I am not sure how many of you knew who Shirley Dinsdale was but she was quite a talent.
She is best remembered for her dummy, “Judy Splinters”, and for the early children’s television show that bears that name. In 1948, she received the first ever Emmy award (first award in the first presentation) for Outstanding Television Personality. After her television career, she also achieved success in a second career as a cardiopulmonary therapist.
Shirley was born in San Francisco, California in 1926. After being badly burned in a household accident, she was given a ventriloquist’s dummy by her artist father as part of her recovery. That dummy, which she named Judy Splinters, inspired her to make her break into radio. In 1940, at the age of fourteen, she made her start on local San Francisco radio with a show entitled Judy in Wonderland. Two years later, in 1942, she and her family moved to Los Angeles and she was given a spot on Eddie Cantor’s radio program.
During World War II, she was an active member of the Hollywood Victory Committee. After the war, she made her break into the budding television industry on KTLA (also in Los Angeles) doing show announcements, birthday greetings, and small spots. These spots, while not initially prominent, garnered her critical acclaim and her Emmy award. (The award was given jointly to both her and her puppet.) After receiving the award, she was given her own Western-themed weekly children’s show (entitled simply Judy Splinters) which ran from 1949 to 1950.
She passed away in 1999.
In 1958 she appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show “To Tell The Truth”.
Richard Tampa sent this wonderful video of her on “To Tell The Truth and so it is our pleasure to share it with everyone.
[flashvideo filename=http://ventriloquistcentral.com/shirley-dinsdale/shirley-dinsdale.flv /]
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. His collection of ventriloquist figures now numbers over 100 figures of which there are over 50 Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2009 by Dan Willinger
NOTE: You may use this blog article provided you run it with the bio box intact. Please email a copy of your publication with the blog article in it to: email@example.com
I read that Judy Splinters was fabricated by Shirley Dinsdale’s father, also that Edgar Bergen was President of the Academy that year of the first Emmy.
When Shirley’s show was in Chicago they sponsored a charity called the Bed Side Circut that placed portable TVs in hospital rooms. My Mom, Hazel Froehlicher was one of those persons who delivered those TVs. During that time I was about 4-6 and had the honor of appearing on Shirley’s “Judy Splinter’s”Show. I was supposed to jump out of a large present but being the stubborn little girl that I was, I refused so the director had me jump out from behind the box! I still remember going down to Chicago on the train and also refusing to get in the box! I got a box of doll house furniture for my “debut”. My Mom kept in touch with Shirley and her family for years treasuring all of the hand made Christmas cards they sent. I still have a signed photo of Shirley and Judy.
I found a Judy Splinters doll and used her in my performance art act in New York in the 1980s–See Vaudevillia singing “Plastic Plaything” on YouTube. Judy and I were also on the Regis Philbin show when he hosted a doll collector (her worth at that point was $200). I think I sold her back to the antique store in NY where I got her, but I can’t remember.
I personally knew Shirley after her showbiz career was seemingly over. Shirley hired me as a staff Respiratory Therapist in 1973 and I worked alongside of her until she retired. She was very protective of her alter personality and would only let it come-out on very special occasions. She was a treasure in both her personalities.
While Nick (see above) worked with her in Respiratory Therapy, In 1974 I began working in the adjacent Department of Radiology. I don’t remember how we met, but over time we became friends. I remember her talking about being presented with the first Emmy and while never bragging, she was quietly, very proud of it. I remember her as being soft spoken, very smart and kind.
In the 1950’s I wrote to Shirley to ask to be on her show when she came to Springfield, MA. I had a little group we named “The Playtime Quintet” and they just asked to have Judy written into whatever we did. I must have been in about 5th grade. Still can’t believe I had the nerve and we did get to be on the show! A great childhood memory.
I knew her as Aunt Shirley. She was one of my moms best friends. as a child I would visit her home often and remember seeing the Emmy statue displayed on top of her tv. I had no idea at the time the significance. She was and always will be my dear Aunt Shirley. A lady who loved owls, and hosted a fabulous taco dinner every summer!