Fred Gwynne

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Fred Gwynne
Fred Gwynne.jpg
Gwynne in Car 54, Where Are You?, 1961
Frederick Hubbard Gwynne

(1926-07-10)July 10, 1926
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 2, 1993(1993-07-02) (aged 66)
Resting placeSandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemetery, Finksburg, Maryland
Alma materHarvard University
  • Actor
  • artist
  • writer
Years active1951–1993
Height6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Jean Reynard
(m. 1952; div. 1980)

Deborah Flater
(m. 1988)

Frederick Hubbard Gwynne (July 10, 1926 – July 2, 1993) was an American actor, artist, and author widely known for his roles in the 1960s television sitcoms Car 54, Where Are You? (as Francis Muldoon) and The Munsters (as Herman Munster), as well as his later film roles in The Cotton Club, Pet Sematary, and My Cousin Vinny.

Early life[edit]

Dorothy Ficken, Gwynne's mother, in 1917

Gwynne was born on July 10, 1926, in New York City, the son of Frederick Walker Gwynne, a partner in the securities firm Gwynne Brothers, and his wife Dorothy Ficken Gwynne, who, before her marriage, was a successful artist known for her "Sunny Jim" comic character. His paternal grandfather Walker Gwynne was an Anglican priest, born in Camus, County Tyrone, Ireland, around 1846, who married American Helen Lea Bowers. His maternal grandfather H. Edwards Ficken was an emigrant from London, who married American Josephine or Josephina Preston Hubbard.[1][2]

He had at least two siblings, Dorothy Gwynne and Bowers Gwynne, who both died young. Although Gwynne grew up in Tuxedo Park, New York,[3] he spent most of his childhood in South Carolina, Florida, and Colorado because his father traveled extensively. He attended the Groton School.

During World War II, Gwynne served in the United States Navy as a radioman on submarine chaser USS Manville (PC-581).[4][5] In the 1940s, Gwynne was a summertime swimming instructor at the Duxbury Yacht Club pool in Duxbury, Massachusetts.[6] He later studied art under the G.I. Bill before attending Harvard, where he was affiliated with Adams House, graduating in 1951. He was a member of the Fly Club, sang with the a cappella group the Harvard Krokodiloes,[7] was a cartoonist for the Harvard Lampoon (eventually becoming its president), and acted for the Hasty Pudding Theatricals.


Gwynne joined the Brattle Theatre Repertory Company after his 1951 graduation,[8] then moved to New York City. To support himself, Gwynne worked as a copywriter for J. Walter Thompson, resigning in 1952 upon being cast in his first Broadway role, a gangster in a comedy called Mrs. McThing starring Helen Hayes.[8]

Another early role was a New York City Drama Company production at City Center of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost in 1953, in the role of Dull, a constable.[9]

In 1954, he made his first cinematic appearance playing – in an uncredited role – the laconic character Slim in the Oscar-winning film On the Waterfront. Shortly afterwards, Phil Silvers sought him for his television show because he had been impressed by Gwynne's comedic work in Mrs. McThing. As a result, Gwynne made a memorable appearance on The Phil Silvers Show in the episode "The Eating Contest" as the character Corporal Ed Honnergar, whose depressive eating binges are exploited in an eating contest.

Gwynne's second appearance on The Phil Silvers Show (in the episode "It's for the Birds") and appearances on many other shows led writer-producer Nat Hiken to cast him in the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? as Patrolman Francis Muldoon.

Gwynne was 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) tall, an attribute that contributed to his being cast as Herman Munster, a goofy parody of Frankenstein's monster, in the sitcom The Munsters. For his role, he had to wear 40 or 50 lbs of padding, makeup, and 5-inch asphalt-spreader boots. His face was painted a bright violet because it captured the most light on the black-and-white film.[citation needed] Gwynne was known for his sense of humor and retained fond recollections of Herman,[5] saying in later life, "I might as well tell you the truth. I love old Herman Munster. Much as I try not to, I can't stop liking that fellow."[8]

Gwynne (right) as Herman Munster, sharing a toast with Al Lewis (Grandpa) while Beverley Owen (Marilyn) looks on

After his iconic role in The Munsters, Gwynne found himself typecast, unable to gain new film roles for over two years.[citation needed] In 1969, he was cast as Jonathan Brewster in a television production of Arsenic and Old Lace. (The Brewster character originally was played by Boris Karloff in the Broadway production of the play; Karloff famously played Frankenstein's monster on which Gwynne's Herman Munster character was based.) Gwynne then found success as a stage actor in regional state productions across the United States while maintaining a low Hollywood profile.

A talented vocalist, Gwynne sang in a Hallmark Hall of Fame television production The Littlest Angel (1969), and went on to perform in a variety of roles on stage and screen. In 1974, drawing upon his own Southern roots, he appeared in the role of Big Daddy Pollitt in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Ashley, Keir Dullea and Kate Reid. In 1975, he played the Stage Manager in Our Town at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut.[10]

From 1975 to 1982, Gwynne appeared in 83 episodes in different roles on the popular radio drama series, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, produced and directed by Himan Brown. He returned to Broadway in 1976 as Colonel J.C. Kinkaid in two parts of A Texas Trilogy. In 1984, Gwynne auditioned for the part of Henry on the sitcom Punky Brewster, then withdrew in frustration when a director identified him as Herman Munster rather than by his real name.[10] The role of Henry went to George Gaynes. In 1987, Gwynne starred in the short-lived TV series Jake's M.O., where he played an investigative reporter.

