Actor/singer Burl Ives narrates the classic animated musical Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which first aired on TV 50 years ago in 1964. This year, CBS will air the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer one-hour family special on Tuesday, December 9 at 8pm.
Ives, born in 1909, had an interesting career before and after Rudolph. In the early 1930s he was an itinerant singer, making his way by doing odd jobs. In the 1940s, he started his own radio show where he popularized several traditional folk songs. He was drafted into the Army, discharged honorably for medical reasons, and then headed to New York to work for CBS radio. In the 1950s he was blacklisted as an entertainer with supposed Communist ties. He cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which allowed him to continue acting. America’s most beloved folk singer Pete Seeger (who made no bones about his Communist Party membership) accused Ives of naming names but that didn’t stop Ives from acting. Ives went on to star as Sam the Sheriff in East of Eden and Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. In the 1960s, Ives won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Big Country. In 1995, at the age of 85, Ives died of complication of oral cancer.