Donald Novis

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Donald Novis
Donald Novis - Radio Mirror, December 1932.jpg
Born Donald George Novis
(1906-03-03)March 3, 1906
Hastings, Sussex
Died July 23, 1966(1966-07-23) (aged 60)
Norwalk, California
Occupation Actor and singer
Years active 1929–1964
  • Emma Julietta Burnett
    (m. 1929; div. ?)
  • Dorothy Bradshaw
    (m. 1938–66; his death)
  • Carol Jean Novis
  • Leslie Katherine Novis
Donald Novis sings "Love, Here Is My Heart" (1933)

Donald George Novis (3 March 1906 – 23 July 1966) was an English-born American actor and tenor.

Early life[edit]

Novis was born on 3 March 1906 in Hastings, Sussex[1] to Frederick George Novis and Charlotte Morris.[2] Shortly after his birth, Novis and his family emigrated to Canada, where they eventually settled in Chapleau, Ontario. On 8 November 1908, the family entered the United States through Detroit on their way to Los Angeles.[3]

Novis was educated at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School,[4] Pasadena High School and Whittier College.[5] He was a soloist in two churches, and he sang on radio station KPSN.[4]

Atwater Kent contest[edit]

In 1928, Novis won the national Atwater Kent Foundation singing competition[6] after having won a preliminary regional contest that included contestants from nine western states.[7] The victory in the second national Radio Audition earned $5,000 cash and a two-year university scholarship for Novis.[6]


Novis pursued an acting and singing career. He made his film debut as the Country Boy in the detective film Bulldog Drummond (1929). He appeared on screen in numerous films up to 1937, often as a singer in films like One Hour with You (1932) and This Is the Night (1932). His appearances in films were thereafter limited. He sang on several film soundtracks and notably recorded the Academy Award-nominated song "Love Is a Song" for the Disney animated feature film Bambi (1942). He and Gloria Grafton introduced the popular song "My Romance" in the film Jumbo (1935).[8]

In 1930, Novis made his Broadway debut as Hoheno in the original production of Rudolf Friml's Luana. He performed in only one other Broadway musical during his career, Matt Mulligan, Jr. in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Jumbo in 1935-1936. In 1938 he starred in a production of Jerome Kern's Roberta at the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.

Novis was also highly active as a singer with big bands and as a radio entertainer in the 1930s, including having his own program on NBC beginning on 15 June 1932.[9] He performed frequently with Anson Weeks and his band and was often heard on the radio programme Fibber McGee and Molly. He also played Matt Mulligan in the old-time radio adaptation of Jumbo (1935-1936) on NBC.[10] From 1932–1934 he led his own orchestra which made several recordings for Brunswick Records.

In 1955 Novis co-created the script for the long-running “Golden Horseshoe Revue” at Disneyland’s Frontierland with Wally Boag. The show ran continuously to 1986, and Novis himself starred in the production from its inception until his retirement 9 years later in 1964.

Personal life[edit]

On 4 November 1929,[note 1][5] Novis married his first wife, Emma Julietta Burnett, at Long Beach, California.[11] Four years later, they were divorced.[5]

In February 1938, Novis married his second wife, Dorothy Bradshaw, a former Ziegfeld girl, at the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.[12] By his second wife, Novis had two daughters, Carol Jean and Leslie Katherine Novis. He died at Norwalk, California on 23 July 1966.[13]


Novis died of pneumonia[5] in Norwalk, California[citation needed][note 2][5][note 3][4] in 1966 at the age of 60. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, two brothers, and a sister.[5]

Selected filmography[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Novis's Associated Press obituary says, "He married his first wife ... in 1931 ..."
  2. ^ The Associated Press story about Novis's death is datelined Costa Mesa, California, but the article itself does not specify where he died.
  3. ^ The story about his death in the Independent Star-News says Novis died "in a Costa Mesa hospital."


  1. ^ England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915, online database,
  2. ^ California County Marriages, 1850-1952, online database,
  3. ^ Detroit Border Crossings and Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905-1957. online database,
  4. ^ a b c "Pasadena Musical Star Dies". Independent Star-News. California, Pasadena. 24 July 1966. p. 4. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Famed Tenor Donald Novis Dies At 60". Arizona Daily Star. Arizona, Tucson. Associated Press. 24 July 1966. p. 4. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ a b "Audition Winners Named". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. 17 December 1928. p. 1. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ "California Singers Win Far Eastern [sic] Radio Contest". Arizona Republic. Arizona, Phoenix. Associated Press. 19 November 1928. p. 14. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ Tyler, Don (2007). Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era. McFarland. ISBN 9780786429462. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Around The Radio Clock". The Owensboro Messenger. Kentucky, Owensboro. Associated Press. 15 June 1932. p. 4. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  10. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 183–184. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
  11. ^ California County Marriages, 1850-1952, online database,
  12. ^ "Matrimony-bound for Arizona's Airport Altar," Kentucky New Era, 12 February 1938. Retrieved from Google News, 15 June 2013
  13. ^ "Donald Novis, Radio Singer of '30s, Dies" Los Angeles Times, 24 July 1966. Retrieved on 15 June 2013 from Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage and Death Announcements, 1851-2003, online database,