George Murphy
Official portrait, 1964
United States Senator
from California
In office
January 1, 1965 – January 1, 1971
Preceded byPierre Salinger
Succeeded byJohn V. Tunney
7th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
Preceded byJames Cagney
Succeeded byRobert Montgomery
Personal details
George Lloyd Murphy

(1902-07-04)July 4, 1902
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedMay 3, 1992(1992-05-03) (aged 89)
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Julie Henkel-Johnson
(m. 1926; died 1973)
Betty Duhon Blandi
(m. 1982)
Parent(s)Mike Murphy
Nora Long
EducationYale University (BA)

George Lloyd Murphy (July 4, 1902 – May 3, 1992) was an American actor and politician. Murphy was a song-and-dance leading man in many big-budget Hollywood musicals from 1930 to 1952. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946, and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1951. Murphy served from 1965 to 1971 as U.S. Senator from California, the first notable American actor to be elected to statewide office in California, predating Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who each served two terms as governor.[1] He is the only United States Senator represented by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Murphy was born in New Haven, Connecticut, of Irish Catholic extraction, the son of Michael Charles "Mike" Murphy, athletic trainer and coach, and the former Nora Long.[2] He was educated at Trinity-Pawling School, Peddie School and Yale University in his native New Haven.[3]



George Murphy as an actor c. 1930s.

In movies, Murphy was known as a song-and-dance man and appeared in many big-budget musicals such as Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940) and For Me and My Gal (1942). He made his movie debut shortly after talking pictures had replaced silent movies in 1930, and his career continued until he retired as an actor in 1952, at the age of 50. During World War II, he organized entertainment for American troops.[4]

In 1951, he was awarded an honorary Academy Award. He was never nominated for an Oscar in any competitive category.[citation needed] On March 14, 1951, he hosted the first ever Eddie Awards for American Cinema Editors.[5][6]

He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946. He was also a vice president of Desilu Productions and of the Technicolor Corporation.[7] He was director of entertainment for presidential inaugurations in 1953, 1957 and 1961.[citation needed]


Murphy while serving as U.S. Senator.

Murphy entered politics in 1952 by joining the leadership of the California Republican Party, having also directed the entertainment for the Eisenhower-Nixon inauguration that same year.

In 1964, he was elected as a Republican to the Senate, having defeated Pierre Salinger, the former presidential press secretary in the Kennedy White House, who had been appointed several months earlier to serve the remainder of the late Clair Engle's unexpired term. Murphy served from January 1, 1965, to January 1, 1971. He took his seat two days early, when Salinger resigned to allow Murphy to gain an edge in seniority; Murphy was then appointed by Democratic Governor Pat Brown to serve the remaining two days of Salinger's term. (In turn, Murphy resigned two days before his term expired, extending the same courtesy to his successor.)

Murphy was in demand for a time to assist other Republican candidates seeking office. In 1966, he hosted a fundraising dinner in Atlanta, for U.S. Representative Howard "Bo" Callaway, the first Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction. In the election, Callaway outpolled Democrat Lester Maddox, but did not get a majority, and the state legislature elected Maddox.[8]

In 1967 and 1968, Murphy was the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. During his Senate term, Murphy developed throat cancer, and part of his larynx had to be removed. For the rest of his life, he was unable to speak above a whisper.

Murphy voted in favor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,[9] as well as the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court,[10] and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.[11]

In 1970, Murphy ran for re-election; he was challenged by Democratic U.S. Representative John V. Tunney, the son of famed heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. Murphy's surgery and staunch support for the lingering Vietnam War worked against him, as did reports that he had continued to receive a salary from Technicolor after taking office.[7] Tunney's successful Senate race in 1970 was reportedly the inspiration for the 1972 Robert Redford film The Candidate.[12]

Personal life and death

Murphy was married to his ballroom dancing partner, Juliette "Julie" Henkel-Johnson, from December 18, 1926, until her death, in 1973. They had two children: Dennis Michael Murphy and Melissa Elaine Murphy.[citation needed]

He was married to Bette Blandi from 1982 until his death in 1992;[13] she died in 1999.

Murphy subsequently moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he died at the age of 89, from leukemia.[citation needed]


Murphy's move from the screen to California politics paved the way for the successful transitions of actors such as Ronald Reagan and later Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reagan once famously referred to George Murphy as his own "John the Baptist".

Fellow Republicans praised Murphy's ability to speak at fundraising dinners and so consequently backed his bid to become the chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.[14]

During his tenure in the Senate, Murphy created the candy desk by placing a supply of confectionery on his desk on the U.S. Senate floor. After 1971, the candy-desk duties were bequeathed to a string of successors; as of 2023, the keeper of the candy desk is Indiana Republican Todd Young.

Murphy was the subject of a song by Tom Lehrer included on his album That Was the Year That Was with the same name, which criticized Murphy's comments about Mexicans working in the US.[15]


Murphy in the film London by Night (1937).




  1. ^ In 1944, Democrat Jimmie Davis (1899–2000)—popularizer of "You Are My Sunshine"—was elected to his first term as Governor of Louisiana. In 1948 Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff won the Republican nomination for Governor of Tennessee but was defeated in the general election. Helen Gahagan Douglas served in the House of Representatives from 1945 to 1951.
  2. ^ "Murphy, George Lloyd". The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  3. ^ George Lloyd Murphy, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed February 27, 2011.
  4. ^ "MURPHY, George Lloyd". Biographical Directory of the U. S. Congress. Office of the Historian, U. S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Film Editors Hold First Annual Dinner". Los Angeles Evening Citizen News. March 15, 1951. p. 25. Retrieved March 25, 2024.
  6. ^ Ogilvie, Jack (July 1961). "The Origin of the A.C.E.s". In Smith, Fredrick Y. (ed.). ACE First Decade Anniversary Book. Hollywood, California: American Cinema Editors, Inc. The first annual Awards Dinner honoring the Nominees for Film Editing Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was held in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel on March 14, 1951.
  7. ^ a b Steinberg, Jacques (May 5, 1992). "George Murphy, Singer and Actor Who Became Senator, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  8. ^ Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the Election of 1966", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, XXXI (Winter 1987-1988), pp. 42, 47
  9. ^ "TO PASS S. 1564, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965".
  12. ^ Christensen, Terry, and Hass, Peter. Projecting Politics: Political Messages in American Films, p. 146
  13. ^ Thompson, Zan (12 June 1986). "The Personal Side of George Murphy at Age 83". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  14. ^ Weaver, Warren (8 December 1966). "Murphy Is Urged to Challenge Liberals for G.O.P. Senate Job; He Is Backed to Oppose Scott as Campaign Unit Leader Dirksen May Decide" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  15. ^ Lehrer, Tom. "George Murphy (incl. The George Murphy Campaign Song and addenda)". Tom Lehrer Songs. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  16. ^ "Escape and Suspense!: Suspense - Death on Highway 99". Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  17. ^ Kirby, Walter (April 13, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved May 11, 2015 – via Open access icon
  18. ^ "UNSOLD PILOTS ON TELEVISION, 1956–1966". Television Obscurities. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2024.
  19. ^ Robert Jay (13 June 2009). "Status of New Comedy Showcase". Television Obscurities. Retrieved 4 June 2024.