The Seven Year Itch – Required Viewing

It’s still summer, it’s still warm outside and even a bit warm at night.  This film always reminds me of hot summer nights in New York.  I love she just brings a fan with her, so sensible.

seven-year-itch9

The Wiki:

The Seven Year Itch is a romantic comedy 1955 American film based on a three-act play with the same name by George Axelrod. The film was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, and starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role. It contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown by a passing train. The titular phrase, which refers to declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage, has been used by psychologists.

Happy Birthday Edna Ferber

Today is the 129th birthday of Edna Ferber.  If you see one film of hers, see “Giant.”  Everyone is beautiful and the film is perfection.

NAME: Edna Ferber
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: August 15, 1885
DEATH DATE: April 16, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kalamazoo, Michigan
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edna Ferber wrote books and plays that became movies like Show Boat, Giant, and Stage Door.

American novelist and short-story writer who wrote with compassion and curiosity about Midwestern American life.
Ferber grew up mostly in her native Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in Appleton, Wisconsin (in between her family moved to several Midwestern towns). Her father, born in Hungary, was a merchant. She began her career at age 17 as a reporter in Appleton, later working for the Milwaukee Journal. Her early stories introduced a traveling petticoat saleswoman named Emma McChesney, whose adventures are collected in several books, including Emma McChesney & Co. (1915). Emma was the first of Ferber’s strong, enterprising women characters. Ferber’s characters are firmly tied to the land, and they experience conflicts between their traditions and new, more dynamic trends. Although her books are somewhat superficial in their careful attention to exterior detail at the expense of profound ideas, they do offer an accurate, lively portrait of middle-class Midwestern experience in 1920s and ’30s America.

So Big (1924)—about a woman truck gardener who provides for her son by her enterprise in managing the unsuccessful farm her husband left her—won a Pulitzer Prize. Show Boat (1926), the tale of a showboat trouper who is deserted by her husband and in the interests of survival becomes a successful singer, was made into a popular musical play by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Critics hailed Ferber as the greatest woman novelist of the period. Her novels Cimarron (1930), Saratoga Trunk (1941), Giant (1952), and Ice Palace (1958) were all made into motion pictures. Her autobiographies, A Peculiar Treasure (1939), which focuses in part on Ferber’s pride in her Jewish heritage, and A Kind of Magic (1963), evince her genuine and encompassing love for America.

She was associated with the Algonquin Round Table of literary wits, and she collaborated with George S. Kaufman on a number of plays, including Dinner at Eight (1932) and Stage Door (1936).

Jean-Michel Basquait Dies 1988

Jean Basquiat, 27, An Artist of Words And Angular Images

By CONSTANCE L. HAYS

Jean Michel Basquiat, a Brooklyn-born artist whose brief career leaped from graffiti scrawled on SoHo foundations to one-man shows in galleries around the world, died Friday at his home in the East Village. He was 27 years old.

His agent, Vrej Baghoomian, said the cause of death appeared to have been a heart attack or drug overdose. Mr. Basquiat had been planning to depart last weekend for a monthlong trip to the Ivory Coast, Mr. Baghoomian said.

The son of a Haitian accountant, Mr. Basquiat began drawing on sheets of paper his father brought home from the office. He never received formal training, Mr. Baghoomian said, and his paintings incorporated images of angular people and symbols with lone words or phrases. In an interview in The New York Times Magazine in 1985, he said he used words ”like brushstrokes.”

During his graffiti period, he worked with a friend, Al Diaz, and the two signed their work Samo, followed by a copyright symbol. When the friendship fizzled, Mr. Basquiat wrote ”Samo is dead” prominently around lower Manhattan.

Established Career at 20

Critics praised his work for its composition, color and balance between spontaneity and control. While still in his early 20’s, his work was shown at leading SoHo galleries, including the Annina Nosei Gallery and the Mary Boone Gallery, and his work was exhibited in galleries from SoHo to Paris, Tokyo and Dusseldorf. His paintings sold for $25,000 to $50,000, Mr. Baghoomian said.

Mr. Basquiat formed a close friendship with Andy Warhol, immortalizing it in a double portrait that sold in the auction of Warhol’s collection at Sotheby’s last spring, Mr. Baghoomian said. The two also collaborated on a series exhibited in 1985 that featured cartoon characters and corporate logos.

