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Frank DeVol Dead at 88

Obituary by Jeff Bond

Film and television composer Frank DeVol died October 27 at a nursing home in Lafayette, California of congestive heart failure. He had been in failing health for several years. Often credited in his television work simply as DeVol, the composer was the model of a hard-working and versatile composer whose work graced more than fifty motion pictures. His early film career included the development of a lengthy professional relationship with director Robert Aldrich, for whom DeVol scored World for Ransom, Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Knife, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Flight of the Phoenix and The Dirty Dozen, among others. He received Oscar nominations for his scores to Pillow Talk, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Cat Ballou and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and also provided memorable scores for the John Wayne romp McClintock! and the Doris Day comedies The Ballad of Josie and The Glass Bottomed Boat.

DeVol was probably most familiar to television viewers for his memorable title themes, including My Three Sons, Family Affair and The Brady Bunch, for which DeVol wrote a song that has gained particular cultural currency after decades of reruns and two satirical hit movies based on the original series. The Brady Bunch theme earned the composer one of five Emmy nominations, and it remains the music for which he is best remembered. DeVol had a gift for light comedy and effortlessly scored vehicles for Doris Day and several "Herbie the Love Bug" films for Walt Disney, but he was equally capable of providing tuneful, exciting adventure scores for Robert Aldrich's masculine adventures like The Dirty Dozen, Flight of the Phoenix and Emperor of the North Pole. DeVol also became familiar to television viewers as an actor, appearing in episodes of Petticoat Junction, I'm Dickens, He's Fenster and The Betty White Show, and in the films The Parent Trap and The Frisco Kid. He had a regular role as the ironically-named band leader Happy Kyne on the Norman Lear-produced talk show lampoons America 2-Nite and Fernwood 2-Nite, playing opposite Martin Mull and Fred Willard.

Born in Moundsville, West Virginia and raised in Canton, Ohio, DeVol started in show business playing violin at the age of 14 in his father's orchestra for silent films and vaudeville acts. He married dancer Grace Agnes McGinty and moved to California in the '30s and became an arranger and musical director for a number of radio stars. He arranged music and conducted orchestras that played with vocalists like Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone and Ella Fitzgerald in the '40s and '50s, and was the arranger and conductor for Nat King Cole's classic hit "Nature Boy." His first wife died in 1989, after which DeVol married former big band vocalist Helen O'Connell; she died in 1993. DeVol is survived by two daughters from his first marriage and two grandsons.

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