His may not have been the broadest portfolio in films, but it certainly was deep; in picture after picture, he played the efficient, sometimes put-upon, sometimes invaluable family retainer, sometimes credited only as "Butler" (as in Fashions of 1934 or Here Comes the Groom), tidying up after everyone from Bette Davis to Shirley Temple to, at the end his career, the Clampetts.
He was everything Americans thought a Brit should be: reserved, aloof, but with the capacity to break out in the occasional soft-shoe or dry riposte.
What I hadn't known was that he varied the pace a little for a while as Merv Griffin's sidekick, acting, if the pictures are any indication, as the house Noël Coward:
Today, I think, he is best remembered for having been the spokesman on behalf of another great English tradition, fish and chips.
I wish all fast food chains were named for contract players and character actors. I think it should be a rule. Imagine a world of Marion Lorne Burgers, Cuddles Sakall Ice Cream Parlors, and Billie Burke No Place Like Home Family Restaurants.
It would surely be a better place.