Fred Gwynne

Frederick Hubbard Gwynne (July 10, 1926 – July 2, 1993) was an American actor, artist and author. Gwynne was best known for his roles in the 1960s sitcoms Car 54, Where Are You? and as Herman Munster in The Munsters, as well as his later roles in The Cotton Club, Pet Sematary and My Cousin Vinny.

Fred Gwynne
Fred Gwynne Joe E. Ross Car 54 Where Are You 1962.jpg
Gwynne (left) and Joe E. Ross in Car 54, Where Are You?, 1962
Frederick Hubbard Gwynne

(1926-07-10)July 10, 1926
DiedJuly 2, 1993(1993-07-02) (aged 66)
Resting placeSandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemetery, Finksburg, Maryland, United States
Alma materHarvard University, 1951
Years active1951–1992
Height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
  • Jean "Foxy" Reynard
    (m. 1952; div. 1980)
  • Deborah Flater
    (m. 1988)

Early lifeEdit

Dorothy Ficken, Gwynne's mother, in 1917

Gwynne was born on July 10, 1926, in New York City, the son of Frederick Walker Gwynne, a partner in the securities firm Gwynne Brothers, and his wife Dorothy Ficken Gwynne, who, before her marriage, was a successful artist known for her "Sunny Jim" comic character.[1] His paternal grandfather, Walker Gwynne, was an Anglican priest, born in Camus, near Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland, around 1846, who married an American woman, Helen Lea Bowers, and his maternal grandfather, Henry Edwards Ficken, was an emigrant from London, England, who married an American woman, Josephine or Josephina Preston Hubbard.[1][2][3]

He had at least two siblings, Dorothy Gwynne and Bowers Gwynne, who both died young. Although Gwynne grew up in Tuxedo Park, New York,[4] he spent most of his childhood in South Carolina, Florida, and Colorado because his father traveled extensively. He attended the Groton School.

During World War II, Gwynne served in the United States Navy as a radioman on a submarine chaser.[5] He later studied art under the G.I. Bill before attending Harvard, where he was affiliated with Adams House, graduating in 1951. He was a member of the Fly Club, sang with the a cappella group the Harvard Krokodiloes,[6] was a cartoonist for the Harvard Lampoon (eventually becoming its president), and acted in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals shows.


Gwynne (right) as Herman Munster, sharing a toast with Al Lewis (Grandpa) while Beverley Owen (Marilyn) looks on

Gwynne joined the Brattle Theatre Repertory Company after his 1951 graduation,[7] 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 starring Helen Hayes.[7]

Another early role was a New York City Drama Company production at City Center of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost in 1953, in the role of Dull, a constable.[8]

In 1954, he made his first cinematic appearance playing – in an uncredited role – the laconic character "Slim" in the Oscar-winning film On the Waterfront opposite Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb. Shortly afterwards Phil Silvers sought him out for his television show because he had been impressed by Gwynne's comedic work in Mrs. McThing. As a result, in 1955, Gwynne made a memorable appearance on The Phil Silvers Show, in the episode "The Eating Contest" as the character Corporal Ed Honnergar, whose depressive eating binges are exploited by Sgt. Bilko (Phil Silvers), who seeks prize money by entering Honnergar in an eating contest.

Gwynne's second appearance on The Phil Silvers Show (in the episode "Its For The Birds" in 1956 in which Bilko persuades bird expert Honnergar to go on The $64,000 Question) and appearances on many other shows led writer-producer Nat Hiken to cast him in the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? as New York City 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 (1.96 m) 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 asphalt-spreader boots. His face was painted a bright violet because it captured the most light on the black-and-white film.[citation needed] Gwynne was known for his sense of humor and retained fond recollections of Herman,[5] saying 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."[7]

After his iconic role in The Munsters, he found himself typecast, unable to gain new cinema character roles for over two years.[citation needed] In 1969, he was cast as Jonathan Brewster in a television production of Arsenic and Old Lace. (The Brewster character had originally been played by Boris Karloff in the Broadway theater production of the play; Karloff had also famously played the movies' Frankenstein character that Gwynne's Herman Munster character was based on.) Gwynne then found success as a stage actor in regional state productions across the United States while maintaining a low Hollywood profile, before being rediscovered.

A talented vocalist, Gwynne sang in a Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-television production, The Littlest Angel (1969), and went on to perform in a variety of roles on stage and screen. In 1974, drawing upon his own Southern roots, he appeared in the role of Big Daddy Pollitt in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Ashley, Keir Dullea and Kate Reid. In 1975 he played the Stage Manager in Our Town at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut.[9]

He returned to Broadway in 1976 as Colonel J. C. Kinkaid in two parts of A Texas Trilogy. In 1984, Gwynne was auditioning for the part of Henry on the show Punky Brewster. Gwynne withdrew from the audition in frustration when a director identified him as Herman Munster rather than by his real name.[10] The role of Henry subsequently went to George Gaynes. In 1987, Fred Gwynne starred in a short-lived TV series Jake's M.O. where he played an investigative reporter.

