George Murphy

George Murphy Biography.com

Film Actor, Actor, Theater Actor, U.S. Representative(1902–1992)
Actor George Murphy starred in more than 45 films, including Little Miss Broadway opposite Shirley Temple. In 1964, he was elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate.

Synopsis

George Murphy was born on July 4, 1902 in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1927, he made his Broadway debut in the musical comedy Good News. He made his movie debut in 1934's Kid Millions. Over the course of his acting career, he starred in more than 45 films. In 1964, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, representing California as a Republican. Murphy died of leukemia in Palm Beach, Florida on May 3, 1992.

Early Life

George Lloyd Murphy was born on July 4, 1902 in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, Michael Murphy, was a track coach for the University of Pennsylvania. Michael Murphy also coached the U.S. Olympic track team to their 1912 first place win in Stockholm.

The young George Murphy received his education at Peddie Institute in Hightstown, New Jersey, and at the Pawling School in upstate New York. He pursued his undergraduate degree at Yale University but dropped out in his junior year. For a time, he worked a string of odd jobs, including a stint as a coal miner in Pennsylvania. In the 1920s, he moved to New York and took up work as a messenger for a Wall Street brokerage firm, but it was not long before Murphy was drawn to the stage.

Entertainment

After his departure from Wall Street, Murphy formed a dance duo with Juliette Henkel, known on the stage as Julie Johnson. The two started out performing in cabarets and at coming-out parties for wealthy debutantes, gradually transitioning to the New York nightclub circuit. They married in 1926 and remained together for nearly five decades, until Juliette’s passing.

In 1927, Murphy gave his Broadway debut performance in a musical comedy show called Good News. He went on to perform in three additional Broadway shows between 1927 and 1934. The first and third shows, Hold Everything and Roberta, were also musical comedies, while the second show, Of Thee I Sing, was a political satire.

Murphy made his silver-screen debut in 1934's Kid Millions. He moved to Hollywood the following year, as the film roles started pouring in. Over the course of his acting career, Murphy starred in more than 45 films, including This Is the Army, Little Miss Broadway and The Powers Girl, dancing and acting opposite the likes of Shirley Temple and Judy Garland.

Political Career

Being an actor wasn't Murphy's only role in the Hollywood entertainment industry. In 1937 he became a member of the Screen Actors Guild's board of directors. In 1939, he switched his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican. He served as SAG's president from 1944 to 1946, combining his passion for entertainment with his growing interest in Hollywood politics.

Also in that vein, Murphy was appointed director of entertainment for the 1952 presidential inauguration. He held the position through the next two presidential elections. During that time, he also was elected chairman of the Republican State Central Committee of California (1953–1954) and served as vice president of Desilu Productions—co-owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball—from 1958 to 1961.

From 1961 to 1964, Murphy held the vice presidency at Technicolor Corporation. In 1964, he was elected as a United States senator, representing California as a Republican. He served a six-year term and attempted to run for re-election in 1970, but lost his seat to Democratic candidate John V. Tunney. Murphy was recovering from a throat cancer operation at the time.

Later Years and Death

Murphy married for a second time in 1982. He died of leukemia at age 89, at his Palm Beach, Florida, home on May 3, 1992. Murphy was survived by his second wife, as well as two children from his marriage to Juliette Henkel: a son named Dennis and a daughter named Melissa.

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