Born in Flagstaff, Arizona, on October 7, 1905, Andy Devine grew up in Kingman, 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, the 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, Northern Arizona State Teacher’s College (now Northern Arizona University), and was a star football player at Santa Clara University. He also played semi-professional football under the pseudonym “Jeremiah Schwartz”. His football experience led to his first sizable film role, in the 1931 The Spirit of Notre Dame. He had acting ambitions, so, after college, he went to Hollywood, where he worked as a Venice Beach lifeguard, within easy distance of the studios. Andy met his wife-to-be, Dorothy House, in 1933 while filming Doctor Bull at Fox Studios. 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 both actors, while their 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. He had been running with a curtain rod in his mouth at the Beale Hotel in Kingman, and, when he fell, it pierced the roof of his mouth. When he was able to speak again, he had developed a labored, scratchy, duo-tone voice. A biographer, however, indicated that this was one of several stories Devine fabricated about his voice. Devine’s son Tad related in an Encore Westerns Channel interview (Jim Beaver, reporting from the 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival) that there indeed had been an accident, but that he was uncertain if it resulted in his 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.” He appeared in more than 400 films and shared with Walter Brennan, another character actor, the rare ability to move with ease from “B” Westerns to “A” pictures. His notable roles included ten films as sidekick “Cookie” to Roy Rogers, a role in Romeo and Juliet (1936), and “Danny” in A Star Is Born (1937). He made several appearances in films with John Wayne, including Stagecoach (1939), Island in the Sky (1953), and as the frightened marshal in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). He was a long-time contract player with Universal, who 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. While most of his characters were reluctant to get involved in the action, he played the hero in Island in the Sky, as an expert pilot who leads his fellow aviators through the arduous search for a missing airplane. Although Devine was known generally for his comic roles, Jack Webb cast him as a police detective in Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955); Devine lowered his voice 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 “Coyote Bill” in Myra Breckinridge.
Devine 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 Devine 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. Devine also worked in television. 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”, a teller of tall tales who impressed a group of gullible alien kidnappers. He was also a frequent guest star on many television shows throughout 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. Devine also cameoed as Santa Claus during one of Batman and Robin’s famous Batrope climbs on the 1960s live-action Batman TV series. The episode, entitled “The Duo Is Slumming”, was originally broadcast on December 22, 1966, just three days before Christmas. During the appearance he directly addresses 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. In 1973, Devine came 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. Finally, Devine performed voice parts in animated films, including “Friar Tuck” in Disney’s Robin Hood. He provided the voice of Cornelius the Rooster in several Kellogg’s Corn Flakes TV commercials. Devine was a pilot and owned a flying school, Provo Devine, that trained flyers for the government during World War II. Devine died of leukemia at the age of 71 in Orange, California in 1977. His funeral mass was held at Holy Family Cathedral. Actor Ken Curtis sang at the funeral. 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 is a star in his honor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- October, 07, 1905
- Flagstaff, Arizona
- February, 18, 1977
- Orange, California
Cause of Death