Keenan Wynn

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Keenan Wynn
Keenan Wynn - publicity.JPG
c.1950
Born Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn
(1916-07-27)July 27, 1916
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died October 14, 1986(1986-10-14) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Pancreatic cancer
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1934–86
Spouse(s) Eve Lynn Abbott (1938–47, divorced, 2 children
Betty Jane Butler (1949–53, divorced)
Sharley Hudson (1954–86, his death, 3 children)

Keenan Wynn (July 27, 1916 – October 14, 1986) was an American character actor. His expressive face was his stock in trade, and though he rarely carried the lead role, he got prominent billing in most of his film and television parts.

Early life and career[edit]

Wynn was born in New York City as Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn, the son of vaudeville comedian Ed Wynn and his wife, the former Hilda Keenan. He took his stage name from his maternal grandfather, Frank Keenan, one of the first Broadway actors to star in Hollywood. His father was Jewish and his mother was of Irish Catholic background.

Ed Wynn encouraged his son to become an actor, and the two appeared together in the original Playhouse 90 television production of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight. The son was returning the favor: according to radio historian Elizabeth McLeod, it was Keenan who had helped his father overcome professional collapse, a harrowing divorce and a nervous breakdown to return to work a decade earlier, and who now helped convince Serling and producer Martin Manulis that the elder Wynn should play the wistful trainer. He also appeared in a subsequent TV drama called The Man in the Funny Suit, which detailed the problems they had experienced while working on that show. In it, the Wynns, Serling, and much of the cast and crew played themselves. Keenan also featured in another Rod Serling production, a The Twilight Zone episode entitled, "A World of His Own" (1960) as playwright Gregory West, who uniquely caused series creator Rod Serling to disappear.

Film and television[edit]

Wynn appeared in hundreds of films and television shows between 1934 and 1986. He was a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player during the 1940s and 1950s. His early post-war credits include Annie Get Your Gun (1950), Royal Wedding (1951), Kiss Me, Kate (1953), Battle Circus (1953), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), A Hole in the Head (1959), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Son of Flubber (1963) and Dr. Strangelove (1964). He had an uncredited role in Touch of Evil (1958).

In the 1959-1960 television season, Wynn co-starred with Bob Mathias in NBC's The Troubleshooters, an adventure program about unusual events surrounding an international construction company. Wynn played the role of Kodiak, the "troubleshooter", for Mathias's Frank Dugan.

He appeared in numerous television series, such as the ABC/Warner Brothers drama, The Roaring 20s, The Islanders, and the ABC western series, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters.

Wynn took a dramatic turn as Yost in the crime drama Point Blank (1967) with Lee Marvin. He played Hezakiah in the 1965 comedy film, The Great Race (1965). He was the voice of the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town (1970) and was in several Disney films, including Snowball Express (1972), Herbie Rides Again (1974) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976).

He appeared in Francis Coppola's musical Finian's Rainbow (1968), Sergio Leone's epic western Once Upon a Time in the West (also 1968), and Robert Altman's Nashville (1975). During this time his guest television roles included Alias Smith and Jones (1971-1972), Emergency! (1975), Movin' On (1975), and The Bionic Woman (1978).

Wynn became a regular on TV's Dallas during 1979 to 1981, playing the part of former Ewing family partner-turned-enemy Digger Barnes. David Wayne, a friend of his, was cast for the first season, but was unable to continue because of Wayne's co-starring role in the CBS series, House Calls, starring Wayne Rogers.

Wynn was initially cast in Superman (1978) to play Perry White[1] (the boss of Clark Kent and Lois Lane at the Daily Planet) in April 1977. However, by June (production had moved to Pinewood Studios in England), Wynn collapsed from exhaustion and was rushed to hospital. He was replaced by Jackie Cooper. In 1983, he guest starred on one of the last episodes of Taxi and Quincy M.E.. In 1984, he starred in the television film Call to Glory, which later became a weekly television series.

Personal life and last years[edit]

Wynn was married to former stage actress Eve Lynn Abbott (1914–2004) until their divorce in 1947, whereupon Abbott married actor Van Johnson. One son, actor and writer Ned Wynn (born Edmond Keenan Wynn) wrote the autobiographical memoir We Will Always Live In Beverly Hills. His other son, Tracy Keenan Wynn, is a screenwriter whose credits include The Longest Yard and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (both 1974). His daughter Hilda was married to Paul Williams. He was an uncle by marriage to the Hudson Brothers.

In his later years, Wynn undertook a number of philanthropic endeavors and supported several charity groups. He was a long-standing active member of the Westwood Sertoma service club, in West Los Angeles. During his last few years, Wynn suffered from pancreatic cancer, which caused his death in 1986. His ashes are interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Partial filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

  • Wagon Train - episode - The Luke O'Malley Story - Luke O'Malley (1958)
  • The Untouchbles - episode - Pilot- Joe Fuselli (1959)
  • The Twilight Zone - episode - A World of His Own (1960)
  • The Untouchbles - episode - Augie 'The Banker' Ciamino- Augie 'The Banker' Ciamino (1961)
  • Rawhide - episode - Incident at Cactus Wells- Simon Royce (1962)
  • Ben Casey - episode - Behold a Pale Horse- O. J. Stanley (1962)
  • Death Valley Days - episode - Grass Man- Josh Tavers (1962)
  • Bonanaza - episode - Alias Joe Cartwright- Sergeant O'Rourke (1964)
  • Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - episode - Show Me the Way to Go Home- Harry Purcell (1966)
  • Lancer - episode - Blue Skies for Willie Sharpe - Kansas Bill Sharpe (1970)
  • Alias Smith and Jones - episode - Stagecoach Seven - Charlie Utley (1971)
  • Mod Squad - episode - And a Little Child Shall Bleed Them- Luther (1971)
  • Alias Smith and Jones - episode - Dreadful Sorry Clementine - Horace Wingate (1971)
  • Hawaii Five-O - episode - Journey Out of Limbo- Hummel (1972)
  • Cannon - episode - The Island Caper- Matt Dixon (1972)
  • Alias Smith and Jones - episode - What Happened at the XST? - Artie Gorman (1972)
  • McMillan & Wife - episode - The Devil You Say- Professor Zagmeyer (1973)
  • Hec Ramsey - episode - A Hard Road to Vengeance- Bullard (1973)
  • The New Perry Mason - episode - The Case of the Telltale Trunk- Victor Harding (1973)
  • Movin' On - episode - The Elephant Story - Barnaby (1975)
  • Emergency! - episode - Back-Up - Wild Bill (1975)
  • The Bionic Woman - episode - Rancho Outcast - Gustave (1978)
  • Dallas - 10 episodes -Digger Barnes (1979-1980)
  • Fantasy Island - episode - Mr. Nobody/La Liberatora- Willie the promoter (1981)
  • The Greatest American Hero - episode - Good Samaritan- Ira Hagert (1982)
  • Hardcastle and McCormick - episode - Just Another Round of That Old Song - Henry Willard (1983)
  • Quincy M.E. - episode - Whatever Happened to Morris Perlmutter? - Morris Perlmutter (1983)
  • Highway to Heaven - episode - Popcorn, Peanuts and CrackerJacks - Doc Brisby (1985)

References[edit]

Notes

External links[edit]