Arthur Veary Treacher (23 July 1894 – 14 December 1975) was an English film and stage actor active from the 1920s to the 1960s, and known for playing English stereotypes, especially butler and manservant roles, such as the P.G. Wodehouse valet character Jeeves (Thank You, Jeeves ,1936) and the kind butler Andrews opposite Shirley Temple in Heidi (1937). In the 1960s, he became well-known on American television as an announcer/sidekick to talk show host Merv Griffin. He lent his name to the Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips chain of restaurants.
Treacher was the son of Arthur Treacher (1862-1924), a Sussex solicitor; his mother was Mary Treacher (1865-1946). He was educated at a boarding school in Uppingham in Rutland. During 1936, he married Virginia Taylor (born 9 September 1898, died June 1984).
Treacher was a veteran of World War I, serving as an officer of the Royal Garrison Artillery; his father had served with the Sussex Volunteer Artillery before Treacher's birth. After the war, he established an acting career, and during 1926 went to America as part of a musical-comedy revue named Great Temptations. He was featured in the 1930 Billy Rose musical revue Sweet and Low.
He began his movie career during the 1930s, which included roles in four Shirley Temple movies: Curly Top (1935), uncredited Stowaway (1936), Heidi (1937) and The Little Princess (1939). Scenes intentionally had the 6' 4" Treacher standing or dancing side-by-side with the tiny child actress; for example, they sing and dance together in The Little Princess an old song "Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Road" (clip available on YouTube.)
Treacher filled the role of the ideal butler, and he portrayed P. G. Wodehouse's valet character Jeeves in the movies Thank You, Jeeves! (1936) and Step Lively, Jeeves (1937). (Wodehouse, however, was unhappy with the way his work had been adapted, and refused to authorize any further Jeeves movies.) Treacher played a valet or butler in several other movies, including Personal Maid's Secret, Mister Cinderella and Bordertown. He was also caricatured in the 1941 cartoon Hollywood Steps Out. Treacher also did radio programs in the 40's and early 50's, most notably as a waiter on "Duffy's Tavern."
During 1961 and 1962, he and William Gaxton appeared in Guy Lombardo's production of the musical revue Paradise Island, which played at the Jones Beach Marine Theater. In 1962, he replaced Robert Coote as King Pellinore (with over-the-title name billing) in the original Broadway production of Lerner and Loewe's musical play Camelot, and he remained with the show through the Chicago engagement and post-Broadway tour that ended during August 1964.
From the mid-1950's on, Treacher became a familiar figure on American television as a guest on talk shows and panel games, including The Tonight Show, I've Got a Secret, and The Garry Moore Show. In 1964, Treacher was cast in the role of Constable Jones in the hugely successful Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins. That same year, he played the role of stuffy English butler Arthur Pinkney in two episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies. Pinkney mistakenly believed the hillbillies were the domestic servants of the family by whom he was hired, while the hillbillies believed Pinkney was a boarder at their Beverly Hills mansion.
He became even better known to American television audiences when talk-show host Merv Griffin made him announcer and occasional bantering partner on The Merv Griffin Show from 1965–70 ("...and now, here's the dear boy himself, Merrr-vyn!"). When in 1969 Griffin switched from syndication to the CBS network, network executives insisted that Treacher was too old for the show, but Griffin fought to keep Treacher and eventually won. However, when Griffin relocated his show to Los Angeles the next year, Treacher stayed behind, telling Griffin "at my age, I don't want to move, especially to someplace that shakes!"
During this period of latter-day popularity, Treacher capitalised on his name recognition through the use of his name and image for such franchised business concerns as the Call Arthur Treacher Service System (a household help agency) and Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips restaurants. The restaurants became popular during the 1970s and increased to nearly 900 outlets, although it is unknown whether or not Treacher had any ownership involvement with the company. By 2016, there were seven restaurants.
Treacher died at the age of 81 due to cardiovascular disease.
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