Birthday: July 27, 1916
Died At Age: 70
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn
Born in: New York City, New York
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'10" (178 cm), 5'10" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Betty Jane Butler (m. 1949–1953), Evie Wynn Johnson (m. 1938–1947), Sharley Hudson (m. 1954–1986)
father: Ed Wynn
mother: Hilda Keenan
children: Edwynna Wynn, Emily Wynn, Hilda Wynn, Ned Wynn, Tracy Keenan Wynn
Died on: October 14, 1986
place of death: Brentwood, Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death: Cancer
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
Who was Keenan Wynn?
Keenan Wynn was an American film and TV actor best remembered for his role in the film ‘The Clock.’ He was famous as a character actor and typically played supporting roles of unorthodox, unusual, and often eccentric characters. Keenan’s unique feature was his expressive face through which he showcased many moods and reactions. Even though Keenan rarely played the role of a lead actor, he received prominent billing in most of his TV and film roles. Over the course of his illustrious career, which lasted for more than four decades, he appeared in over 150 movies and 25 TV shows. He also had a penchant for playing Disney movie villains. Aside from that, his onscreen roles in general were prideful yet foolish characters. In several films, Keenan is notably seen with a well-trimmed and flamboyant looking moustache, which gave a cocky and sinister feel to his characters.
Childhood & Early Life
Keenan Wynn was born on July 27, 1916 in New York City to a show business family. His father Ed Wynn was a great burlesque and television comedian while his mother Hilda Keenan was an actress as well as a vaudeville performer. His father was Jewish and his mother was from an Irish-Catholic background.
Keenan’s maternal grandfather Frank Keenan was one of the first Broadway actors to have starred in Hollywood. His father Ed encouraged Keenan to take up acting early on and opt for it as a career path.
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Keenan Wynn appeared on Broadway in the year 1937 in the show ‘Hitch Your Wagon’ in two short roles. It was here that he met his first wife, actress Evie Wynn Johnson, who became his coach, manager, and advisor.
At this point in time, Keenan had begun to work on radio as well. He starred in ‘The Amazing Mr. Smith’ on Mutual Broadcasting System from April to June 1941. He played the titular character of ‘Mr Smith,’ a “carefree young man who runs into trouble galore and becomes an involuntary detective.”
He eventually started performing in films and TV shows as well. During the 1940s and 1950s he had a running contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. One of his first significant works was a memorable role as a belligerent, unsympathetic drunk in the classic wartime romance film ‘The Clock’ which released in the year 1945.
During the post-war boom in Hollywood, Keenan managed to get roles in several prominent high-budget movies of the time. Some of his most recognizable and acclaimed performances were seen in ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ (1950) ‘Royal Wedding’ (1951), ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ (1953), ‘Battle Circus’ (1953,) ‘The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit’ (1956) ‘A Hole in the Head’ (1959), ‘The Absent Minded Professor’ (1961), ‘Son of Flubber’ (1963) and ‘Dr. Strangelove’ in 1964.
As for his early television career, he appeared in ‘Playhouse 90: Requiem for a Heavyweight’ (1956) along with his father Ed. This show helped his father make a successful return to the small screen following career backlashes after a divorce and several health problems.
Following this, Keenan Wynn appeared in a TV drama show called ‘The Man in the Funny Suit’ alongside his father and Rod Sterling. He featured in yet another Rod Sterling production in an episode named ‘A World of His Own’ of the science-fiction supernatural horror show ‘The Twilight Zone’.
In the early 1960s, Keenan co-starred with Olympic Athlete Bob Mathias in NBC’s adventure show named ‘The Troubleshooters.’ He was also cast in various other TV shows such as ‘The Roaring 20s’ and ‘The Islanders’. He appeared in the series ‘The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters’ as well.
Keenan had a lead role in the 1964 movie ‘Bikini Beach’. He next played a central role in the comedy movie ‘The Great Race’ which was released in 1965. His film career continued to bring him success with the 1967 crime drama ‘Point Blank’ in which he co-starred with Lee Marvin.
With his fame on the rise, he became much sought-after by the top directors of the time. He starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s musical ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ in 1968 and in Sergio Leone’s Epic Western ‘Once Upon a time in the West’ the same year.
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Keenan also served as a voice actor, voicing ‘The Winter Warlock’ in ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’ in 1970. He went on to feature in several Disney productions such as ‘Snowball Express’ in 1972, ‘Herbie Rides Again’ in 1974 and ‘The Shaggy D.A’ in 1976.
He made several guest appearances in TV shows, such as ‘Alias Smith and Jones’, ‘Emergency!’, ‘Movin’ On’ and ‘The Bionic Woman’. In 1983, he guest-starred in one of the final episodes of ‘Taxi.’ He also starred in a TV film called ‘Call to Glory’ in 1984.
Keenan Wynn played a supporting role in the 1951 film ‘Royal Wedding’. Directed by Stanley Donen, the film starred actors such as Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Sarah Churchill, and Peter Lawford. The film did well commercially and also received an Oscar nomination. It received mostly positive reviews from critics.
He appeared in the movie ‘The Absent-Minded Professor’ which was released in 1961. Directed by Robert Stevenson, the film revolved around an eccentric professor. It starred Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn, and Leon Ames. The film was a huge commercial success and earned three Oscar nominations.
He portrayed Lieutenant Winston in the 1964 film ‘Man in the Middle’. The story, which was set in India during the Second World War, was about the murder trial of an American Army officer who killed a British officer. The film was based on a novel named ‘The Winston Affair’.
Awards & Achievements
Keenan Wynn was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street in Hollywood in 1960.
He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1978 in the category ‘Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series’ for his role in the series ‘Police Woman.’
Keenan Wynn married stage actress Evie Wynn Johnson in 1938 and had two children with her. The couple later divorced. His second marriage was to Betty Jane Butler which also ended in a divorce.
He married Sharley Hudson in 1954. The couple had three children and remained together till his death.
During his final years, Keenan Wynn was part of several philanthropic endeavors and was involved with various charity groups. He was a longtime active member of the Westwood Sertoma International service club in West Los Angeles.
He suffered from pancreatic cancer during his later years and died of the disease on October 14, 1986. He was interred alongside his father in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California.