Fred Gwynne

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Frederick Hubbard "Fred" Gwynne (July 10, 1926 – July 2, 1993) was an American actor. Gwynne was best known for his roles in the 1960s sitcoms Car 54, Where Are You? and The Munsters, as well as his later roles: Pet Sematary, and My Cousin Vinny. He was also recognised for his distinctive baritone voice.


Early life

Gwynne was born in New York City, a son of Frederick Walker Gwynne, a partner in the securities firm Gwynne Brothers, and his wife Dorothy Ficken.[1] His paternal grandfather was an Episcopal priest born in Camus, near Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland, and his maternal grandfather was an immigrant from London, England.[1] Gwynne attended the Groton School, and graduated from Harvard University in 1951. Gwynne spent most of his childhood in South Carolina, Florida, and Colorado because his father travelled extensively. At Harvard, he was a member of the Fly Club, sang with the a cappella group the Harvard Krokodiloes,[2] was a cartoonist for the Harvard Lampoon, (eventually becoming its president), and acted in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals shows.

During World War II, Gwynne served in the U.S. Navy. He later studied art under the G.I. Bill.


Gwynne joined the Brattle Theatre Repertory Company after graduation,[3] 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, which starred Helen Hayes.[3]

In 1955, Gwynne made a memorable appearance on The Phil Silvers Show, in the episode "The Eating Contest" as the character Private Honigan, whose depressive eating binges are exploited by Sgt. Bilko (Phil Silvers), who seeks prize money by entering Honigan in an eating contest. Gwynne's second appearance on The Phil Silvers Show (in the episode "For The Birds" in 1956) and many other shows led writer-producer Nat Hiken to cast him in the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? as Patrolman Francis Muldoon, opposite Joe E. Ross. During the two-season run of the program he met longtime friend and later co-star, Al Lewis. Gwynne was 6 ft 5 in 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 4-inch elevator shoes. His face was painted a bright violet because it captured the most light on the black-and-white film. Gwynne was known for his sense of humor and retained fond recollections of Herman, claiming 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."[3] After his experience in The Munsters, however, he found himself identified with the character, which led to difficulty in being cast in different kinds of roles. For example, in 1969, he was cast as Jonathan Brewster, a Frankenstein monster-like character, in a television production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

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