Sunday, October 23, 2011

Herman Munster - Played by actor Fred Gwynne

Frederick Hubbard Gwynne was born on July 10, 1926 in New York, New York.  He is most famous for playing the role of the Frankenstein like Herman Munster on the TV show The Munsters in the 1960s.  He is also well known for his role as Officer Francis Muldoon on Car 54, Where Are You?
Fred Gwynne played the role of Herman Munster on the TV comedy The Munsters

Fred landed his TV debut in a 1953 episode of You Are There as Davy Crockett.  The following year he made his first uncredited film appearance in On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger and Lee J. Cobb.

For the next eight years, Gwynne would spend his time making appearances in television theater shows and variety shows such as The Phil Silvers Show starring Phil Silvers, Harvey Lembeck and Paul Ford (2 episodes, 1955-56); Studio One in Hollywood co-starring Malcolm Brodrick, Betty Furness, Richard Kiley, and Lee Remick (1956); The Kaiser Aluminum Hour co-starring Kenneth Bowers, Nanette Fabray, Gene Nelson, and Paul Ford  (1957); Suspicion co-starrng Burgess Meredith and Cathleen Nesbitt (1957); Kraft Theatre co-starring Tammy Grimes, Ferlin Husky, Patty Duke, and Bert Lahr (2 episodes, 1957); The Steve Allen Plymouth Show co-starring Steve Allen, Jill Corey, Sam Cooke, Alan Copeland, Don Knotts, and Virginia Gibson (1958); The DuPont Show of the Month co-starring Larry Blyden, Art Carney, Charlotte Rae, Elizabeth Montgomery, Barbara Bel Geddes, Richard Harris, Jackie Cooper, Don Murray and Rex Everhart (2 episodes, 1958); and Play of the Week co-starring Sally Ann Howes and Albert Salmi (1961).

Fred Gwynne in his younger days

It was in 1961 that Fred landed the role of Officer Francis Muldoon on the TV comedy Car 54, Where Are You?  He co-starred with Joe E. Ross (Officer Gunther Toody), Paul Reed (Captain Martin Block), Beatrice Pons (Lucille Toody), Hank Garrett (Officer Ed Nicholson), and future Munsters co-star Al Lewis (Officer Leo Schnauser).  Fred would play the role of Officer Muldoon until the show ended in 1963.

Fred Gwynne (Officer Francis Muldoon) and Joe E. Ross (Officer Gunther Toody) in the TV comedy Car 54, Where Are You?
Joe E. Ross (Officer Gunther Toody) and Fred Gwynne (Officer Francis Muldoon) in the TV comedy Car 54, Where Are You?

After his run on Car 54, Where Are You? in 1964, Gwynne immediately landed the role of Herman Munster in the TV comedy The Munsters.  He co-starred with Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster), Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster), Beverly Owen (Marilyn Munster, 1964), and Pat Priest (Marilyn Munster, 1964-1966).  Gwynne played the role of Herman for two years until the show ended in 1966. 

The cast of The Munsters Fred Gwynne (Herman), Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster), Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster), Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), and Pat Priest (Marilyn Munster)
Fred Gwynne played the role of Herman Munster on the TV comedy The Munsters
Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster on the TV comedy The Munsters had one of the best laughs in show biz

That would not be the last we saw of Herman Munster however.  The same year the show ended would come the release of the movie Munster, Go Home! He co-starred with Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Butch Patrick, Debbie Watson (Marilyn), Hermione Gingold, Robert Pine, Terry-Thomas, Bernard Fox, Richard Dawson, Maria Lennard, John Carradine, and Jeanne Arnold.

The cast of Munsters, Go Home! 1966

Fred Gwynne in the movie Munsters, Go Home! 1966

After The Munsters, Fred appeared in numerous TV movies and shows such as NET Playhouse co-starring Eileen Brennan, Julie Herrod, Tony Hendra, Michael Kearney, and Frances Sternhagen (1967); Mad Mad Scientist co-starring Bridget Hanley, Pamelyn Ferdin, and Reta Shaw (1968); Arsenic and Old Lace co-starring Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes, Jack Gilford, Bob Crane, Sue Lyon, Bob Dishy, and Billy De Wolfe (1969); and Anderson and Company co-starring Abby Dalton, Heather Harrison and Cindy Eilbacher (1969). 

