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REMEMBERING ANDY DEVINE (that big fat square...)

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by Ronald L. Smith



Ok, you want to know more about Andy Devine (and would rather not go and buy my book "Comic Support" which has a bio on him AND dozens and dozens of other oddball character comedians).

Here's the skinny on the fat guy...



Andy was born on October 7, 1905. His mother and his one-legged father Tom settled in Kingman, Arizona, where the family ran a local hotel. It didn't take long for Andy to get his name in in the papers. The February 29, 1908 edition of the Mohave Miner carried the news that "Andrew, the three year old child of Mr.& Mrs. Thomas Devine, fell from the rear porch of the Beale Hotel to the ground, a distance of about 13 feet sustaining a fracture of the left arm and sundry cuts and bruises.  The little fellow is getting along nicely.'"

Townsfolk remembered a lot of good un's about Andy. Like the time he volunteered to dispose of a cat. Just why this old cat needed to be "disposed of," nobody remembers, but fifty cents was offered to the person who could do it neatly and quickly. So Andy attached a stick of dynamite to the animal. The frightened cat didn't stay put after the fuse was lit and galloped under a neighbor's woodshed. There, the cat, and the woodshed, went sky high.

Andy first gained fame on radio with that weird, scraping-washboard voice of his. It was so odd, people figured it had to have come by accident.



Andy obligingly told a story about the tragic childhood incident: he was playing with a curtain rod, pretending to play it like a trumpet, when he fell down and jammed it into the roof of his mouth. Sometimes Andy had an alternate version: he was walking in the woods when he fell and a branch from a tree lodged in his throat, scrambling his vocal cords. However in 1957 UPI reporter Jack Gaver noted a marked lack of "gravel" in Andy's voice during an interview. Andy admitted, "It comes out only when I have to project in acting."







A 1941 press release for Devine when he was guesting on the radio show "Al Pearce and His Gang" reported "he got his gravel voice bench sitting" and cheering at college football games. A graduate of Arizona State College, the 6'2" 200 pound Devine played a football player in his first major role, "The Spirit of Notre Dame" in 1931. In 1933 the 29 year-old Andy married his 19 year-old bride Dorothy, a lifelong match. Through the 30's he often turned up as a cheerful sidekick in westerns. One of his favorite films was 1946's "Canyon Passage," mostly because his sons both had roles in it as well.



Andy was a regular on both the "Lum 'n' Abner" series and on the "The Jack Benny Show." In the latter, he played in western "Buck Benny" sketches. Devine's greeting "Hiya, Buck!" became a popular catch-phrase. A film based on the sketches, "Buck Benny Rides Again," was rushed into production.

By 1950, Devine claimed to have appeared in 300 films, which made one film for every pound of his now extensive girth. In many he played a cheerful bumbler (he had a chuckling laugh that sounded like a pocket full of spare change) or a haplessly laughable fall guy (his expressive face was perfect for comic pouts and furrow-browed looks of astonishment). In 1951 he gained fame among baby boomers as Jingles, sidekick to Guy Madison on "Wild Bill Hickok." His catch-phrase was a whining wail of "Hey Wild Bill! Wait for me!"



Then he took over for Smilin' Ed and was the star of "Andy's Gang." Good-natured Andy didn't seem to mind Froggy's stunts. He'd end up laughing and saying, "You little rascal!" And Froggy answered: "You great big square!"



Through the 50's and 60's Andy enjoyed summer theater work and played "Captain Andy" in many productions of "Show Boat." His last major TV role was playing Hap Gorman on "Flipper." As he got older, Andy became more active in politics and social causes, joining the Board of Directors of the Boy Scouts of Orange County and joining the committee to elect Ronald Reagan governor of California.

I received an e-mail from a fan who remembers Andy as being an incredible CB-radio buff. Can you imagine hearing that gravel voice sputtering onto your ham radio?



He and his pals could chat about politics, boats, Froggy the Gremlin, Wild Bill, the Devine comedy with Lum 'n' Abner and Jack Benny....lots of stuff. Andy seemed to have fulfilled most of his ambitions when he passed on; February 18, 1977, survived by his sons Tad and Dennis.

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If you're looking for Andy in films, here's a quick check list of major appearances: Naughty Baby (1929), The Criminal Code (1930), Spirit of Notre Dame (1931), Impatient Maiden (1932), Threee Wise Girls (1932), Destry Rides Again (1932), The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble (1933), Dr. Bull (1933), Let's Talk it Over (1934), Hold 'em Yale (1935), Chinatown Squad (1935), You're a Sweetheart (1937), A Star is Born (1937), Stagecoach (1939), Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), Flame of New Orleans (1941), Crazy House (1943), Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944), The Ghost Catchers (1944), Follow the Boys (1944), The Gay Ranchero (1948), The Traveling Saleswoman (1950), Never a Dull Moment (1950), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1964), Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), The Over the Hill Gang (1969) Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)

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An enduring tribute can be found on ROUTE 66...yes, there's Andy Devine Avenue....which is around Kingman, Arizona. You'll find photos of the young Andy and family at the Mohave Museum of History and Arts and if you wanna know WHY the big square has a big thoroughfare named after him, the information is right here: http://www.citlink.net/~mocohist/museum/andy.htm