from the film A Star Is Born (1937).
|Born||Andrew Vabre Devine
October 7, 1905
Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
|Died||February 18, 1977
Orange, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Dorothy House (1933–77; his death)|
Born in Flagstaff, Arizona, on October 7, 1905, Andy Devine grew up in Kingman, where his family moved when he was a year old. His father was Thomas Devine Jr., born in 1869 in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Andy's grandfather, Thomas Devine Sr., was born in 1842 in County Tipperary, Ireland, and emigrated to the United States in 1852. Andy's mother was Amy Ward, the granddaughter of Commander James H. Ward, the first officer of the United States Navy killed during the Civil War.
He attended St. Mary and St. Benedict's College, Northern Arizona State Teacher's College (now Northern Arizona University), and was a star football player at Santa Clara University. He also played semi-professional football under the pseudonym "Jeremiah Schwartz"—it was not his birth name as has been erroneously reported elsewhere. His football experience led to his first sizable film role, in the 1931 The Spirit of Notre Dame.
He had acting ambitions so after college he went to Hollywood, where he marked time working as a lifeguard at Venice Beach, within easy distance of the studios. Andy met his wife-to-be, Dorothy House, in 1933 while filming Doctor Bull at Fox Studios. They were married on October 28, 1933, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and remained united until his death on February 18, 1977. They had five children: Andrew Devine, Jr. (born 1934), Patrick Gabriel Devine (born 1935), Susanna Rachel Devine (born 1937), Arthur Matthew Devine (born 1938) and Deborah Catherine Devine (born 1941). Andy, Jr. and Patrick are actors while the rest of his and House's children have other careers.
Although it was first thought that his peculiar voice would prevent him from moving to the talkies, it became his trademark. Devine told people that his speech resulted from a childhood accident. He said that he had been running with a curtain rod in his mouth at the Beale Hotel in Kingman, and when he fell it pierced the roof of his mouth. When he was able to speak, he had a wheezing, duo-tone voice. However, a biographer explains that this wasn't true, but was one of several stories about his voice fabricated by Devine. Devine's son Tad told an Encore Westerns Channel interviewer (Jim Beaver, reporting from 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival) that the accident had indeed happened, but that Devine was uncertain whether it was the cause of his unique voice. When asked if he had strange nodes on his vocal cords, Devine replied, "I've got the same nodes as Bing Crosby, but his are in tune."
He appeared in more than 400 films and shared with Walter Brennan, another character actor, the rare ability to move with ease from "B" Westerns to "A" pictures. His notable roles included ten films as sidekick "Cookie" to Roy Rogers, a role in Romeo and Juliet (1936), and "Danny" in A Star Is Born (1937). He made several appearances in films with John Wayne, including Stagecoach (1939), Island in the Sky (1953), and as the frightened marshal in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). While most of his characters were reluctant to get involved in the action, he played the hero in Island in the Sky, as an expert pilot who leads his fellow aviators through the arduous search for a missing airplane. Although Devine was known generally for his comic roles, Jack Webb cast him as a police detective in Pete Kelly's Blues (1955); Devine lowered his voice and was more serious than usual. His film appearances in his later years included movies such as Zebra in the Kitchen, The Over-the-Hill Gang, and "Coyote Bill" in Myra Breckinridge.
Devine also worked in radio. He is well-remembered for his role as "Jingles", Guy Madison's sidekick in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, which Devine and Madison reprised on television. He appeared over 75 times on Jack Benny's radio show between 1936 and 1942, often appearing in Benny's semi-regular western series of sketches "Buck Benny Rides Again". Benny frequently referred to Devine as "the mayor of Van Nuys." In fact Devine served as honorary mayor of that city, where he lived, preferring to be away from the bustle of Hollywood, from May 18, 1938 to 1957, when he moved to Newport Beach.
Devine worked in television. He hosted a children's TV show, Andy's Gang on NBC from 1955 to 1960. During this time, he also made multiple appearances on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. He played "Hap" on the TV series Flipper, also on NBC, in the 1960s. He starred in a Twilight Zone episode called "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" as "Frisby", a talkative fibster faced with an alien invasion. He was also a frequent guest star on many television shows throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including the role of Jake Sloan in the 1961 episode "Big Jake" of the acclaimed NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show. He also played Honest John Denton in the episode "A Horse of a Different Cutter" of the short-lived ABC series The Rounders.
Devine also cameoed as Santa Claus during one of Batman and Robin's famous Batrope climbs on the 1960s live-action Batman TV series. The episode, entitled "The Duo Is Slumming", was originally broadcast on December 22, 1966, just three days before Christmas. During the appearance he directly addresses the viewers wishing them a Merry Christmas.
In 1973, Devine came to Monroe, Louisiana, at the request of George C. Brian, an actor and filmmaker who headed the theater department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, to perform in Edna Ferber's Show Boat.
In popular culture
Devine died of leukemia at the age of seventy-one in Orange, California in 1977. His funeral Mass was held at Holy Family Cathedral. The main street of his home town of Kingman was renamed "Andy Devine Avenue" in his honor. His career is highlighted in the Mojave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman, and there is a star in his honor in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Andy Devine, Western Character, Dead at 71, Fairbanks Daily News Miner, February 19, 1977, page A6
- Corneau, Ernest N. The Hall of Fame of Western Film Stars, Christopher Publishing House, 1969, ISBN 8158-0124-6, p. 234
- "New Movie Features C.M.A. Background". Culver-Union Township Public Library. Retrieved July 22, 2010.
- Frances Lane. "Prairie Tales". Screen Stars magazine, April 1946 issue, p. 72. Retrieved July 22, 2010.
- "Froggy The Gremlin". Froggy The Gremlin. Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1938, Andy Devine Named 'Mayor'
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