mage67 (mage67) wrote,

Van Johnson Dead at 92

Click here for the news story

Many of you don't really know who this is. He's even before my time, but I have seen him in movies rerun on TV.

Here are some juicy tidbits you may find hard to impossible to find on the internet.

He was best friends with Keenan Wynn.

Keenan Wynn wasn't the leading man type, but he's been in one episode of almost any old TV series you can think of as well as plenty of movies. You might remember him in Dr. Strangelove and he starred in an old Twilight Zone episode called A World of his Own where he was a writer who could create real people and things if he could describe them well enough.

Keenan Wynn divorced his wife Evie and Van Johnson married her the very next day. It was a bit scandalous. I don't know if Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn were able to stay friends after that.

Eve (Evie) Lynn Abbott with Van Johnson and Humphrey Bogart

Keenan Wynn's father is Ed Wynn, a famous actor in his own right. He starred in two old Twilight Zone episodes, One for the Angels and Ninety Years Without Slumbering. He had his own show on TV, The Ed Wynn Show back in 1950 and turned down the role to play The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz (1939) because he thought the roll was too small at the time.

Van Johnson was the original pick to play Elliot Ness in The Untouchables (1959). He wanted the role, but his wife Evie (the girl he took from his best friend), convinced him he could get more money since they were just one week away from production and the producers (Desi Arnaz and Lucielle Ball) couldn't possibly find anyone to replace him on such short notice. However Desi and Lucy found Robert Stack at the last minute, who wasn't that well known but he was very agreeable and easy to work with and trusted Desi and Lucy to treat him right without negotiation. The Untouchables went on to be a big success that lasted 4 seasons and made Robert Stack very famous and successful.

Van Johnson got his fame during WWII because he couldn't be drafted and Hollywood had few good actors that could star in films during the war. He was in a car wreck that left him with a metal plate in his head and kept him out of the military. Many fans didn't give him the respect he deserved because they felt he was only famous because all the good actors were being drafted or in danger of being drafted.

But when you compare him to such stars as Ben Affleck, Paul Walker and Keanu Reeves, he looks really good. If this was the worst leading man in Hollywood, then we certainly lowered the bar considerably since then.

He never won an award, but he seemed always pleasant and did his job well.
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