Gwynne's performance as Jud Crandall in Pet Sematary was based on author Stephen King, who is only an inch shorter than the actor, and uses a similarly thick Maine dialect. The character's likeness and accent, as played by Gwynne, have been used in a number of episodes of the animated show South Park, beginning in 2001 and as recently as 2019.[11] Gwynne also had roles in the movies Simon, On the Waterfront, So Fine, Disorganized Crime, The Cotton Club, Captains Courageous, The Secret of My Success, Water, Ironweed, Fatal Attraction, and The Boy Who Could Fly. Despite his misgiving about having been typecast, he agreed to reprise the role of Herman Munster for the 1981 TV reunion movie The Munsters' Revenge. Gwynne played Judge Chamberlain Haller in his last film, the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny.[12]

As painter and illustrator[edit]

In addition to his acting career, Gwynne sang professionally, painted, and wrote and illustrated children's books, including Best in Show (later titled It's Easy to See Why), Daddy Has a Mole on His Nose, A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, The King Who Rained, Pondlarker, The Battle of the Frogs and Mice, and A Little Pigeon Toad. Many of these efforts were based on children's frequent misperceptions of things they hear from adults, such as the "chocolate moose for dinner", illustrated as a large brown antlered quadruped seated at the dinner table. The other books on this theme were The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad (in which a child's mother thus describes her father), and The Sixteen Hand Horse.[5]

Perhaps one of the reasons the books did not achieve wider popularity initially was the fact that their format was geared to a very young audience, but the concept was more appealing to older children and adults, achieving critical success and eventually becoming regular bestsellers for their publisher.[5] He also lent his voice talents to TV and radio commercials. Later in his career, he held a number of shows of his artwork, the first in 1989.

Personal life[edit]

In 1952, Gwynne married socialite Jean "Foxy" Reynard,[13] a granddaughter of New York City mayor William Jay Gaynor.[14] Before divorcing in 1980, the couple had five children: Kieron (son, b. 1953 - d. 1998); Gaynor (daughter, b. 1954); Evan (son, b. 1956); Dylan (son, 1962–1963, drowning);[15][16] and Madyn (daughter, b. 1965).

In 1988, Gwynne married his second wife Deborah Flater. They remained married until his death in 1993.[15]


Gwynne died of complications from pancreatic cancer,[15] in the cigar room at his home in Taneytown, Maryland, on July 2, 1993, eight days short of his 67th birthday.[17] He is buried in an unmarked grave at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemetery in Finksburg, Maryland.[18]



Year Title Role Notes
1954 On the Waterfront Mladen "Slim" Sekulovich Uncredited
1966 Munster, Go Home! Herman Munster
1979 La Luna Douglas Winter
1980 Simon Major General Korey
1981 So Fine Chairman Lincoln
1984 The Cotton Club George "Big Frenchy" DeMange
1985 Water Spender
1986 Off Beat Police Commissioner
1986 The Boy Who Could Fly Uncle Hugo
1986 The Christmas Star Waters
1987 The Secret of My Success Donald Davenport
1987 Fatal Attraction Arthur
1987 Ironweed Oscar Reo
1987 Jake's M.O. Jake Tekulve
1989 Disorganized Crime Max Green
1989 Pet Sematary Jud Crandall
1991 Shadows and Fog Hacker's Follower
1992 My Cousin Vinny Judge Chamberlain Haller Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Repertory Theatre Performer Episode: "A Man's Game"
1953 You Are There Davy Crockett 2 episodes
1955–1956 The Phil Silvers Show Corporal Ed Honnegan 2 episodes
1956 Studio One in Hollywood Little Dude Episode: "The Landady's Daughter"
1957 The Kaiser Aluminum Hour "Egghead" Episode: "A Man's Game"
1957 Suspicion Hughie Episode: "Hand in Glove"
1957 Kraft Theatre Performer 2 episodes
1958 The Steve Allen Show Comedian Episode: #3.23
1958 The Investigator Performer Episode: #1.07
1958 DuPont Show of the Month E.J. Loffgrin 2 episodes
1961 The Play of the Week Performer Episode: "The Old Foolishness"
1961–1963 Car 54, Where Are You? Officer Francis Muldoon 60 episodes
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week William Magee Episode: "Seven Keys to Baldgate"
1963 The United States Steel Hour Willie Botsford Episode: "Don't Shake the Family Tree"
1964 Brenner Francis X. Fish Episode: "Charlie Paradise: The Tragic Flute"
1964 My Son, the Witch Doctor Performer TV film
1964–1966 The Munsters Herman Munster Main role; 70 episodes
1965 The Red Skelton Show Herman Munster Episode: "Ta-Ra-Ra-Bum-Today"
1966 The Danny Kaye Show Herman Munster Episode: "Fred Gwynne"
1966 New York Television Theatre The Professor Episode: "The Lesson"
1967 NET Playhouse Officer Avonzino Episode: "Infancy and Childhood"
1968 Mad Mad Scientist Warren Springer TV film
1969 Arsenic and Old Lace Jonathan Brewster TV film
1969 Anderson and Company Marshall Anderson TV film
1969 The Littlest Angel Guardian Angel TV film
1971 Dames at Sea Hennesey TV film
1971 Great Performances Pike Episode: "Paradise Lost"
1971 The Police Sergeant TV film
1972 Harvey Cab Driver TV film
1972 Norman Corwin Presents Performer Episode: "Aunt Dorothy's Playroom"
1976 Bound for Freedom Waldruss TV film
1976 Captains and the Kings Performer Miniseries
1977 Captains Courageous Jack "Long Jack" TV film
1979 Sanctuary of Fear Judge Potter TV film
1980 A Day with Conrad Green Conrad Green TV film
1981 The Munsters' Revenge Herman Munster TV film
1982–1987 American Playhouse Charles Dickens 2 episodes
1982 The Mysterious Stranger Balthasar Hoffman TV film
1985 Kane & Abel Davis LeRoy 2 episodes
1986 Vanishing Act Father Macklin TV film
1987 Murder by the Book Victor Greville TV film
1990 Murder in Black and White Brannigan TV film
1990 Earthday Birthday Fred The Moose Voice, TV film
1992 Lincoln Edwin Stanton Voice, TV film


