Inductee Biography for ANDY DEVINE
Andrew Vabre “Andy” Devine was born on October 7, 1905 in Flagstaff, Arizona
Andy was an American character actor and comic cowboy sidekick known for his distinctive, whiny voice.
He grew up in Kingman, AZ, where his family moved when he was a year old. The family owned the Beale hotel in Kingman.
He attended Northern Arizona State Teacher’s College (now known as Northern Arizona University), where he played football and basketball.
He also played football at Santa Clara University. He played semi-professional football under the pseudonym “Jeremiah Schwartz” while working as an “extra” in Hollywood. His football experience led to his first sizable film role, in the 1931 film “The Spirit of Notre Dame”.
In 1926 Andy accompanied his father, Tom Devine, to Long Beach California where Tom was to undergo a dangerous cancer operation.
Tom did not survive the operation. Andy went for a ride on the electric trolly “The Red Car” trying to sort out his life now that his father was gone.
By chance he ended up standing on Hollywood Boulevard, where an assistant director from Universal Pictures asked if Andy played football and if so Universal was hiring footballers for a series of college orientated films known as “the Collegians” and he “might get a few weeks work”, Andy didn’t go back to Arizona. While working as an “extra” in films Andy had several jobs to “pay the rent” among those was a period of time as an LA City Beach Life Guard at Venice Beach.
In the beginning people thought his strange whining voice would make it hard for him in the new talkie pictures, but it soon became his unique trademark.
Andy wasn’t sure but he thought his unique voice might have been the result of a childhood accident. He said he had been running with a curtain rod in his mouth at the Beale Hotel, when he fell, and it pierced the roof of his mouth. When he was able to speak again, he had developed a labored, scratchy, duo-tone voice.
Andy has appeared in more than 400 films.
His most notable roles included ten films as sidekick “Cookie” to Roy Rogers, a role in Romeo and Juliet in 1936 and “Danny” in A Star Is Born in 1937.
He made several appearances in films with John Wayne, including Stagecoach in 1939, Island in the Sky in 1953), and as the frightened marshal in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in 1962.
Although Andy was known generally for his comic roles, Jack Webb cast him as a police detective in Pete Kelly’s Blues in 1955. Devine lowered his voice in that film 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 he played “Coyote Bill” in Myra Breckinridge.
His stage career was also an important part of his later acting years. He played the Captain in Showboat in 1957 and went on to play in Anything Goes, My Three Angels and Never Too Late.
Andy 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 Andy as “the mayor of Van Nuys.” In fact, he did serve as honorary mayor of that city, where he lived from1938 to 1957, when he moved to Newport Beach.
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”,
Andy also performed voice parts in animated films, including “Friar Tuck” in Disney’s Robin Hood. He also was the voice of Cornelius the Rooster in several Kellogg’s Corn Flakes TV commercials.
Andy died of leukemia at the age of 71 in Orange, California on February 18, 1977.
The main street of his home town of Kingman was renamed “Andy Devine Avenue” in his honor. His career is highlighted in the Mohave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman, and there are two stars in his honor,, one for Film and one for Television on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Andy Devine is one of Arizona’s favorite sons and we are happy to add his name to the inductees in the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.