Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Many Faces Of Alfred Pennyworth

More casting news for that fabled Justice League movie we've been hearing so much about:
Heroes' Stephen Tobolowsky as Alfred. Which brings me to fond memories of Alfred Pennyworths past and present...

The first Alfred was a rotund, clean-shaven dude:
But when the Batman movie serial came out in the 1940s, DC editors wanted Alfred to resemble William Austin, the actor who portrayed him (Eric Wilton, an actor even more obscure than Austin, also played the butler in the serials):

And so, in one of the early cases of comic books being changed to have "synergy" with the movies, Alfred looked like this:

Fast-forward to the 1960s, when Alan Napier was hired to play the faithful butler:

He, to my mind, is really one of the best Alfreds. I liked the friendship he built with Batgirl, back when she was first introduced and Batman was sort of being a jerk about it.

British actor Michael Gough had a long career before playing Alfred in all four of the "first" series of Batman movies, but most people remember him for playing Alfred:
Gough made a good, dependable Alfred -- and certainly, as the films took that sharp right turn after "Batman Forever," he was sort of the "glue" that held everything together. Also of note is that in this continuity, Batgirl is his niece.

There is the Batman The Animated Series Alfred (voiced by Clive Revill and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.):
Ian Abercrombie played Alfred in the short-lived Birds Of Prey series. Why did they need an Alfred for this show, anyway? I guess it is the whole continuity with the Huntress being Batman's daughter, old did that make Alfred???

Michael Caine's Alfred was sort of like Alfred 2.0 -- far more active and independent. You got the feeling with Caine's Alfred that he could sort of kick ass if needed.

Alastair Duncan then stepped into Alfred's shoes in The Batman:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Here's to you, Alfred Pennyworth: you might not be as flashy as Batman, that's true. But nobody ever called you "Goddamn Alfred." And there is something to be said for that.


  1. In any incarnation he is the level-headed stable glue that represents the center to Bruce Wayne's obsessive off-kilter world.

  2. Giant fan of the Michael Caine's Alfred. All around nice guy and funny to boot. Hard not to like Alfred, occasionally hard to like Batman though.

  3. Anonymous10:35 AM

    The Napier Alfred always rankled with me because his face was almost a perfect Commisioner Gordon.

  4. "But nobody ever called you "Goddamn Alfred." And there is something to be said for that."


  5. Back when I played Heroclix, and even went so far as to go to a couple local "tournaments," I had a "Batman-Family" themed team, in which I used a couple of Batmen, a Robin, a Nightwing, and my Alfred Pennyworth token, a little cardboard disc that I got with a starter set. I guess Alfred wasn't considered "cool" enough to warrant his own piece. But anyway, what really stuck out in my mind was that I was up against some kid with a hodge-podge team, and among his pieces was the Unique Despero piece...and I used Alfred to knock him out.

    And that's when I knew: Alfred kicks ass.

  6. how do you feel about alfred the "maybe i was a spy in wwii" guy?

  7. "how do you feel about alfred the "maybe i was a spy in wwii" guy?"

    I think giving Alfred some sort of interesting, active backstory like that is great. Because I like the idea that there was more to him than just being the Wayne faithful butler, that he had a rich history before the Waynes. I think Michael Caine's Alfred really gives you that impression.

  8. One of the things that you can forgive Frank Miller for is that he was the one that brought the snarky Alfred to the core, and that dry sarcastic wit when it comes to Bruce and his activities that added much needed color to the "faithful servant" archetype that Alfred embodies. It's no coincidence that all the portrayals of Alfred post-Dark Knight have all had that quality.

    "I'll fix your usual breakfast. Toast, coffee... bandages."

  9. doesn't the all-star alfred have rippling abdominal muscles?

  10. Spot-on call about Gough holding the '90s series after the disastrous turn into Schumacherville. But he did get a few comic bits in the Burton films, too.

    Come to think of it, has there ever been a bad Alfred?

  11. I'm a giant fan of Michael Caine's anything. And Batman Begins was just a hyperactive bundle of excellent.

    But I'd like to suggest that I would make the perfect on-screen Alfred. I'd get my teeth capped and grow a natty mustache.

  12. Incidentally, would this make Ianto Jones Alfred 3.0?

  13. The whole movie screams "Epic failure"

  14. All-Star Alfred has ripped abs, a pink mohawk, is a pimp (of ninja prostitute batgirls) on the side, smokes (chews) a cigar, has a tattoo of guns on his arms, & is hooked on blow.

    Wait, was it a joke?