Today, 26 July, is Keenan Wynn’s birthday. He was born in 1916 and died just over 70 years later. He continues to be one of my favorite character actors.
His father, Ed Wynn, was arguably more famous: a vaudeville comedian who then became very popular in radio and films. If you watch old comedies, you know him. If nothing else, you probably know him from the second episode of The Twilight Zone, “One for the Angels.”
Keenan’s full name was Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn—you can see why he shortened it.
Because of his father’s fame, Wynn did not live the most exciting of lives. There are no great stories of his rise to fame. He got work. He was good so he continued to get work.
One interesting thing about Wynn is that his first wife, Evie Wynn Johnson, left him for Van Johnson. Kind of. It appears their relationship was crumbling, so the studio got her to marry Johnson to put an end to rumors that Johnson was gay.
Of course, Johnson was gay, although they did manage a child (but who knows). You see how it is with Keenan Wynn? There was always a lot more around Wynn’s life than in it.
Wynn started on Broadway where he worked from the mid-1930s through the beginning of the 1940s. Then he worked in films, doing bit parts into the mid-1950s. From that point on, he did mostly television, but still a fair amount of feature film work.
Most notably, he played the simple-minded Colonel Bat Guano in Dr Strangelove. He was also in a number of those Disney live-action films that I loved as a kid. In the end, IMDb list 374 total credits (that includes 25 episodes of Troubleshooters, 9 episodes of Dallas, and 22 episodes of Call to Glory).
Wynn also starred in a lot of exploitation films later in his career. I want to highlight one of those films here: Parts: The Clonus Horror. It’s one of those films I discovered via MST3K and got annoyed because they wouldn’t shut up.
In 2005, it was effectively remade as The Island. I liked that film although it’s over-long because of endless Michael Bay action sequences. The producers of Parts sued DreamWorks, who settled out of court. The truth is, The Island is just a less-believable version of the film.
Here’s the whole film cued where Wynn shows up. I highly recommend watching the whole thing:
Other Keenan Wynn
- Annie Get Your Gun
- The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown
- The Great Race
- Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
- The Mechanic
- The Killer Inside Me
- The Shaggy DA
Image is in the public domain.