Kirby in 1962
|Born||Homer Durward Kirby
August 24, 1911
Covington, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||March 15, 2000
Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.
Homer Durward Kirby (August 24, 1911 – March 15, 2000), known professionally as Durward Kirby (sometimes misspelled Durwood Kirby), was an American television host and announcer. He is best remembered for The Garry Moore Show in the 1950s and Candid Camera, which he co-hosted with Allen Funt from 1961 through 1966.
Kirby was born in Covington, Kentucky. His family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, when he was 15. Kirby graduated from Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, then entered Purdue University to study engineering. However, he dropped out to become a radio announcer. He served in the United States Navy during World War II. Following the war, he hosted Club Matinee in Chicago with Garry Moore on the NBC Blue radio network before moving to television in 1949 as an announcer. He was a regular on Moore's television shows from 1950 to 1968. Kirby also appeared as a host, announcer, or guest on other television programs, including serving as one of NBC Radio's Monitor "Communicators".
Kirby stood 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall and had a mellow personality that served well as a foil for the stars with whom he worked. A versatile performer, he acted in sketches, sang, and danced. He moved with ease from slapstick to suave sales pitches for the sponsor's product. Critic John Crosby called him "one of the most versatile muggers and comedians on the air."
His most embarrassing moment came during a Polaroid commercial, during which he forgot to pull the tab after taking a picture of Garry Moore holding his Christmas list. After nearly a minute of a Polaroid representative yelling, "Pull the tab!" from the audience, Kirby gave a mighty yank with his long arms and pulled all seven remaining pictures out of the camera. This required a fair amount of strength, not only to burst the developer pods but to rip through the stops on the film roll.
Kirby also wrote three books: My Life, Those Wonderful Years; Bits and Pieces of This and That; and a children's book, Dooley Wilson.
Durward Kirby died of congestive heart failure in Fort Myers, Florida, in 2000 at the age of 88. He was buried next to his wife, Mary Paxton Young Kirby, in Coburn Cemetery in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where he had a summer home. He was survived by his two sons.
Kirby's name was spoofed in the animated series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, wherein a man's hat (size 7-5/32) was called the "Kirward Derby". It supposedly had magic powers that made its wearer the smartest person in the world. Kirby considered suing, but his business manager pointed out that it would only bring more attention to the show. Jay Ward, producer of The Bullwinkle Show, even offered to pay Kirby to sue him; however, he did not pursue any further action.
In the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode Phyllis Whips Inflation (Season 5, Episode 18; aired 18 January 1975), the character Phyllis Lindstrom explains that the drop in the price of her Polaroid stock is because the company hired Laurence Olivier to do its television commercials. She says they should have saved money and hired Kirby (a reference to his Polaroid commercial incident).
In the movie Pulp Fiction (1994), the character of Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) orders a "Durward Kirby" Burger. This is a humorous reference to the soundtrack in the scene, when "Bullwinkle" is being played.
"Age is just a number, and mine is unlisted."
- Rayburn, John, ed. (2008). Cat Whiskers and Talking Furniture: Memoir of Radio and Television Broadcasting. McFarland. p. 256. ISBN 0-7864-3697-2. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- "Durward Kirby". Find a Grave. 15 July 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- "Monitor Promotional Material". Monitor Beacon. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
- Wensberg, Peter (September 1987). Land's Polaroid. Houghton Mifflin. p. 115-117. ISBN 978-0395421147. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- Scott, Keith (2000). The Moose that Roared. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 181-182. ISBN 0-312-28383-0. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- ""Mary Tyler Moore" Phyllis Whips Inflation (1975)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
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