Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (June 14, 1909 – April 14, 1995) was an American singer and actor of stage, screen, radio and television.
He began as an itinerant singer and banjoist, and launched his own radio show, The Wayfaring Stranger, which popularized traditional folk songs. In 1942 he appeared in Irving Berlin's This Is the Army, and then became a major star of CBS radio. In the 1960s he successfully crossed over into country music, recording hits such as "A Little Bitty Tear" and "Funny Way of Laughing". A popular film actor through the late 1940s and 1950s, Ives's best-known roles in that medium included parts in So Dear to My Heart and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as well as Rufus Hannassey in The Big Country, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Ives is often remembered for his starring role in the 1964 Christmas stop-motion television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which continues to air on CBS every Christmas season, as the voice of "Sam the Snowman", the special's host and narrator.
Ives was a pipe smoker. (The cover of his first album showed a pipe and a fishing hat with the words "Burl Ives" in between.) He also smoked cigars. In the summer of 1994, he was diagnosed with oral cancer. After several unsuccessful operations, he decided against further surgery. He fell into a coma and died from the disease on April 14, 1995, at the age of 85, at his home in Anacortes, Skagit County, Washington. He was buried in Mound Cemetery in Hunt City Township, Jasper County, Illinois.