×

Shirley Dinsdale Layburn

Shirley Dinsdale Layburn, a ventriloquist who won the very first Emmy Award in 1949 (the first year the awards were presented) and later moved on to a career in health care, died May 9 of cancer at her home in Stony Brook, N.Y. She was 72.

Layburn received her Emmy Award for most outstanding personality by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Her show, for which she was paid $10 per program, appeared on Paramount Studio’s KTLA in Los Angeles and featured her and her puppet “Judy Splinters.”

She later had her own children’s show on NBC’s KNBH, followed by several other shows on ABC in New York and Chicago.

She later quit her television career and from 1973 to 1985 was the head of the Respiratory Therapy Department of John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Layburn, who was born Shirley Faye Dinsdale in San Francisco, began her ventriloquism career there at age 14 with her radio show “Judy in Wonderland.”

She later moved to Hollywood, where she and her puppet had appearances on radio shows alongside personalities such as Eddie Cantor, Rudy Vallee and Bob Burns.

During World War II, Layburn worked for the Victory Committee and went on tour with the USO.

She made her TV debut in 1947 announcing shows and giving children birthday greetings on KTLA. Her appearances led to the weekly children’s show “The Judy Splinters Show.”

In 1953 she married Frank Layburn and retired from television. At age 40, she returned to school and graduated as class valedictorian from the Health Sciences School of Stony Brook U.

Layburn is survived by her husband, a son and daughter and two grandchildren.

More Scene

  • Armie Hammer and Felicity Jones'On the

    Why Armie Hammer Cooked for the Cast of 'On the Basis of Sex'

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to her hometown on Sunday for the New York premiere of “On the Basis of Sex,” a biopic starring Felicity Jones tells the Supreme Court justice’s origin story. The 85-year-old Brooklynite received a standing ovation when she entered the Walter Reade Theater — a testament to the Notorious RBG’s rock-star status. Ginsburg [...]

  • Nicole KidmanWarner Bros. Pictures World Premiere

    How James Wan Convinced Nicole Kidman to Star in 'Aquaman'

    While some actors dream of playing a superhero, that wasn’t the case for the cast of “Aquaman.” “I knew nothing about this,” Amber Heard, who plays Mera in the James Wan-directed action film, told Variety at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere. “I knew nothing about comic books in general. I didn’t know anything about this [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, Magic [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], ‘You know, your dad wants you to do this film,” Alison recalls. “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content