Andy Devine, 71, the Hollywood actor whose broad girth and, rasping, whining voice made him memorable in numerous roles as the comic sidekick in westerns and adventure stories, died Friday in a hospital in Irvine, Calif.
Mr. Devine had suffered from leukemia and required periodic hospital treatment. He had been hospitalized in July for pneumonia and kidney problems.
An actor since the days of silent films, Mr. Devine appeared by his own estimate in "several hundred" movies, including such classics as "Stagecoach."
In the 1950s, he became widely known as the deputy to Guy Madison's marshal Wild Bill Hickok in a long-running television series. "I'd get everybody into trouble and Guy'd get 'em out," Mr. Devine recalled.
Whether playing Jingles Jone sin the 118-episode western series or Smilin' Ed on Smilin' Ed's Gang, a children's show, Mr. Devine found his voice to be his fortune.
For years it made him almost indispensible. Whether the original script called for such a role or not, directors discovered they required at least one heavy-set, good-natured character who delivered his lines in a high-pitched, gravel-voiced croak.
In a Motion-Picture Herald poll for 1948-49, MR. Devine won a place as one of the top 10 money makers in western movies.
But, as Mr. Devine recalled it, therewas a time when his voice threatened to jeopardize his embryonic career. It was when silent pictures were giving way to the talkies.
"When sound come in, they threw me right out into the street," he once said. "With my voice they thought I'd clear the theaters."
Instead, it catapulted him into comedy. "Some other portly guys went dramatic," Mr. Devine said, "but I couldn't go any other way than I did with my voice. Imagine me playing a famous trial lawyer or a nasty villain."
Sometimes described, at least in later years, as falling between a factory whistle and a fog horn, Mr. Devine's voice became a legend. "Folks are always sending me cures for what ails me." Mr. Devine was quoted in the 1930s.
A 1939 news report traced the origin of Mr. Devine's distinctive voice to an incident that occurred when the Flagstaff, Ariz., native was five years old. As the account goes, he was jumping on a davenport when a pointed stick in his mouth. He fell, and the point pierced the roof of his mouth.
When Mr. Devine regained his voice, weeks afterward, he reportedly said, "It was kind whiney." And subsequently, despite efforts to speak normally, he said, "I just kept on whining."
Befor making use of this unexpected asset, Mr. Devine studied drama at Santa Clara and worked at various times as a lifeguard, farmer and telephone lineman.
He broke into silent mivies in hte mid-1920s, starting as an extra. In addition to "Stagecoach," in 1939, in which he played the driver, some of the films in which Mr. Devine appeared are "The Red Badge of Courage, the "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves," "Two Rode Together," "Spitit of Notre Dame," and "Around the World in 80 Days"
In the 1930's, he began five-year stint on theJack Benny radio show.
In his 60s, he toured widely in such stage productions as "Showboat," "Never Too Late," "On Borrowed Time," and "Anything Goes."
Mr. Devine was in the movies as recently as last year, when he played in "Won Ton TOn, the Dog that Saved Hollywood."
He and his wife, Dorothy, whom he married in 1933, lived for years in Van Nuys, Calif., where he was "honorary mayor." The family moved in 1957 to Newport Beach. In addition to his wife, survivors include tow sons, Tad and Denny.