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Obituaries : Alan Napier, 85; Played Butler to Batman in '60s TV Series

August 09, 1988|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Alan Napier, the British-born character actor who worked on the London stage with Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud, and on the sound stages of Hollywood with Batman and Robin, died Monday.

He was 85 and died of natural causes at the Berkley East Convalescent Hospital in Santa Monica, where he had been living since June, said his stepdaughter, Jennifer Raine Bissell. He had suffered a stroke last year.

The distinguished, silver-haired actor enjoyed a 40-year career that involved films, television and, in the early part of his career, countless stage appearances.

Batman's Confidant

But thanks to television he will be primarily remembered by millions as Alfred Pennyworth, the trusted servant of Batman and the only living soul who knew that the Caped Crusader was really Bruce Wayne, who as a teen-ager became an overnight millionaire when his parents were murdered. Wayne, to avenge his parents' death, chose to devote his life to battling crime and was ably assisted by his young ward, Dick Grayson, who joined the fray as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

Based on the comic strip, the Dynamic Duo (Adam West was Batman and Burt Ward was Robin) fought an assortment of guest celebrity villains for two years (1966-68) before the public tired of the farce.

Born Alan Napier-Clavering in Birmingham, Napier went to school and later worked with John Houseman. He began his career with the Oxford Players, whose numbers included Olivier and Gielgud.

He not only became one of the busiest of the suave actors who came to Hollywood in the 1930s, but at 6-feet-5, he was one of the tallest.

His height and regal bearing earned him featured and supporting roles in some 90 films beginning in England in 1930. His British pictures included "Caste," "In a Monastery" and "The Secret Four."

His American debut was in 1939 in "We Are Not Alone," and for the next 30 years he made "The Invisible Man Returns," "The House of the Seven Gables," "Random Harvest," "Cat People," "Lassie Come Home," "The Song of Bernadette," "Hangover Square," "Forever Amber," "Joan of Arc," "Macbeth," "The Great Caruso," "Julius Caesar," "Desiree," "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "My Fair Lady" and "Batman," the feature film that evolved from the series.

In addition to his stepdaughter, Napier is survived by a daughter, Jennifer Nichols, and three grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Pacific Palisades.

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