At the time of his death, Mr. Basquiat was living in a building he rented from Warhol’s estate. ”Andy’s death really affected him,” Mr. Baghoomian said. But Mr. Basquiat had long been moody, he added: ”Emotionally, he was always in turmoil.”

Temperamental Artist

Mr. Basquiat also achieved renown in the contemporary art world for his temper, which once led him to destroy a number of unfinished paintings. In another incident, he leaned out of a window and poured dried fruit and nuts onto the head of a dealer as she left his building.

Mr. Basquiat’s paintings are included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art.

He is survived by his father, Gerard, and mother, Matilde, both of Brooklyn, and two sisters, Lisane and Jeanine.

 

Happy Birthday Andy Warhol

Today is the 86th birthday of Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol died my junior year of high school. Shortly after that, I became obsessed with him, his life, Interview magazine, but more specifically, his collections. I read every article I could find about the lists of belongings found in his house at the time of his death, the cookie jars, the stacks and stacks of contemporary art by his peers, the art deco furniture, the endless lists. He would go to flea markets every day and collect everything that interested him with very few criteria. Sotheby’s produced a staggering list of objects cataloged from his cram-packed six story Upper East Side townhouse when they were getting ready for the ten day auction: 1,659 pieces of Russel Wright pottery, 267 watches, 72 Navajo blankets and rugs, 61 lots of early 19th-Century American furniture, 37 Art Deco cigarette cases, 33 works by Man Ray, 18 by Marcel Duchamp, 12 Rauschenbergs.

Andy was a hoarder, but when it is a dozen Rauschenbergs, it is a collection. Hoarders have a dozen cats, Andy had rooms so full of Duchamps, he just closed the doors to avoid tripping on them. By the way, that townhouse sold for $35M (and his Montauk house for $50M) recently. He collected all the right things, he pushed the prices and demand of early 20th century utilitarian kitsch items through the roof. Ladies and gentlemen, Andy Warhol. Style Icon.

NAME: Andy Warhol
OCCUPATION: Painter, Filmmaker
BIRTH DATE: August 06, 1928
DEATH DATE: February 22, 1987
EDUCATION: Carnegie Institute of Technology
PLACE OF BIRTH: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: New York City, New York
ORIGINALLY: Andrew Warhola

BEST KNOWN FOR: Andy Warhol is famous for his “pop” paintings of everyday consumer goods, like Campbell soup cans, as well as screen-printing portraits of celebrities, like Marilyn Monroe.

Andrew Warhola (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his work as a painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and member of highly diverse social circles that included Bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons.
Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. He coined the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame.” In his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Andy Warhol Museum exists in memory of his life and artwork.

The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is US$100 million for a 1963 canvas titled Eight Elvises. The private transaction was reported in a 2009 article in The Economist, which described Warhol as the “bellwether of the art market.” $100 million is a benchmark price that only Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-August Renoir, Gustav Klimt and Willem de Kooning have achieved.

 

Happy Birthday Clara Bow

Today is the 109th birthday of Clara Bow.

NAME: Clara Bow
OCCUPATION: Film Actor/Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: July 29, 1905
DEATH DATE: September 27, 1965
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: American motion-picture actress Clare Bow was a major box-office draw during the silent-film era, having starred in dozens of projects.

Clara Bow was born on July 29, 1905 in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, NY. She was the youngest of three siblings and the only one to survive past childhood. Her father was sexually abusive and left the home for long periods of time while her mother suffered from severe mental disorders, later threatening her adolescent daughter’s life.

Bow took to watching movies as an escape from the horrors of home and dropped out of school. At 16, she entered a magazine’s beauty contest and won a small part in the film Beyond the Rainbow (1922), though her scenes were initially cut. Even while facing resistance, Bow persevered in continuing to audition at New York studios and eventually received a part in Down to the Sea in Ships (1922). The new actress also contended with the institutionalization and death of her mother.

Bow made her way to Hollywood and signed with Preferred Pictures under honcho B.P. Schulberg, with the actress also working with other studios. She starred in an array of silent films such as Grit (1924), The Plastic Age (1925) and Dancing Mothers (1926); the latter was filmed by Paramount Studios, which Schulberg joined after Preferred’s bankruptcy.

Bow became wildly popular after 1927’s It, a film adapted from a Elinor Glyn novella. The project proved to be a tremendous box office success and lent the actress the nickname the “It” Girl. Bow’s imagery and electric, sexy performances spoke to the flapper persona of the times. She was a style icon as well, with her particular look taken on by women across the country.