Fred Gwynne, Jack Gilford and Bob Crane in Arsenic and Old Lace 1969

Gwynne showed off his singing talent in The Littlest Angel co-starring Johnny Whitaker, Cab Calloway, Tony Randall, Connie Stevens, and E.G. Marshall (1969).  He went on to star in The Police co-starring Bob Dishy, Murray Hamilton, Neva Patterson, John McGiver, and Steven Pringle (1971); Dames at Sea co-starring Ann-Margret, Harvey Evans, Ann Miller, Anne Meara, and Dick Shawn (1971); Norman Corwin Presents: Aunt Dorothy's Playroom co-starring Diane Baker, Bonnie Brooks and Norman Corwin (1972); Harvey co-starring James Stewart, Arlene Francis, Dorothy Blackburn, Helen Hayes, Martin Gabel, Madeline Kahn, Marian Hailey, Richard Mulligan, and John McGiver (1972); and Great Performances: Paradise Lost co-starring George Bartenieff, MacIntyre Dixon, Cliff Gorman and Jay Garner (1974).

It was in 1974 that Fred Gwynne made his Broadway debut in a revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof sharing the stage with Kate Reid, Elizabeth Ashley and Keir Dullea.  The following year he appeared in the production of Our Town presented by the American Shakespeare Theatre.  In 1976 he returned to the Broadway stage in the production of A Texas Trilogy.

He would return to the TV movies in the mini-series Captains and the Kings co-starring Richard Jordan, Harvey Jason, Jane Seymour, Patty Duke, Robert Vaughn, Blair Brown, Charles Durning, Joanna Pettet, Vic Morrow, Barbara Parkins, Terry Kiser, Beverly D'Angelo, Henry Fonda, Celeste Holm, and John Houseman (1976); Captains Courageous co-starring Karl Malden, Jonathan Kahn, Ricardo Montalban, Neville Brand and Johnny Doran (1977); Sanctuary of Fear co-starring Barnard Hughes, Michael McGuire, Elizabeth Wilson, George Hearn, David Rasche, Kay Lenz, and Saul Rubinek (1979); and Luna aka La luna Jill Clayburgh, Matthew Barry, Renato Salvatori, Veronica Lazar and Roberto Benigni (1979).

In 1980 Fred starred in A Day with Conrad Green co-starring David Garrison and Julia Campanelli (1980); Simon co-starring Alan Arkin, Madeline Kahn, Austin Pendleton, Max Wright, William Finley, and Judy Graubart (1980); and The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg co-starring Robert Preston, Tom Aldredge, and Frances Sternhagen (1980).

Gwynne revived his role as Herman Munster one last time in the 1981 TV movie The Munsters' Revenge.  He co-starred with Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, K.C. Martel, Jo McDonnell, Bob Hastings, Peter Fox, Sid Caesar, Herb Voland, Colby Chester, and Charles Macaulay.

The cast of The Munsters' Revenge 1981

Gwynne would continue on starring in So Fine co-starring Ryan O'Neal, Jack Warden, Mariangela Melato, Richard Kiel, Angela Pietropinto, and Joel Stedman (1981); American Playhouse: Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby Is a Friend of Mine co-starring Brian Svrusis, Donna Gibbons, Sadie Hawkins, Deanna Dunagan, George Womack, and Les Podewell (1982); The Mysterious Stranger co-starring Chris Makepeace, Bernhard Wicki, Christoph Waltz and Herbert Fux (1982); and The Cotton Club co-starring Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Bob Hoskins, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Nicolas Cage, Lisa Jane Persky, and Laurence Fishburne (1984). 

