewing the actor for a Films in Review profile, has prepared it for publication.
This is Alan Napier’s story in his own words, annotated and updated, with dozens of rare photographs.

About the Author(s)

James Bigwood has written articles for American Film and American Cinematographer. He is also a television producer whose credits include Being Mary Jane, The Red Road, Mercy, Lipstick Jungle and The Black Donnellys. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

Alan Napier with James Bigwood
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 392
Bibliographic Info: 91 photos & illustrations, appendices, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6287-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2289-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments (James Bigwood) v

Introduction (James Bigwood) 1

Part One: Birmingham

Prologue: The Reason Why 6

1. Nanny and Mother Do Their Best 7

2. The Family Click 11

3. Napierolatry 15

4. Chamberlain in Excelsis 19

5. The Grove—Cast Iron 23

6. Tennal Grange—Non-Ferrous 29

7. Heritage 42

8. Trailing Clouds of Glory 48

9. Intimations of Immorality 56

10. A Talent Is Discovered 59

11. Fish Out of Water 66

12. Into the Swim 70

Part Two: London

13. A Year of Grace 74

14. Benevolent Deity 81

15. Where Is Fancy Bred? 88

16. Breakthrough 97

17. Bitter Sweet Days 107

18. Marie Tempest and Gerald du Maurier 114

19. A Lesson in Drama 129

20. Near Misses and Sweet Aloes 132

21. On the Rocks 145

22. Ibsen, Shaw and Sayers 149

23. Tomorrow to Fresh Woods 160

24. Filling Quotas (James Bigwood) 167

25. Crossing the Pond 173

Part Three: America

26. From Sea to Shining Sea 176

27. A Toe in the Door 181

28. Old Friends and New Experiences 185

29. Broadway 192

30. Down to Earth 196

31. Meeting Gip 199

32. Take One (James Bigwood) 204

33. Marrying Gip 208

34. Take Two (James Bigwood) 217

35. Dogs 222

36. Take Three (James Bigwood) 224

37. Mountains 238

38. Take Four (James Bigwood) 241

39. Don’t Talk Politics to Adolphe Menjou 244

40. Give My Regards to Broadway 251

41. Take Five (James Bigwood) 265

42. Family Affairs 273

43. Friends 278

44. Television (James Bigwood) 286

45. Journey’s End 294

46. More Television (James Bigwood) 297

47. Patriarch 306

48. Batman 307

49. Alfred the Butler (James Bigwood) 308

50. After Batman 314

51. The Vortex (James Bigwood) 320

52. Back to Work (James Bigwood) 323

53. Hitchcock, Hubbard and Hawkins (James Bigwood) 331

54. Family and Friends (James Bigwood) 335

55. One Role Too Many (James Bigwood) 339

56. Writing (James Bigwood) 340

57. Last Hurrah (James Bigwood) 343

58. Playing Oneself (James Bigwood) 348

59. Batman Redux (James Bigwood) 353

60. The End (James Bigwood) 357

61. Memorial (James Bigwood) 359

Appendix A. Acting Credits 361

On the Stage    361

On the Big Screen (Films)    368

On the Small Screen (Television)    372

Appendix B. How to Approach a Production of Shaw’s Heartbreak House (Alan Napier) 375

Index 379

Book Reviews & Awards

“A treasure”—Examiner; “Jim Bigwood has done us all a great favor by bringing Alan Napier’s autobiography to print”—It’s About TV!.