October 7 is the birthday of Hollywood character actor Andy Devine (1905-1977). Several facets of Devine’s successful career compel us to include him on Travalanche, chiefly, his identity as a comic actor, his participation in westerns, and his role as a children’s entertainer.
Devine was famous for his voice, variously described as “raspy” or “hoarse” or “froggy”. Definitely, there seems to have been something amiss with his vocal cords, which produced a secondary overtone when he spoke. His voice sort of makes you want to adjust the sound knobs for clarity. Devine and studio publicists gave out sundry explanations (accidents, illnesses) for why he sounded that way. I’m sure there’s no definite answer and, anyway, I’m not the slightest bit curious about such things. Five’ll get you ten he was simply born that way, the way I was born with a doomed appendix and my nephew was born with six fingers. Everybody is special. It’s why freaks are the royalty of the sideshow. If we were all born identical, we wouldn’t be human. Andy Devine is the guy with that voice, and that is why people bought tickets to see him.
Well, that’s not the only reason. He had a lovable visage and personality and was a believable actor. In fact, so believable is he in his roles, that it comes as something of a shock to learn he was a college graduate. Not many of his screen characters were! It’s much less shocking to learn that he as from Kingman Arizona, or that he was a football star. The football experience came into play in many of his earliest roles. He broke into films in 1926 in the silent comedy series The Collegians, under the direction of Wesley Ruggles. He’s in too many notable talkies to name, but here are a few: Doctor Bull (1934) with Will Rogers; Romeo and Juliet (1936); A Star is Born (1937); In Old Chicago (1937); Stagecoach (1939); Buck Benny Rides Again (1940); The Flame of New Orleans (1941); Crazy House (1943) and Ghost Catchers (1944), both with Olsen and Johnson; The Red Badge of Courage (1951); Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955); Two Rode Together (1961); The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962); It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963); The Over the Hill Gang (1969); no less than ten Roy Rogers musical westerns, scores of other westerns (both “A” and “B” pictures), and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
On both radio and television, he was famous as Jingles on The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok throughout the 1950s; he was a repeat guest of Jack Benny’s radio show 75 times; and is fondly remembered by Baby Boomers for his role on the children’s tv program Andy’s Gang from 1955 through 1960. One of his last roles was his voice over as Friar Tuck in the 1973 Disney animated feature Robin Hood.