Arthur Godfrey


Arthur Godfrey : biography

August 31, 1903 – March 17, 1983

Godfrey appeared on every major magazine cover including Life, Look, Time, and over a dozen TV Guide covers. He was also the first man to ever make the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. Despite his faux pas, Godfrey still commanded a strong presence and a loyal fan base. Talent Scouts lasted until 1958.

In later years, WCCO afternoon-drive host Steve Cannon paid homage to the "Little Godfreys" with three characters he called "The Little Cannons", as in "Ma Linger" (described as "the poor man’s Brooke Shields"), "Backlash LaRue" (a play on 1950s B-Western star Lash LaRue) and "Morgan Mundane", billed as "the World’s Greatest Prognosticator" and called in to offer sports predictions.

"The Walking Song" by The Turtles features a parody of Godfrey’s "Ha-why-ya, ha-why-ya, ha-why-ya" at the end of the song.

Allegations of anti-Semitism

Accusations of anti-Semitism shadowed Godfrey during the height of his career and persist even today. Eddie Fisher, in his autobiography, Been There, Done That, discusses the rumor:

Arthur J. Singer, author of Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster (2000), rejects this accusation, citing Godfrey’s good personal relations with a number of Jews in the entertainment industry, including his longtime announcer Tony Marvin. As for Godfrey’s association with the Kenilworth, the hotel did establish a "No Jews" policy in the 1920s, but abandoned it when Godfrey acquired a stake in the hotel in the early 1950s.

Dick Cavett, in an opinion piece for the New York Times (July 16, 2010), calls the accusations of anti-Semitism "…purest nonsense".


Godfrey learned to fly in the 1930s while working in broadcast radio in the Washington, D.C., area, starting out with gliders, then learning to fly airplanes. He was badly injured on his way to a flying lesson one afternoon in 1931 when a truck, coming the other way, lost its left front wheel and hit him head on. Godfrey spent months recuperating, and the injury would keep him from flying on active duty during World War II. He served as a reserve officer in the United States Navy in a public affairs role during the war.

Godfrey used his pervasive fame to advocate a strong anti-Communist stance and to pitch for enhanced strategic air power in the Cold War atmosphere. In addition to his advocacy for civil rights, he became a strong promoter of his middle-class fans vacationing in Hawaii and Miami Beach, Florida, formerly enclaves for the wealthy. He made a television movie in 1953, taking the controls of an Eastern Airlines Lockheed Constellation airliner and flying to Miami, thus showing how safe airline travel had become. As a reserve officer, he used his public position to cajole the Navy into qualifying him as a Naval Aviator, and played that against the United States Air Force, who successfully recruited him into the Air Force Reserve. At one time during the 1950s, Godfrey had flown every active aircraft in the military inventory.

His continued unpaid promotion of Eastern Airlines earned him the undying gratitude of good friend Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I flying ace who was the President of the airline. He was such a good friend of the airline that Rickenbacker took a retiring Douglas DC-3, fitted it out with an executive interior and DC-4 engines, and presented it to Godfrey, who then used it to commute to the studios in New York City from his huge Leesburg, Virginia, farm every Sunday night.


In January 1954, Godfrey buzzed the control tower of Teterboro Airport in his DC-3. His license was suspended for six months. Godfrey claimed the windy conditions that day required him to turn immediately after takeoff, but in fact he was peeved with the tower because they would not give him the runway he requested. He later recorded a satirical song about the incident, "Teterboro Tower," roughly to the tune of "Wabash Cannonball". A similar event occurred while he flew near Chicago in 1956, though no sanctions were imposed. These incidents, in the wake of the controversies that swirled around Godfrey after his firing of Julius LaRosa, only further underscored the differences between his private and public persona.