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Michael Caine’s role in Batman – The quintessential English Butler?

What are the essential Butler Qualities?

The Butlers 10 commandments, rather 15, are thought to include trustworthiness, loyalty, causing good effects quietly and being discrete and thinking twice before saying nothing, anticipation, to observe, knowledge and inventiveness with an attention to detail.

Their work ethic must be efficient, friendly but not too familiar, flexible but punctual, good organisation with a daily review to improve. Follow these and the Butler will be irreplaceable to any household. The modern day Butler must also be able to multi-task. Keep the traditions of dinner service but be able to send an email at the same time. The Perfect English Butler.

These “commandments” have been typically associated with the “English Butler” thanks to the rise of the Butler figure in English Literature. He became a definitive plot device; providing comic relief with witty comments or perpetrators of various crimes resulting in the catchphrase “the Butler did it!” Our first modern illustration of a typical English Butler was P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves who demonstrated the first few commandments of trustworthiness, loyalty and social graces of a perfect English gentleman. These traits, along with the black and white Butler attire, were shared by many more Butlers to come. The number of Butler’s declined by the 1980s with the International Guild of Professional Butlers announcing only 100 had been employed. Now they are back in vogue. Many believe this is down to the likable Carson in Downton Abbey who epitomises everything that a Perfect English Butler is. An integral part of keeping a household running smoothly English Butler’s are now the most sought-after with 10,000 now being appointed; mirroring that of the 1930s.

More modern versions of the English butler have been portrayed in Comics such as Alfred in Batman to games such as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft where they were given an extra characteristic to be a father figure to the orphaned heroes.

Bruce Wayne’s Butler: Michael Caine

At first glance Caine, Alfred Pennyworth in the movie, wished to turn down one of the most modern personifications of an English Butler. He believed the role only entailed serving dinner and coffee to Bruce Wayne. He did not realise this would be secondary to a new form of role for a butler, a surrogate dad, mentor and companion. His loyalty is demonstrated at great lengths when he rescues Batman in the first film “Batman Begins” and protecting him in the Dark Knight Rises by making a reclusive Bruce concentrate on something other than protecting Gotham.


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