Judy Canova

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Judy Canova
Judy Canova and George Raft, 1979.jpg
Canova and George Raft (1979)
Born Juliette Canova
(1913-11-20)November 20, 1913
Starke, Florida, U.S.
Died August 5, 1983(1983-08-05) (aged 69)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Comedienne, actress, singer, radio personality
Spouse(s) Bob Burns (m. 1936–39)
James Ripley (m. 1941–41)
Chester B. England (m. 1943–50)
Filberto Rivero (m. 1950–64)
Children Julieta Canova England
Diana Canova (b. 1953)

Judy Canova (November 20, 1913 – August 5, 1983), born Juliette Canova,[1] was an American comedienne, actress, singer, and radio personality.[2] She appeared on Broadway and in films. She hosted her own network radio program, a popular series broadcast from 1943 to 1955.


Early career[edit]

Born in Starke, Florida to singer Henrietta Perry and businessman Joseph Francis Canova, Juliette soon became Judy and began her show-business career with a family vaudeville routine, joining her sister Annie and brother Zeke. Their performances as the Three Georgia Crackers took them from Florida theaters to the Village Barn, a Manhattan club. Canova sang, yodeled, and played guitar, and she was typed as a wide-eyed likable country bumpkin, often barefoot and wearing her hair in braids, sometimes topped with a straw hat.[citation needed] Sometimes, she was introduced as The Ozark Nightingale or The Jenny Lind of the Ozarks, although she had no connection to the region.[citation needed]

Radio and films[edit]

When bandleader Rudy Vallée offered her a guest spot on his radio show in 1931, The Fleischmann Hour, the door opened to a career that spanned more than five decades. The popularity of the Canova family led to numerous performances on radio in the 1930s, and they made their Broadway theater debut in the revue Calling All Stars. An offer from Warner Bros. led to several bit parts before she signed with Republic Pictures. She recorded for the RCA Victor label and appeared in more than two dozen Hollywood films, playing leading roles as well as supporting parts, including Scatterbrain (1940), Joan of Ozark (1942), and Lay That Rifle Down (1955).

The Canovas as they appeared on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in 1938 from left: Judy, Zeke, and Annie

In 1943, she began her own radio program, The Judy Canova Show, that ran for twelve years—first on CBS and then on NBC. Playing herself as a love-starved Ozark bumpkin dividing her time between home and Southern California, Canova was accompanied by a cast that included voicemaster Mel Blanc as Pedro (using the accented voice he later gave the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales) and Sylvester (using the voice that later became associated with the Looney Tunes character); Ruth Perrott as Aunt Aggie; Ruby Dandridge as Geranium; Joseph Kearns as Benchley Botsford; and Sharon Douglas as Brenda. Gale Gordon, Sheldon Leonard, Gerald Mohr, and Hans Conried also appeared sporadically.[citation needed] The Sportsmen Quartet joined the show in 1943 and backed Judy on most of her songs, and the Charles Dant Orchestra provided the rest, usually supporting Canova's country warble. Western singer and actor Eddie Dean also appeared with Canova on numerous occasions during the 1930s.[citation needed]

1947 caricature of The Judy Canova Show

During World War II, she closed her show with the song "Goodnight, Soldier" ("Wherever you may be... my heart's lonely... without you") and used her free time to sell U.S. War Bonds. After the war, she introduced a new closing theme that she once said she remembered her own mother singing to her when she was a small child:

Go to sleep-y, little baby.
Go to sleep-y, little baby.
When you wake
You'll patty-patty cake
And ride a shiny little pony.

Canova recorded the song in 1946. While a hit with her own show, Canova made frequent appearances on other popular radio programs of the day, including and especially, those hosted by Abbott and Costello and Fred Allen.


By the time her radio program ended in 1955, Canova made a smooth transition to television with appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Steve Allen Show, Matinee Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Make Room For Daddy,and other shows. In 1967, she portrayed Mammy Yokum in an unsold TV pilot adapted from Al Capp's Li'l Abner. She also worked on Broadway and in Vegas nightclubs through the early 1970s, touring with No, No Nanette in 1971. She appeared as a mystery guest on the TV show What's My Line on July 18, 1954.[3]

A bizarre fragment of footage exists from an unsold early 1960's pilot film, "Tex and Judy," produced by animator Bob Clampett, starring Canova and based on sound recordings of her radio shows. The scenes feature Canova's seemingly disembodied head filmed against a black limbo, with comic actor Benny Rubin mouthing Mel Blanc's voice while wearing heavy makeup resembling Blanc's cartoon character Yosemite Sam. Billy Gilbert also appears in the film. The intention was to place the live-action heads on animated cartoon bodies; some scenes exist in completed form, others in component parts, and the rest in the form of an "animatic" (a filmed storyboard.)[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Her hayseed character developed as radio's female equivalent of her first husband, comedian Bob Burns. A nationally known cracker-barrel radio and film personality during the 1930s and 1940s, Burns was recognized by his own hillbilly origins as "The Arkansas Traveler" and "The Arkansas Philosopher." The couple were married in 1936, but the marriage lasted only three years. Briefly, Canova then was married to James Ripley, but the union soon was annulled during 1941. Her third marriage was to Chester B. England in 1943, which ended in divorce by 1950. Her fourth and final husband was musician Filberto Rivero in 1950. She lived in Palm Springs, California from 1956 to 1959.[4] The union produced daughter Diana in 1953, but the marriage ended in 1964. Diana Canova is an actress best known for her role as Corinne on the ABC television sitcom Soap.


In 1983 at age 69, Judy Canova died from cancer and her ashes were interred in the secluded Columbarium of Everlasting Light section, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[5] Her ashes are among those of her siblings Anne (1901–1994), and Zeke Canova (1898–1980).

Canova is honored with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to the film industry (6821 Hollywood Boulevard) and a second star for her radio career (6777 Hollywood Boulevard).



Short Subjects:

  • The Song of Fame (1934)
  • Husband's Holiday (1935)
  • Meet the Stars #7: Meet Roy Rogers (1941)
  • Meet the Stars #8: Stars Past and Present (1941)
  • Screen Snapshots: Radio Shows (1945)
  • Screen Snapshots: Fashions and Rodeo (1945)
  • Screen Snapshots: The Judy Canova Show (1946)
  • Screen Snapshots: Famous Hollywood Mothers (1947)

Listen to[edit]


  • Ohmart, Ben. Judy Canova: Singin' in the Corn, BearManor Media, 2010. ISBN 1-59393-316-9


  1. ^ Judy Canova birth name, canova3.com; accessed December 12, 2014.
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, August 10, 1983.
  3. ^ "Not enough people are talking about Judy Canova". learning2share. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 180. ISBN 978-1479328598. 
  5. ^ Judy Canova at Find a Grave

External links[edit]