George Lloyd Murphy (July 4, 1902 – May 3, 1992) was an American dancer, actor, and politician. Murphy was a song-and-dance leading man in many big-budget Hollywood musicals from 1930 to 1952. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946, and was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1951. Murphy served from 1965 to 1971 as U.S. Senator from California, the first notable U.S. actor to make the successful transition to elected official in California, predating Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is the only United States Senator represented by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, of Irish Catholic extraction, the son of Michael Charles "Mike" Murphy, athletic trainer and coach, and the former Nora Long. He was educated at Trinity-Pawling School, Peddie School and Yale University in his native New Haven. He worked as a tool maker for the Ford Motor Company, as a miner, a real estate agent, and a night club dancer.
In movies, Murphy was famous as a song-and-dance man and appeared in many big-budget musicals such as Broadway Melody of 1938, Broadway Melody of 1940 and For Me and My Gal. He made his movie debut shortly after talking pictures had replaced silent movies in 1930, and his career continued until he retired as an actor in 1952, at the age of 50.
In 1951, he was awarded an honorary Academy Award. He was never nominated for an Oscar in any competitive category.
He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946. He was also a vice president of Desilu Studios and of the Technicolor Corporation. He was director of entertainment for presidential inaugurations in 1953, 1957 and 1961.
In 1964, he was elected as a Republican to the Senate, having defeated Pierre Salinger, the former presidential press secretary in the Kennedy White House, who had been appointed several months earlier to serve the remainder of the late Clair Engle's unexpired term. Murphy served from January 1, 1965 to January 3, 1971. Murphy assumed his seat two days early, when Salinger resigned from the seat to allow Murphy to gain an edge in seniority. Murphy was then appointed by Democratic Governor Pat Brown to serve the remaining two days of Salinger's term. His election attracted the attention of satirist Tom Lehrer, who wrote and performed a song about him.
Murphy was in demand for a time to assist other Republican candidates seeking office. In 1966, he hosted a fundraising dinner in Atlanta, Georgia for US Representative Howard "Bo" Callaway, the first Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.
In 1967 and 1968, Murphy was the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. During his Senate term, Murphy developed throat cancer, and part of his larynx had to be removed. For the rest of his life, he was unable to speak above a whisper.
In 1970, Murphy ran for re-election; he was challenged by Democratic US Representative John V. Tunney, the son of famed heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. Murphy's surgery and staunch support for the lingering Vietnam War worked against him, as did reports that he had continued to receive a salary from Technicolor after taking office. Tunney's successful Senate race in 1970 was reportedly the inspiration for the 1972 Robert Redford film The Candidate.
Murphy's move from the screen to California politics paved the way for the successful transitions of actors such as Ronald Reagan and later Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reagan once famously referred to George Murphy as his own "John the Baptist".
Fellow Republicans praised Murphy's ability to speak at fundraising dinners and so consequently backed his bid to become the chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
During his tenure in the Senate, Murphy created the candy desk by placing a supply of confectionery on his desk on the US Senate floor. After 1971, the candy-desk duties were bequeathed to a string of successors; since 2015, the keeper of the candy desk has been Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey.
Murphy was married to his ballroom dancing partner, Juliette "Julie" Henkel-Johnson, from December 18, 1926 until her death, in 1973. They had two children: Dennis Michael Murphy and Melissa Elaine Murphy.
He was married to Bette Blandi from 1982 until his death in 1992. His widow died in 1999.
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|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from California
S. I. Hayakawa
Thruston Ballard Morton
|Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
|Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Howard Baker, George H. W. Bush, Peter Dominick, Gerald Ford, Robert Griffin, Thomas Kuchel, Mel Laird, Bob Mathias, Dick Poff, Chuck Percy, Al Quie, Charlotte Reid, Hugh Scott, Bill Steiger, John Tower
Title next held byDonald Fraser, Scoop Jackson, Mike Mansfield, John McCormack, Patsy Mink, Ed Muskie, Bill Proxmire
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
Served alongside: Thomas Kuchel, Alan Cranston
John V. Tunney