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"In the Spotlight"


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In the Spotlight: BURL IVES




Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was one of six children of a Scottish-Irish farming family, born on June 14, 1909 near Hunt City in Jasper County, Illinois.

He first sang in public for a soldiers' reunion when he was age 4, performing the folk ballad "Barbara Allen".

In high school, he learned the banjo and played fullback, intending to become a football coach when he enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teacher's College in 1927. He dropped out in 1930 and wandered, hitching rides, doing odd jobs, street singing.


Ives traveled about the U.S. as an itinerant singer during the early 1930s, earning his way by doing odd jobs and playing his banjo. He was jailed in Mona, Utah, for vagrancy and for singing ?Foggy Foggy Dew,? which the authorities decided was a bawdy song. In c. 1931 he landed on WBOW radio in Terre Haute, Indiana. He also went back to school, registering for classes at Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State University).


In 1940 Ives began his own radio show, titled 'The Wayfaring Stranger' after one of his ballads. The show was very popular.

In the 1940s he popularized several traditional folk songs, such as ?Lavender Blue? (his first hit, a folk song from the 17th century), ?Foggy Foggy Dew? (an English/Irish folk song), ?Blue Tail Fly? (an old Civil War tune) and ?Big Rock Candy Mountain? (an old hobo ditty).


Ives' Broadway career began in 1938 in various musicals including, "This Is the Army", "Sing Out Sweet Land", and "Paint Your Wagon".


In early 1942 Ives was drafted by the military and spent time first at Camp Dix, then at Camp Upton, where he joined the cast of Irving Berlin's "This Is the Army". When the show went to Hollywood, he was transferred to the Army Air Force. He was discharged honorably, apparently for medical reasons.

After which Ives returned to New York City and went to work again for CBS radio for $100 a week.


On Dec. 6, 1945, Ives married 29-year-old script writer Helen Peck Ehrlich and became the father of a daughter. The next year, Ives was cast as a singing cowboy in the film "Smoky".

He also wrote some best selling books, including his autobiography.


Ives was identified in the infamous 1950 pamphlet Red Channels as an entertainer with supposed Communist ties. In 1952, he cooperated with the House Unamerican Activities Committee and named fellow folk singer Pete Seeger and others as possible Communists.

His cooperation with the HUAC ended his blacklisting, allowing him to continue with his movie acting. Forty-one years later, Ives and Seeger were reunited in a benefit concert in New York City; they sang "Blue Tail Fly" together.


His most notable Broadway performance was as Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955-56), a role written specifically for Ives by Tennessee Williams.


His movie credits cntinued with "East of Eden" (1955); "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958) and "The Big Country" (1958), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (although it is believed he won the award on the strength of his role as Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof").

Other roles included, Disney's "So Dear to My Heart", "The Power and the Prize", "Desire Under the Elms", "Wind Across the Everglades", "Our Man in Havana", "Let No Man Write My Epitaph" a strong drama, "The Spiral Road", "Ensign Pulver", etc.


In the 1960s Ives began singing country/folk music with greater frequency. In 1962 he released three songs which became country music hits, ?A Little Bitty Tear,? ?Call Me Mr In-Between,? and ?Funny Way of Laughing.? All three songs also topped the pop charts.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Ives had a number of television roles. He played the narrator, Sam the Snowman, in the animated television special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964), a popular favoite which is aired every Christmas.


Ives and Helen Peck Ehrlich were divorced in 1971. Ives then married Dorothy Koster Paul in London in that same year. In his later years, Ives and his wife, Dorothy, lived with their 3 children in a home located alongside the water in Anacortes, in the Puget Sound area of Washington.

Ives officially retired from show business on his 80th birthday in 1989 although he continued to do frequent benefit performances at his own request.


In 1995 Ives died of cancer of the mouth at the age of 85, and he is interred in Mound Cemetery in Jasper County, Illinois.


The versatile gent does not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Message was edited by: mongo

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Hi Mongo, I enjoyed Burl Ives performance as Big Daddy in "Cat ON A Hot Tin Roof". Thanks for the imfo that the role was originally written for him, and he played the part on Broadway. Now you know why I enjoy your "In The Spotlight`s" so much. It is true that Burl won the best supporting award for "The Big Country". He also gave a fine performance as the strong willed father. The scenes that I remember best are with his weakling son and his confontrations with neighboring rancher, Charles Bickford.

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Thanks, cashette. As I mentioned in the profile, Burl Ives did win an Oscar for "The Big Country" although many thought he should have been nominated for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (that same year).

It was Ives who informed the Academy that if he was nominated for "Cat" he should be in the Best Actor category, which apparently wasn't agreeable to the Academy.

I have pictues of both films ready to post here.

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Hi Joe! I have to tell you, this is the only one of your spotlights that I haven't enjoyed, but only because this guy just totally "creeps me out". ICK! I think the first time I saw him was in *Desire Under the Elms* (as a child) and his lust for Sophia Loren seemed extremely sick and distasteful. I don't even remember the movie, just his part. After that it was all down hill for me. The only role of his that I can watch is Big Daddy. Different strokes for different folks, eh?

But for heavens sake, keep those lights turned on! :)



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Nancy, as always, thanks for your input. Although it is apparent that as an actor Burl Ives' unsavory character left an impression on you since he is the only one that you recall from that movie. Of all the profiles I posted thus far there are also actors that I'm not crazy about either.

In any event the lights will remain on.

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The cast of "The Big Country" (from rear) Charles Bickford, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston,

Carroll Baker, Burl Ives, Chuck Connors, Alfonso Bedoya, director William Wyler and

Gregory Peck

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You can really come up with some interesting "spotlights".


Burl Ives WAS "Big Daddy" in every way, shape(oops:)and form. He certainly ran

the gamut of emotions. His distaste for his "no neck" grandchildren and his disrepect

for "Big Mama" was so well played.


Keep those threads coming as we obviously enjoy them.

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Thank you guys. Old Packard, you were fortunate to get to see Burl Ives sing those folk songs in Reno. It is certainly a wonderful recollection.


Barger, Tennessee Williams was on target when he wrote the part of Big Daddy with Burl Ives in mind. The gent was perfecto in the role.

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