ANDY DEVINE (that big fat square)

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. He 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. 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.

And here's Andy with his wife, and with another successful radio comic, Norris Goff (of the Lum 'n' Abner team). 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? Many fans happily chatted with Andy, and here you see a CB card (with Andy's number and address) he autographed to one of his CB good buddies!

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.

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)