The butler did it.

OK, in my lifetime I’ve probably read hundreds of crime novels and never ran across one in which the butler actually did do it. Commit murder, that is, he may have done something else. :smiley:

Is this phrase based on fact in that there was ever a novel in which he did it?

If not, how did it ever get started?

Link to some dude’s article on the matter.

Thus spake Cecil.

Previous thread on the subject:

Thanks, Palooka. Should have known that dude would have the right stuff.

By a coincidence, I just finished a book by Mary Roberts Rinehart (not one with a butler) which got me pondering the question, and it turns out she was the one who did it!

I never noticed before, but look at the date of the thread linked to by GIGObuster and the date of the Cecil column.

That rat bastard ripped me off!

Pistols at dawn, Cecil!

The convention is sent up in two of the better murder mystery spoofs, Murder by Death and Clue.

In Murder by Death Sidney Wang accuses the butler, Bensonmum, of murdering Lionel Twain. When Bensonmum asks him the basis of his accusation, Wang says something like “Went back to basics…butler did it.”

In Clue one of the multiple endings has Wadsworth the butler orchestrating all of the murders, although it turns out that he’s actually Mr Boddy and the person they all thought was Mr Boddy was actually the butler. Another ending has Wadsworth murdering everyone, including Mr Boddy, and poisoning the rest of the guests. The ending was filmed but never released, and apparently exists only in text and two stills included in the storybook Paramount released in conjunction with the film.

Who did the kicking for the Chicago Bears from 1985-1995?

Kevin Butler did it.

As I noted in an eaerlier thread, the convention was also spoofed in the Anthony Shaffer Broasdway play Whodunit, at the end of which the detective (played by Fred Gwynne when I saw it) says something like: "Do you realize that this is the first time that the butler really did do it!

It’s not quite as simple as that, though. Like his earlier play Sleuth, this is an homage to and send-up of the old mystery plasys and novels, although done with a lighter hand this time.

I’m convinced that the impetus behind making Gosford Park was to make a movie about what would really happenm if the butler were to do it.

My favorite take on this was the Gary Larson cartoon that shows a body with a knife sticking out of its back – a a Butler’s Convention.

My favorite

CalMeachem - But

In Gosford Park, the butler didn’t do it! He was even a pacifist who went to jail rather than fight in WWI. The principle housemaid (dunno her official title) poisoned the old coot, after which the chauffeur stabbed him.

Sorry to post to an old thread, but here’s my reasoning:

This thread is less than three months old.

I have new information to impart.

I just found a cite for the phrase “The butler did it” in connection to murder mysteries.

Kansas City Star 30 March 1930, pg. 18D


This is as far back as the phrase has been found to my knowledge.

While she didn’t coin the phrase, she was seen as contributing to it’s popularity.

And this confirms Exapno’s explanation that it was a convention popularized in the 1920’s.

I recall a classic “Aesop Brothers” episode, by Charles Rodriguez, from National Lampoon, but I can’t seem to find it online.

A British nobleman engages the Aesop Brothers (playing the role of Sherlock and Watson) to find out who, of all his relatives and guests, let a noisome fart in his house. Needless to say . . .