Probably the last time anyone called him “Little Andy” was at about three years of age. He was a big man not just in stature but in heart and soul. He didn’t know at the tender age of 1 year when he reached Kingman with his mom and dad that he would someday be their favorite son.

Andy Devine moved to Kingman from his birthplace at Flagstaff, with his family after his father lost a leg while working on the railroad. Tom Devine, took his family to Kingman and bought the Beale Hotel.

Andy was so full of energy that it seemed he was always getting hurt in one way or another and it made the news too. The Mohave Miner reported February 29, 1908 that Andrew fell 13 feet from the rear porch of the hotel sustaining a fracture of his left arm and various bruises. Most Kingman residents remembered the ornery things Andy got into in his youth. One serious accident actually changed his life. As a youngster he was jumping on the couch with a curtain rod in his mouth, he fell and damaged his throat and vocal cords, in fact for two years he couldn’t speak without a stutter and that cracking sound that made him famous. While visiting Kingman once, Andy finally owned up to the infamous “cat” incident. It seems someone paid him 50 cents to get rid of a pesky cat. Well 50 cents was a chunk of change back then so he grabbed a friend and some dynamite and took the cat to the dump. The wrapped the fuse around the cat, lit it and took off running only to find the cat running right behind them and yep the fuse was still lit. The cat ran under a house, making Andy think the house was going to blow up but the cat flew out from under the house and hid under the woodshed…and it promptly blew sky high. No one ever knew what happened until he fessed up to the deed during a speech in his hometown.

Andy started out in silent films, a good thing since his squeaky voice would not have worked on the silver screen. But it wasn’t long before that accident as a child became his ticket to stardom. His voice was once described as “a steam calliope with the broken key,” but it was just what movie executives were looking for. His first “talkie” was Law and Order in 1932, he played a dull witted young man who was hanged after an accidental killing but that turned to “sidekick” quickly. He played Cookie Bullfincher in 9 movies and replaced Gabby Hayes in the Roy Rogers movies. He always played comic relief roles in musicals, westerns and even some gangster flicks. While most of his movies were “B” type, he jumped to the A-team with John Wayne in Stagecoach and made a lifelong friend.

Andy Devine moved away from the B Movies and ended up playing more A movie roles than anyone except Walter Brennen. He managed to keep his life and his boys away from the glitter of Hollywood, raising the kids on a ranch. He was active in 4-H with the boys. They raised pigeons and horses, spent a lot of time fishing and never got involved in ham radio.

During his movie career, he did some 400 movies, working with Hollywood’s elite. His career was diverse, with “A Star is Born,” the original version, “Island in the Sky,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.” He moved to the small screen, starring with Guy Madison as Jingles in “Wild Bill Hickok.”

Andy Devine always seems to be remembered as a kind and gentle man who was interested in people. He was loved by his peers as well as his home towners. When he died of heart failure while fighting leukemia in 1977, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart were reduced to tears at the funeral. Guy Madison praised the gentle giant of a man as one who believed each man’s time is important, no matter his station in life.

Kingman residents honor their favorite son each summer during the PRCA Rodeo with Andy Devine Days.

Andy’s big break in the movies came with the movie “Stagecoach.” Originally director John Ford wanted one of his regulars, Ward Bond for the role as stage driver. Trouble was, Bond didn’t know how to “pull six ribbons,” or handle the 6 reins on a three-horse driven stagecoach and Andy did, so he got the job instead and the rest is history.

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