It’s so hard to find good help these days…
Merriam-Webster’s actually has two definitions for the word butler:
1 : a manservant having charge of the wines and liquors
2 : the chief male servant of a household who has charge of other employees, receives guests, directs the serving of meals, and performs various personal services
As cool as having someone in charge of the wines and liquors sounds (Another Scotch? Don’t mind if I do, Jeeves!), this post looks at the more traditional definition of the butler, which of course is the second. There have been various butlers throughout television history, but we’re narrowing this list down to who we think are the best. These are the men* who would be hired in a minute to run the day-to-day operations at stately Cold Slither Manor:
10. Duckworth from Duck Tales
What’s a better job than managing the household for the richest duck in the world? Duckworth has served as Scrooge McDuck’s butler and chauffeur for several years, long before Scrooge’s no-good nephews moved in and began causing all kinds of grief and terrorism all in the name of the Junior Woodchucks. Although he’s on a cartoon dominated by ducks and even has “Duck” in his name, Duckworth is actually a dog. He is rarely featured on Duck Tales, keeping his place in the background. He was the only servant in the McDuck mansion until Mrs. Beakley showed up during Duck Tales. However, Duckworth does hold the unenviable duty of cleaning all of the rooms in McDuck Manor as well as dusting the coins in Uncle Scrooge’s personal swimming pool, also known as the Money Bin. He was featured as a major character in only two episodes of Duck Tales: Take Me Out to the Ballgame and Duckworth’s Revolt. He’s tenth on this list purely because he’s recognizable, but not much more than that.
9. Cadbury from Richie Rich
Harvey Comics has been publishing Richie Rich comics since the 1950’s. It’s gone on to generate much in the way of toys, a movie starring Home Alone child star Macaulay Culkin and, most notably, a cartoon that aired in the 1980’s. By Richie’s side throughout all of his adventures was his loyal butler Cadbury. Often confused to be related to the chocolate covered creme eggs they give out around Easter, Herbert Arthur Runcible Cadbury may very well be the prototype for butlers in all of media. Cadbury tends to the needs of the Rich family throughout the day and manages the various of the employees within the Rich estate (shouts-out to Irona, Chef Pierre and Professor Keenbean). British-born Cadbury fits all the stereotypes of an English gentleman, however he’s also shown the ability to turn into a man of action in a pinch. Not sure if he had a special forces or other military background, but we’ve seen Cadbury handle himself in several dangerous situations– firing weapons, smackin up fools Jason Bourne style, flying propellered jet packs– all for the sake of young master Richie Rich.
8. Lurch from The Adams Family
“You ever watch this show called ‘The Addams Family? They got this motherfucker named LURCH!!”
– John McClane to Matthias Targo, Die Hard With A Vengeance
Taking it back to the 1960’s with #8 on our list, Lurch is the 6-foot-9, creepy-looking and highly intimidating manservant on The Addams Family who is best known for answering the door to welcome visitors on the show along with introducing the famous catchphrase “You Rang?”. Played by the late Ted Cassidy, Lurch rounded out the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky roster of the show, willing to perform any task that’s called for but normally failing due to his large size and clumsiness. Despite his “shortcomings”, the towering Lurch is highly loyal to the family, protective of the children and overall beloved and considered a member of the Addams clan.
Later renditions of Lurch are present on various episodes of Scooby-Doo as well as in the movies of the 1990’s (shout-out to MC Hammer on the soundtrack) and the short-lived New Addams Family series in the late 90’s.
Tall, clumsy and somewhat dopey, Lurch also became the go-to nickname for guys who fit that description, particularly many a Euro hoops player for some odd reason. In fact, who can forget Lurch from the movie Celtic Pride?
7. Max from Hart to Hart
From 1979-1984 one of television’s hit shows was Hart to Hart, a series that followed the adventures of husband and wife team Jonathan and Jennifer Hart as they solved cases, dealt with espionage, prevented murders and whatever else people did on these action shows in the 80’s (Seriously, how many small villages were saved from a ruthless dictator in 80’s television? Too many, I say!). Starring Robert Wagner and the lovely Stefanie Powers, the Harts were assisted by their butler Max, played by actor Lionel Stander. Transformers fans may recognize that name… Stander was the gravelly voice of veteran pickup truck Kup in Transformers: The Movie and in subsequent seasons of the G1 Transformers cartoons in the 1980s. In Hart to Hart, Max loyally served as the butler, chauffeur, cook, pet-sitter and of course assisted the Harts on their cases. Heck, he even gave the narration to open the TV show!! Now that’s doing it all!
6. Benson DuBois from Soap
Before he climbed the political ladder from head of household affairs all the way to Lieutenant Governor on his own self-titled spin-off series, Benson DuBois served as the wise-cracking, level-headed butler to the Tate family on the late 70’s TV series Soap. When you think of butlers who not only run the household but provide tons of laughs at a moment’s notice, Benson pretty much gave the blueprint that was later followed by numbers 1-5 on this list. Robert Guillaume stayed with the Soap series from its debut in 1977 until 1979, when he left to work for Jessica Tate’s cousin, Governor Eugene Gatling, on his own TV series Benson. Nevertheless, his screen chemistry and comedic timing alongside other veteran actors Robert Mandan and Katherine Helmond propelled Guillaume to super-stardom and an eventual role as the real H.N.I.C.
<<to be continued>>
That does it for #’s 10 to 6 in this countdown. Click here to view the overall 5 best butlers on television. Like what you read? Or don’t?
Tell us about it in the comments below!
*Note: Apologies to fans of Florence Johnston and Rosie the Robot Maid, but this list is butlers only. Maids will be profiled in a separate post down the road.