Fred Gwynne in The Cotton Club 1984

In 1984, Fred actually tried out for the role of Henry in the TV show Punky Brewster starring a young Soleil Moon Frye.  However, when he was allegedly referred to as Herman Munster during the audition instead of his actual name, he was apparently offended and withdrew from the audition.  He would go on to star in Water with Michael Caine, Valerie Perrine, Brenda Vaccaro, Billy Connolly, Jimmie Walker, Dennis Dugan, and Leonard Rossiter (1985);  and Kane & Abel co-starring Peter Strauss, Sam Neill, Alberta Watson, Jill Eikenberry, Ron Silver, David Dukes, Veronica Hamel, Richard Anderson and Thomas Byrd (1985).

Fred Gwynne in Water 1985

Gwynne would star in Off Beat co-starring Judge Reinhold, Meg Tilly, Cleavant Derricks, Amy Wright, Anthony Zerbe, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Mantegna (1986); Vanishing Act co-starring Mike Farrell, Margot Kidder, Elliott Gould, Heather Ward Siegel, and Graham Jarvis (1986);  The Boy Who Could Fly co-starring Lucy Deakins, Jay Underwood, Bonnie Bedelia, Colleen Dewhurst, and Fred Savage (1986); The Christmas Star co-starring Edward Asner, Rene Auberjonois, Jim Metzler, Karen Landry,  and Susan Tyrrell (1986); Jake's M.O. co-starring James Avery, Raye Birk, Eileen Conn, Caroline McWilliams, James Handy, Claudette Nevins and Jeff McCracken (1987); Murder by the Book co-starring Robert Hays, Catherine Mary Stewart, Christopher Murney, Jonathan Moore, and Celeste Holm (1987); The Secret of My Success co-starring Michael J. Fox, Helen Slater, John Pankow, Margaret Whitton, Richard Jordan, Elizabeth Franz, Mercedes Ruehl, and Susan Kellermann (1987); Fatal Attraction co-starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer, Stuart Pankin, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, and Ellen Foley (1987); Ironweed co-starring Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Carroll Baker, Diane Venora, Michael O'Keefe, and Nathan Lane (1987); and Disorganized Crime co-starring Hoyt Axton, Corbin Bernsen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rubén Blades, Ed O'Neill, and Marie Butler (1989).

Fred Gwynne in Disorganized Crime 1989

In 1989, Gwyne would star in one his most memorable film roles as Jud Crandall in Stephen King's Pet Sematary co-starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist,  Miko Hughes, Michael Lombard, and Blaze Berdahl.  He would go on to star in Murder in Black and White co-starring Richard Crenna, Diahann Carroll, Cliff Gorman, Keith David, Sam Coppola, and Caroline Kava (1990); the animated Earthday Birthday co-starring Christopher Reeve, Lainie Kazan, Meghan Andrews, Jonathan Goch, Jonathan Gold, and John Canemaker (voice, 1990); Shadows and Fog co-starring Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, David Ogden Stiers, Michael Kirby, James Rebhorn, John Malkovich, Madonna, Lily Tomlin, Victor Argo, and Donald Pleasence (1991); and My Cousin Vinny co-starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Mitchell Whitfield, Ralph Macchio, and Bruce McGill (1992).

Fred Gwynne in Pet Semarary 1989
Marisa Tomei, Joe Pesci, and Fred Gwynne in My Cousin Vinny 1992

Fred Gwynne's last role would be a voice narrative in the 1992 biography Lincoln co-starring Jason Robards, James Earl Jones, Glenn Close, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Thomas, Burgess Meredith, Richard Widmark, Maureen Stapleton, Ned Beatty, Blythe Danner, Oprah Winfrey, Keith Carradine, Barnard Hughes, and Stacy Keach.

On July 2, 1993 Fred Gwynne lost a battle with pancreatic cancer and passed away.

Gwynne also left a legacy other than his work on film and television.  He also wrote and illustrated children's books, including titles such as A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, It's Easy to See WhyA Little Pigeon Toad, The King Who Rained, and The Battle of the Frogs and Mice.  He will be sorely missed.

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