Andy Devine

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For the English actor, see Andy Devine (English actor).
Andy Devine
Andy Devine in A Star is Born.jpg
Devine in the film A Star Is Born (1937)
Born Andrew Vabre Devine
(1905-10-07)October 7, 1905
Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
Died February 18, 1977(1977-02-18) (aged 71)
Orange, California, U.S.
Cause of death Leukemia
Occupation Actor
Years active 1926–77
Spouse(s) Dorothy House (1933–77, until his death)

Andrew Vabre "Andy" Devine (October 7, 1905 – February 18, 1977[1]) was an American character actor and comic cowboy sidekick known for his distinctive whiny voice.

Early life[edit]

Devine was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, on October 7, 1905. He grew up in Kingman, Arizona, 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, a 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 and Northern Arizona State Teacher's College (now Northern Arizona University) and was a star football player at Santa Clara University.[2][3] He also played semiprofessional football[3] under the pseudonym Jeremiah Schwartz. His football experience led to his first sizable film role, in The Spirit of Notre Dame, in 1931.[3]

Career[edit]

Devine with Rosemary Clooney, 1958

Devine had an ambition to act, so after college he went to Hollywood, where he worked as a lifeguard at Venice Beach,[3][4] within easy distance of the studios. He met his wife-to-be, Dorothy House, while filming Doctor Bull at Fox Studios in 1933. 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; the other children have pursued other careers.

Although it was first thought that his peculiar, wheezy voice would prevent him from moving to the talkies, instead it became his trademark. Devine claimed that his speech resulted from a childhood accident in which he fell while running with a curtain rod in his mouth at the Beale Hotel in Kingman, causing the rod to pierce the roof of his mouth. When he was able to speak again, he had a labored, scratchy, duo-tone voice. A biographer, however, indicated that this was one of several stories Devine fabricated about his voice.[5] His son Tad related in an interview for Encore Westerns Channel (Jim Beaver, reporting from the 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival) that there indeed had been an accident, but he was uncertain if it resulted in his father's 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."

Devine appeared in more than 400 films and shared with Walter Brennan, another character actor, the rare ability to move with ease from B-movie Western B-movies to feature films. His notable roles included Cookie, Roy Rogers's sidekick, in ten films; a role in Romeo and Juliet (1936),[6] and Danny in A Star Is Born (1937). He appeared in several films with John Wayne, including Stagecoach (1939), Island in the Sky (1953), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

He was a long-time contract player with Universal, which in 1939 paired him with Richard Arlen for a series of fast-paced B-pictures (usually loaded with stock footage) that mixed action and comedy; they made 14 over a two-year period. When Arlen left in 1941, the series continued for another two years, teaming Devine with various actors, often Leo Carrillo.

Most of Devine's characters were reluctant to get involved in the action, but he played the hero in Island in the Sky (1953), as an expert pilot who leads other aviators on an arduous search for a missing airplane. Devine was generally known for his comic roles, but Jack Webb cast him as a police detective in Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), for which Devine lowered his voice and was more serious than usual.

His film appearances in his later years included roles in Zebra in the Kitchen, The Over-the-Hill Gang, and Myra Breckinridge.

Devine's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 6366 Hollywood Blvd.

Devine worked extensively in radio and is well remembered for his role as Jingles, Guy Madison's sidekick in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, which the two actors reprised on television. Devine appeared over 75 times on Jack Benny's radio show between 1936 and 1942, often in Benny's semiregular series of Western sketches, "Buck Benny Rides Again". Benny frequently referred to him 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.[7][8]

Devine also worked in television. He hosted a children's TV show, Andy's Gang,[8] 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 an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby", playing the part of Frisby, a teller of tall tales who impresses a group of gullible alien kidnappers. He was a guest star on many television shows in 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.

He made a cameo appearance as Santa Claus in an episode of the live-action Batman TV series in the 1960s. The episode, entitled "The Duo Is Slumming", was originally broadcast on December 22, 1966, three days before Christmas. In this role he directly addressed the viewers, wishing them a Merry Christmas.

Devine made his stage debut in 1957 with his portrayal of Cap’n Andy in Guy Lombardo’s production of Show Boat at the Jones Beach Theatre, in Wantagh, Long Island.[8] In 1973, he went 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 Show Boat.

He also performed voice parts in animated films, including "Friar Tuck" in Disney's Robin Hood. He provided the voice of Cornelius the Rooster in several TV commercials for Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

Devine was a pilot and owned a flying school, Provo Devine, that trained flyers for the government during World War II.

Death[edit]

Devine died of leukemia at the age of 71 in Orange, California, in 1977. His funeral mass was held at Holy Family Cathedral. The actor Ken Curtis sang at the funeral.

The main street of his hometown of Kingman was renamed Andy Devine Avenue. His career is highlighted in the Mohave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman, and there is a star in his honor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In popular culture[edit]

Devine is nostalgically remembered alongside other 20th-century celebrities in Jimmy Buffett's song "Pencil Thin Mustache".

Frank Zappa's song "Andy" refers to Devine, and his concept album Thing-Fish includes a character named Ann D. Devine.

Partial filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andy Devine, Western Character, Dead at 71. Fairbanks Daily News Miner, February 19, 1977. p. A6.
  2. ^ Corneau, Ernest N. (1969). The Hall of Fame of Western Film Stars. Christopher Publishing House. p. 234. ISBN 978-0815801245.
  3. ^ a b c d "New Movie Features C.M.A. Background". Culver-Union Township Public Library. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ Frances Lane. "Prairie Tales". Screen Stars, April 1946, p. 72. Retrieved July 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Froggy the Gremlin". Froggy the Gremlin. Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-30. 
  6. ^ Stanley, John. "Andy Devine, Professional Sidekick". Arizona Republic, January 28, 2014.
  7. ^ "Andy Devine Named 'Mayor'." Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1938.
  8. ^ a b c Collura, Joe. "Big Man, Bigger Talent". Classic Images, June 25, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]