Andrew Vabre Devine
October 7, 1905
|Died||February 18, 1977 (aged 71)|
Orange, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Pacific View Memorial Park, Newport Beach, California|
Andrew Vabre Devine (October 7, 1905 – February 18, 1977) was an American character actor known for his distinctive raspy, crackly voice and roles in Western films, including his role as Cookie, the sidekick of Roy Rogers in 10 feature films. He also appeared alongside John Wayne in films such as Stagecoach (1939), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and How the West Was Won (both 1962). He is also remembered as Jingles on the TV series The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok from 1951 to 1958, as Danny McGuire in A Star Is Born (1937), and as the voice of Friar Tuck in the Disney Animation Studio film Robin Hood (1973).
Devine was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, on October 7, 1905. He grew up in Kingman, Arizona, where his family moved when he was one 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 immigrated to the United States in 1852. Andy's mother was Amy Ward, a granddaughter of Commander James H. Ward, the first officer of the United States Navy killed during the Civil War.
He attended St. Mary's College in Leavenworth, Kansas, St. Benedict's College in Atchison, Kansas, and Northern Arizona State Teacher's College (now Northern Arizona University), and was a football player at Santa Clara University. He also played semiprofessional football under the pseudonym Jeremiah Schwartz. His football experience led to his first sizable film role in The Spirit of Notre Dame in 1931.
Devine had an ambition to act, so after college, he went to Hollywood, where he worked as a lifeguard at Venice Beach, in easy distance of the studios. While filming Doctor Bull at Fox Studios in 1933, he met Dorothy House (1915–2000). They were married on October 28, 1933, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and remained united until his death, on February 18, 1977. They had two children: Timothy Andrew (Tad) Devine and Dennis Patrick Gabriel Devine.
His peculiar wheezy voice was first thought likely to prevent him from moving to the talkies, but instead, it became his trademark. Devine claimed that his distinctive voice resulted from a childhood accident in which he fell while running with a curtain rod in his mouth at the Beale Hotel in Kingman, causing the rod to pierce the roof of his mouth. When he was able to speak again, he had a labored, scratchy, duo-tone voice. A biographer, however, indicated that this was one of several stories Devine fabricated about his voice. His son Tad related in an interview for Encore Westerns Channel (Jim Beaver, reporting from the 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival) that there indeed had been an accident, but he was uncertain if it resulted in his father's unusual 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."
Devine first attempted stand-up comedy, as he was part of a Vegas act called Three Fat Guys, along with David Arvedon and Jackie Gleason. They would have back-and-forth banter on stage revolving around second-rate jokes, which did not get much reaction from the audience. After Devine and Gleason left this act, Devine later appeared in more than 400 films and shared with Walter Brennan, another character actor, the rare ability to move with ease from B-movie Westerns to feature films. His notable roles included Cookie, Roy Rogers's sidekick, in 10 films; a role in Romeo and Juliet (1936), and Danny in A Star Is Born (1937). He appeared in several films with John Wayne, including Stagecoach (1939), Island in the Sky (1953), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
He was a long-time contract player with Universal, which 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.
Most of Devine's characters were reluctant to get involved in the action, but he played the hero in Island in the Sky (1953), as an expert pilot who leads other aviators on an arduous search for a missing airplane. Devine was generally known for his comic roles, but Jack Webb cast him as a police detective in Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), for which Devine lowered his voice and was more serious than usual.
His film appearances in his later years included roles in Zebra in the Kitchen (1965), The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969), and Myra Breckinridge (1970).
Devine worked extensively in radio, and is well remembered for his role as Jingles, Guy Madison's sidekick in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, which the two actors reprised on television. Devine appeared over 75 times on Jack Benny's radio show between 1936 and 1942, often in Benny's semiregular series of Western sketches, "Buck Benny Rides Again". Benny frequently referred to him 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 Andy's Gang, a children's TV show, on NBC from 1955 to 1960. During this time, he also made multiple appearances on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. In addition, he was a guest star on many television shows in the 1950s and 1960s, including an episode of The Twilight Zone titled "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby", playing the part of Frisby, a teller of tall tales who impresses a group of gullible alien kidnappers. He played Hap Gorman, a character likewise given to tall tales, in five episodes of the NBC TV series Flipper, during its 1964 season. He played the role of Jake Sloan in the 1961 episode "Big Jake" of the acclaimed anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show, also on NBC. He also played Honest John Denton in the episode "A Horse of a Different Cutter" of the short-lived series The Rounders.
He made a cameo appearance as Santa Claus in an episode of the 1960s live-action Batman TV series on ABC. The episode, entitled "The Duo Is Slumming", was originally broadcast on December 22, 1966. In this role, he directly addressed 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, he went 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.
He also performed voice parts in animated films, including Friar Tuck in Walt Disney's Robin Hood. He provided the voice of Cornelius the Rooster in several TV commercials for Kellogg's Corn Flakes.
Devine was a pilot and owned Provo Devine, a flying school that trained flyers for the government during World War II.
Devine was a Republican. Devine supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.
Devine died of leukemia at the age of 71 in Orange, California, on February 18, 1977. His funeral mass was held at Holy Family Cathedral. Actor Ken Curtis sang at the funeral.
The main street of his hometown of Kingman was renamed Andy Devine Avenue. His career is highlighted in the Mohave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman, and a star in his honor is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His name also appears in the song "Pencil Thin Mustache" by Jimmy Buffett, which describes the pop culture of his youth, and in Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention's song "Andy" on their 1975 album One Size Fits All. In 2019, on his album Good Dog, Dave Stamey released a song entitled "Andy Devine," recounting tales of encounters with Hollywood Western actors.