The actress made cinematic history with her 1927 co-starring role in Wings, which went on to receive the first Best Picture Oscar. She later made the transition to talking movies with 1929’s The Wild Party. Bow ultimately starred in dozens of films over the course of her career, though rigorous shooting demands and industry exploitation took its toll.

Known for having a fun and affable personality with a winning Brooklyn accent, Bow nonetheless still suffered from an overloaded work schedule, celebrity scrutiny and the lingering traumas of her upbringing. She had been associated with a number of men off-screen and her romantic life became the object of much hurtful speculation and gossip, including a pamphlet put forth by an assistant with stories of Bow’s relationships. In 1931 she had a breakdown and entered a sanitarium.

While recovering, Bow met fellow actor and future politician Rex Bell, and the two married in 1931, going on to have two children. Bow starred in a couple of other films with Fox Studios before retiring from acting in 1933. Over time she still struggled deeply with her emotional and mental health, attempting suicide in the mid-1940s and undergoing a score of examinations.

A widower after her husband’s death in 1962, Clara Bow died at the age of 60 on September 27, 1965 in Los Angeles, California from a heart attack. Decades later, her trailblazing role in shaping film and general culture has continued to be explored. A biography was published in 1988, Clara Bow Runnin’ Wild by David Stenn, while 1999 saw the release of a documentary, Clara Bow: Discovering the It Girl, directed by Hugh M. Neely and narrated by Courtney Love.

Happy Birthday Alexander Calder

Today is the 116th birthday of Alexander Calder.  I am lucky enough to live in a city where I can visit (and walk through) an Alexander Calder sculpture whenever I desire.  People walk by it every day, exercising, walking their dogs, but I hope they realize the gift they are experiencing.  Not everyone on their morning jog can experience world-class art.

NAME: Alexander Calder
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: July 22, 1898
DEATH DATE: November 11, 1976
EDUCATION: Art Students League
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lawnton, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
NICKNAME: Sandy Calder

BEST KNOWN FOR: Alexander Calder was an influential American artist and sculptor who invented the mobile.

Alexander Calder (born July 22, 1898, Lawnton, Pa., U.S.—died Nov. 11, 1976, New York, N.Y.) U.S. sculptor. He was the son and grandson of sculptors, and his mother was a painter. He studied mechanical engineering, and in 1923 attended the Art Students League, where he was influenced by artists of the Ash Can school. In 1924 he contributed illustrations to the National Police Gazette. In 1926 he moved to Paris and began making toylike animals and circus figures of wood and wire; from these he developed his famous miniature circus. In the 1930s he became well known in Paris and the U.S. for his wire sculptures, as well as for portraits, continuous-line drawings, and abstract, motor-driven constructions. He is best known as the inventor of the mobile, a forerunner of kinetic sculpture. He also constructed nonmovable sculptural works known as stabiles. Although Calder’s early mobiles and stabiles were relatively small, he increasingly moved toward monumentality in his later works. His art was recognized with many large-scale exhibitions.

Two months after his death, Calder was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, by President Gerald Ford. However, representatives of the Calder family boycotted the January 10, 1977 ceremony “to make a statement favoring amnesty for Vietnam War draft resisters.”

Happy Birthday Edward Hopper

Today is the 132nd birthday of the artist Edward Hopper.

NAME: Edward Hopper
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: July 22, 1882
DEATH DATE: May 15, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Nyack, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Artist Edward Hopper is the painter behind the iconic late-night diner scene Nighthawks (1942).

Edward Hopper was born in 1882, in NY, into a middle class family, which encouraged the art work and career that he wanted to pursue. From 1900 to 1906 he studied at the NY School of Art, and while in school, shifted from illustration to works of fine art. Upon completing his schooling, he worked as an illustrator for a short period of time; once this career path ended, he made three international trips, which had a great influence on the future of his work, and the type of art he would engage in during the course of his career. He made three trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910. In retrospect, Europe meant France, and more specifically, Paris, for Edward Hopper. This city , its architecture, light, and art tradition, decisively affected his development.

