A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of July, Solar Year 2018

Wet Patterns on Tile and Skin

July 10, 1926 was the birthdate of American actor, Fred Gwynne.

New York City born, Fred Gwynne joined the Brattle Theater Repertory company after graduating from Harvard in 1951. He worked as a copywriter for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, leaving the company after being cast in a play. Gwynne appeared as a gangster for his first Broadway role in the comedy “Mrs. McThing”, starring Helen Hayes.

In 1954, Fred Gwynne had an uncredited role, playing “Slim” in the Oscar-winning drama “On the Waterfront”. Shortly afterwards, actor Phil Silvers, impressed by Gwynne’s role in “Mr. Mc thing”, sought him out for his television show. Gwynne portrayed Corporal Ed Honnergar in the “Phil Silvers Show”, a military based comedy, gaining him national recognition for his comedic acting.

Writer and producer Nat Hiken from Warner Brothers Studio cast Fred Gwynne in the situation comedy show “Car 54, Where are You?” as Patrolman Francis Muldoon, opposite comic actor Joe  E. Ross. The series which ran for two years was about two New York City police officers based in the fictional 53rd precinct of the Bronx. Car 54 was their squad car. The show was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, and won one. During this series Gwynne met and established a longtime friendship with Al Lewis, a co-star in the near future.

In September of 1964, “The Munsters” started on television. It was a sitcom depicting the home life of a family of benign monsters and starred Fred Gwynn as the Frankenstein-like monster Herman Munster. The costars were Yvonne De Carlo as his wife and old friend Al Lewis as Grandpa, the aged vampire who pines for “the old days”. For his role, Gwynne had to wear forty pounds of makeup, padding, and four-inch asphalt-spreader boots. After this role, because of its popularity, he found himself typecast for two years.

A talented vocalist, Fred Gwynne sang in a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, “The Littlest Angel”, shown on television in 1969. He also appeared on Broadway in a revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” playing big Daddy Pollitt. The following years he appeared in the plays: the 1975 “Our Town” at the American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford and “A Texas Trilogy” on Broadway in 1976. In his last film “My Cousin Vinny” Gwynne played Judge Chamberlain Haller, using a Southern accent in his verbal sparring with Joe Pesci’s character, Vincent “Vinny” Gambini.

On July 2, 1996, Fred Gwynn died of complications from pancreatic cancer at his home in Taneytown, Maryland. He is buried at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemeteay in Finksburg, Maryland.

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