Fred Gwynne's performance as Jud Crandall in Pet Sematary was based on author Stephen King himself, who is only an inch shorter than the actor, and uses a similarly thick Maine dialect. The character's likeness and accent, as played by Gwynne, have been used in a number of episodes of the animated show South Park, beginning in 2001 and as recently as 2019.[11] Gwynne also had roles in the movies Simon, On the Waterfront, So Fine, Disorganized Crime, The Cotton Club, Captains Courageous, The Secret of My Success, Water, Ironweed, Fatal Attraction, and The Boy Who Could Fly. Despite his misgiving about having been typecast, he also agreed to reprise the role of Herman Munster for the 1981 TV reunion movie The Munsters' Revenge. Gwynne played Judge Chamberlain Haller[12] in his last film, the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny. As a Yale University-educated judge in the film, he used a Southern accent in his verbal sparring with Joe Pesci's character, Vincent "Vinny" Gambini.[13]

As painter and illustratorEdit

In addition to his acting career, Gwynne sang professionally, painted, and wrote and illustrated children's books, including Best In Show (later titled It's Easy to See Why), Daddy Has a Mole on His Nose, A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, The King Who Rained, Pondlarker, The Battle of the Frogs and Mice, and A Little Pigeon Toad. Many of these efforts were based on children's frequent misperceptions of things they hear from adults, such as the "chocolate moose for dinner", which was illustrated as a large brown antlered quadruped seated at the dinner table. The other books on this theme were "The King Who Rained", "A Little Pigeon Toad" (in which a child's mother thus describes her father), and "The Sixteen Hand Horse".[5]

Perhaps one of the reasons the books did not achieve wider popularity initially was the fact that their format was geared to a very young audience, but the concept itself was more appealing to older children and adults, achieving critical success and eventually becoming regular bestsellers for their publisher.[5] He also lent his voice talents to commercials and radio shows such as CBS Radio Mystery Theater ("Kill Now and Pay Later", "Gate 27"), and for some radio fans, he is known foremost for his contribution to CBSRMT's success. Later, he held a number of shows of his artwork, the first in 1989.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1952, Gwynne married socialite Jean "Foxy" Reynard,[14] a granddaughter of New York City mayor William Jay Gaynor.[15] Before divorcing in 1980, the couple had five children: Kieron (son, b. 1952); Gaynor (daughter, b. 1954); Evan (son, b. 1956); Madyn (daughter, b. 1965) and Dylan (son, b. September 1962 / d. July 12, 1963, drowning).[16][17]

In 1988, Gwynne married Deborah Flater.[16]


Fred Gwynne died of complications from pancreatic cancer,[16] in the cigar room at his home in Taneytown, Maryland, on July 2, 1993, eight days short of his 67th birthday.[18] He is buried at Sandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemetery in Finksburg, Maryland.[19]



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1954 On the Waterfront Mladen "Slim" Sekulovich Uncredited
1966 Munster, Go Home! Herman Munster
1969 The Littlest Angel The Understanding Angel TV movie
1977 Captains Courageous Long Jack TV movie
1979 La Luna Douglas Winter
1980 Simon Maj. Gen. Korey
1981 So Fine Chairman Lincoln
1982 The Mysterious Stranger Balthasar Hoffman TV movie
1984 The Cotton Club Frenchy Demange
1985 Water Spender
1986 Off Beat Police commissioner
1986 The Boy Who Could Fly Uncle Hugo
1986 The Christmas Star Waters
1987 The Secret of My Success Donald Davenport
1987 Fatal Attraction Arthur
1987 Ironweed Oscar Reo
1987 Jake's M.O. Jake Tekulve
1989 Disorganized Crime Max Green
1989 Pet Sematary Jud Crandall
1991 Shadows and Fog Hacker's Follower
1992 My Cousin Vinny Judge Chamberlain Haller


Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Repertory Theatre Performer Episode: "A Man's Game"
1953 You Are There Davy Crockett 2 episodes
1955–1956 The Phil Silvers Show Cpl. Ed Honnegan 2 episodes
1956 Studio One in Hollywood Little Dude Episode: "The Landady's Daughter"
1957 The Kaiser Aluminum Hour Egghead Episode: "A Man's Game"
1957 Suspicion Hughie Episode: "Hand in Glove"
1957 Kraft Theatre Performer 2 episodes
1958 The Steve Allen Show Comedian Episode: #3.23
1958 The Investigator Performer Episode: #1.07
1958 DuPont Show of the Month E.J. Loffgrin 2 episodes
1961 The Play of the Week Performer Episode: "The Old Foolishness"
1961–1963 Car 54, Where Are You? Officer Francis Muldoon 60 episodes
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week William Magee Episode: "Seven Keys to Baldgate"
1963 The United States Steel Hour Willie Botsford Episode: "Don't Shake the Family Tree"
1964 Brenner Francis X. Fish Episode: "Charlie Paradise: The Tragic Flute"
1964 My Son, the Witch Doctor Performer TV film
1964-1966 The Munsters Herman Munster Main role; 70 episodes produced
1965 The Red Skelton Show Herman Munster Episode: "Ta-Ra-Ra-Bum-Today"
1966 The Danny Kaye Show Herman Munster Episode: "Fred Gwynne"
1966 New York Television Theatre The Professor Episode: "The Lesson"
1967 NET Playhouse Officer Avonzino Episode: "Infancy and Childhood"
1968 Mad Mad Scientist Warren Springer TV film
1969 Arsenic and Old Lace Jonathan Brewster TV film
1969 Anderson and Company Marshall Anderson TV film
1969 The Littlest Angel Guardian Angel TV film
1971 Dames at Sea Hennesey TV film
1971 Great Performances Pike Episode: "Paradise Lost"
1971 The Police Sergeant TV film
1972 Harvey Cab Driver TV film
1972 Norman Corwin Presents Performer Episode: "Aunt Dorothy's Playroom"
1976 Bound for Freedom Waldruss TV film
1976 Captains and the Kings Performer Miniseries
1977 Captains Courageous Long Jack TV film
1979 Sanctuary of Fear Judge Potter TV film
1980 A Day with Conrad Green Conrad Green TV film
1981 The Munsters' Revenge Herman Munster TV film
1982–1987 American Playhouse Charles Dickens 2 episodes
1982 The Mysterious Stranger Balthasar Hoffman TV film
1985 Kane & Abel Davis LeRoy 2 episodes
1986 Vanishing Act Father Macklin TV film
1987 Murder by the Book Victor Greville TV film
1990 Murder in Black and White Brannigan TV film
1990 Earthday Birthday Fred the Moose Voice, TV film
1992 Lincoln Edwin Stanton Voice, TV film


  1. ^ a b "Gwynne family genealogy".
  2. ^ "Census of Population and Housing, 1970 [United States]: Master Enumeration District (MED) Lists". June 28, 1984. doi:10.3886/icpsr08109.v2. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Elias, Carlos; Kirlys, Rokas; Topyan, Kudret (August 1, 2017). "Return Predictability in Santiago Stock Exchange: an Empirical Analysis using Portfolio Method". Journal of Advances in Economics and Finance. 2 (3). doi:10.22606/jaef.2017.23005. ISSN 2519-5980.
  4. ^ "Cartoonist Fred Gwynne Is Elected Lampoon President - News - The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Wright, Andy (June 16, 2017). "The Man Behind Herman Munster Wrote Some Puntastic Children's Books". Atlas Obscura-Stories. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  6. ^ "Tribute to Fred Gwynne". Harvard Krokodiloes website.
  7. ^ a b c Lambert, Bruce (July 3, 1993) "Fred Gwynne, Popular Actor, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times, p. 8: Reference for Harvard Lampoon, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Brattle Theatre, "Mrs. McThing".
  8. ^ Sheaffer, Louis. "Shakespeare Imaginatively Staged at City Center." Brooklyn Eagle, 5 February 1953.
  9. ^ "8 surprising facts about the great Fred Gwynne - 7. He almost starred on 'Punky Brewster.'". MeTV. July 10, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  10. ^ "8 surprising facts about the great Fred Gwynne - 7. He almost starred on 'Punky Brewster.'". MeTV. July 10, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mondello, Bob (March 7, 2017). "How Do Americans Feel About The Courts? Let Hollywood Be The Judge". NPR. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  13. ^ My Cousin Vinny (5/5) Movie CLIP - Automotive Expert (1992) HD. Fandango ~ Movie Clips (Comedy). August 4, 2015. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  14. ^ Fred(erick) (Hubbard) Gwynne. (2003). In Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.
  15. ^ "Enchanted Lady: The colorful columnist is moving into Ridgefield". January 4, 2010. Ridgefield Holiday magazine '09-'10 archives.
  16. ^ a b c Lambert, Bruce (July 3, 1993). "Fred Gwynne, Popular Actor, Is Dead at 66". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Fred Gwynne" Archived June 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Fred Gwynne". Biography. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  19. ^ Magical Destinations of the Northeast

External linksEdit