When he arrived in 1906, Paris was the artistic center of the Western world; no other city was as important for the development of modern art. The move toward abstract painting was already underway; Cubism had begun. There, in 1907, Picasso painted his legendary Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Hopper, however, later maintained that when he was in Paris he never heard of Picasso, who was to become so important for the development of modern literature. For Hopper, the encounter with Impressionism was decisive. The light in these paintings and the thematic treatment of architecture and nature particularly attracted him and were to influence all of his work. His reaction to the Impressionists is directly reflected in his own art. He forgot the dark, Old Master-like interiors of his New York student days, when he was influenced mainly by the great European artists – Goya, Caravaggio, El Greco, and Diego Velazquez. The influence of Impressionists, like Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, is directly reflected in his own art. His palette lit up and he began to paint with light and quick strokes. Even in 1962, he could say, “I think I’m still an Impressionist.”
In 1910 Hopper returned to the United States, never to leave North America again. During the 1910s, Edward Hopper struggled quite a bit to gain any recognition for the works he had created. During this period a number of his works were distributed through various shows and exhibits in New York, but very little, if any attention, was given to his pieces. Oil painting was a focal point of the work he had done, but a majority of the sales he made during this period, was for works he had created doing etching work and murals.

At the age of 37, Edward Hopper received his first open invitation to do a one person exhibit, featuring some of this finest pieces of art. 16 pieces of his work were shown at the Whitney Club, and although none of the pieces were sold at this exhibit, it did point his career in a new direction, it got his art work out to the general public, and he became a more notable name in the type of work and the art forms which he most wanted to focus his career on, for the future works he would create.

A few years later, Edward Hopper found his career had taken a turn for the better, and he was doing well in sales, and financially with the works he had created. He was invited to do a second one person exhibit, to feature new works, and to create a buzz about the work he had created in recent years. The Frank KM Rehn Gallery in NYC, was where this second exhibit took place, and it received far more attention and a much larger crowd, due to the location where the exhibit was taking place, and also because of the fact that more people were now aware of the works Edward Hopper had created.

House by the Railroad, was a famous painting created by the artist, which was the first work to be acquired for the Museum of Modern Art, which had only recently been opened for general viewing. Strongly defined lighting, clearly defined lines, and cropped viewpoints, were some of the features which this art work captured; and, this embodied the style in which Edward Hopper would use later on in his career, and with the future works that he would produce during the course of his career as an artist.

In 1923, Edward Hopper married a fellow student who attended the NY Academy where he got his education, Josephine Nivision. Not only did she pose for nearly half of the female figure pieces which he created during his career, she also encouraged and pushed him to engage in different art forms during his career as well. She pushed him to work with water colors, and she kept records of all the pieces he designed, the exhibits he was to be a part of, and all of the sales of the pieces which were made, during these exhibits in which his work was presented.

In 1933, Edward Hopper received further praises for the works he had done, and for a piece that was on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. His highly identifiable style, and mature painting styles, were some things he had become known for during this period. The gorgeous landscapes, the quiet rooms and empty rooms he designed, and the transitory effect which many of his works posed, created a sense of contemporary life and a new style, which many in the art world recognized, and many praised him for this distinct style he had created in his art forms.

In Edward Hopper’s most famous piece, Nighthawks, there are four customers and a waiter, who are in a brightly lit diner at night. It was a piece created during a wartime; and many believe that their disconnect with the waiter, and with the external world, represent the feelings of many Americans during this period, because of the war. The piece was set up in 1942, in the Art Institute of Chicago, and was seen by many people while it was on exhibit for a show.

Between the 1930s and 1950s, Edward Hopper and his wife spent quite a bit of time, and most of their summers, visiting Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In many of the works that Hopper created during this period, many of the scenes, the common locations, and nearby attractions which they visited, were often seen in the art forms that he created during his career. He also started to travel further out, and visited regions from Vermont out to Charleston, in order to add more new points of interest to his collection, and to broaden the works and the locations which he would include in many of the images that he created over the course of his career.

Later in his career, many of his works were displayed in various exhibits, namely at the Whitney Museum, which was located in New York City. Later in his career, during the 1940s, was a period in which he found the most commercial success. But, soon after, and even during this time period, he began losing critical favors. This was namely due to the new forms of art, and the fact that abstract pieces were beginning to enter the art world, which took over the work he did, as well as the work of many famous artists prior to him.