Year Title Role Notes
1952–1953 Mrs. McThing Stinker [19]
1953 Love's Labour's Lost Dull [19]
1953 The Frogs of Spring Luther Raubel [19]
1960–1961 Irma De Douce Polyte-Le-Mou [19]
1963–1964 Here's Love Marvin Shellhammer [19]
1972 The Lincoln Mask Abraham Lincoln [19]
1974–1975 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Colonel J. C. Kinkaid [19]
1975 Our Town Stage Manager [20]
1976 A Texas Trilogy: The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia Colonel J. C. Kinkaid [19]
1976 A Texas Trilogy: The Oldest Living Graduate Colonel J. C. Kinkaid [19]
1978 Angel W. O. Gant [19]
1978 Players Jock Riley [19]
1982–1983 Whodunnit Inspector Bowden [19]


  1. ^ "Census of Population and Housing, 1970 [United States]: Master Enumeration District (MED) Lists". June 28, 1984. doi:10.3886/icpsr08109.v2. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Elias, Carlos; Kirlys, Rokas; Topyan, Kudret (August 1, 2017). "Return Predictability in Santiago Stock Exchange: an Empirical Analysis using Portfolio Method". Journal of Advances in Economics and Finance. 2 (3). doi:10.22606/jaef.2017.23005. ISSN 2519-5980.
  3. ^ "Cartoonist Fred Gwynne Is Elected Lampoon President - News - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  4. ^ "Gwynne, Frederick Hubbard, RM3 | TWS". Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d Wright, Andy (June 16, 2017). "The Man Behind Herman Munster Wrote Some Puntastic Children's Books". Atlas Obscura-Stories. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  6. ^ Mittell, David A. (1995). The Duxbury Yacht Club Story. Attleboro, Massachusetts: Colonial Lithograph. p. 100.
  7. ^ "Tribute to Fred Gwynne". Harvard Krokodiloes website.
  8. ^ a b c Lambert, Bruce (July 3, 1993) "Fred Gwynne, Popular Actor, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times, p. 8: Reference for Harvard Lampoon, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Brattle Theatre, "Mrs. McThing".
  9. ^ Sheaffer, Louis. "Shakespeare Imaginatively Staged at City Center". Brooklyn Eagle, February 5, 1953.
  10. ^ a b "8 surprising facts about the great Fred Gwynne - 7. He almost starred on 'Punky Brewster.'". MeTV. July 10, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  11. ^ "The Complete Guide to South Park Movie Parodies and References". April 16, 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  12. ^ Mondello, Bob (March 7, 2017). "How Do Americans Feel About The Courts? Let Hollywood Be The Judge". NPR. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  13. ^ Fred(erick) (Hubbard) Gwynne. (2003). In Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.
  14. ^ "Enchanted Lady: The colorful columnist is moving into Ridgefield". January 4, 2010. Ridgefield Holiday magazine '09-'10 archives.
  15. ^ a b c Lambert, Bruce (July 3, 1993). "Fred Gwynne, Popular Actor, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Fred Gwynne" Archived June 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "Fred Gwynne". Biography. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  18. ^ Zaman, Natalie (October 8, 2016). Magical Destinations of the Northeast: Sacred Sites, Occult Oddities & Magical Monuments. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 9780738749884. Retrieved May 3, 2021 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Fred Gwynne".
  20. ^ American Shakespeare Theatre (Stratford, Connecticut), 1975 Repertory (21st) Season, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, pp. 27-33

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