His choices of subject matter – particularly the places he painted – seem to have been somewhat unpredictable, since they were part of his constant battle with the chronic boredom that often stifled his urge to paint. This is what kept Hopper on the move – his search for inspiration, least painfully found in the stimulation of new surroundings. As he explained to one critic:

“To me the most important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you’re traveling.”

In the 1940s and 1950s, Hopper found himself losing critical favor in the wake of Abstract Expressionism. Among the new vanguard art movement emerged in the early 1940s, artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko advanced audacious formal inventions in a search for significant content. By breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, those artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches, and attempted to tap into universal inner sources. Even during this era of national prosperity and cultural optimism, Edward Hopper’s art continued to suggest that the individual could still suffer a powerful sense of isolation in post-war America. Hopper never lacked popular appeal, however, and by the time of his death in 1967, Hopper had been reclaimed as a major influence by a new generation of American realist artists.

Happy Birthday Charles James

Charles James (18 July 1906 in Sandhurst – September 23, 1978 in New York City) was a fashion designer known as America’s first couturier. He is considered a master of cutting and is known for his highly structured aesthetic.

His father was a British officer and his mother a Chicago ‘patrician’. In 1919 he attended Harrow School, where he met Evelyn Waugh, Francis Rose and, most importantly Cecil Beaton, with whom he formed a longstanding friendship. He was expelled from Harrow for a ‘sexual escapade’.

At the age of nineteen in 1926, Charles James opens his first hat shop in Chicago, using the name of a schoolfriend, ‘Charles Boucherdon’.

In 1928 he left Chicago for Long Island with 70 cents, a Pierce Arrow and a number of hats as his only possessions. He later opened a hat shop above a garage in Murray Hill, New York, beginning his first dress designs.

James showed one of his most successful collections in Paris in 1947. In the 1950s he spent most of his time in New York.

James looked upon his dresses as works of art, as did many of his customers. Year after year he reworked original designs, ignoring the sacrosanct schedule of seasons. The components of the precisely constructed designs were interchangeable so that James had a never-ending fund of ideas on which to draw. He is most famous for his sculpted ball gowns made of lavish fabrics and to exacting tailoring standards, but is also remembered for his capes and coats, often trimmed with fur and embroidery, his spiral zipped dresses, and his white satin quilted jackets.

After the birth of his son, Charles James Jr. in 1956, he also produced a children’s collection.

He designed the interior and several pieces of furniture for the Houston home of John and Dominique de Menil.

After returning to New York City from Paris, Scaasi worked for James for two years. James retired in 1958.

He died alone, of bronchial pneumonia, at the Chelsea Hotel in New York.

Happy Birthday Bernice Abbott

This week marks the 116th birthday of photographer Bernice Abbot.

NAME: Bernice Abbott
BORN: July 17, 1898
BIRTHPLACE: Springfield, Ohio
DEATH: December 9, 1991
DEATH PLACE: Monson, Maine

BEST KNOWN FOR: Bernice Abbott, was an American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s.

Berenice Abbott can be considered the photographer of New York City. A revolutionary documentary photographer, Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1898, and studied for one year at Ohio State University, Columbus, before moving to New York in 1918 to study sculpture. While in New York, Abbott met Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, two of the founders of the Dada movement, an artistic intellectual movement that emerged as a protest to the senseless suffering of World War I. Dada artists sought to question convention and tradition through seemingly nonsensical works presented in performances, literature, and the visual arts.

Moving on to Europe in the 1920s, Abbott worked from 1925 to 1929 as a photographic assistant to May Ray in Paris. Through her work printing Man Ray’s photographs, Abbott herself discovered her talent as a photographer. In 1926 Abbott had her first solo exhibition in the Parisian gallery, Le Sacre du Printemps. This exhibition featured Abbott’s portrait photography in which she captured personalities associated with avant-garde art movements. Portraits of film director Jacques Cocteau, author James Joyce, artist Max Ernst, and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay were featured. During this time, Abbott also became interested in the work of Eugène Atget, a leading French photographer who was celebrated for his photographs of the streets of Paris.

Upon Abbott’s return to New York in 1929, she moved away from portrait photography to documentary photography akin to Atget’s images, using the city as her subject. During the 1930s she embarked on a project to capture the transformation of New York into a modern urban center. Abbott was particularly interested in the physical changes that the city had undergone, its changing neighborhoods with huge skyscrapers replacing older low-rise buildings. She began a series of documentary photographs of the city as part of a Federal Works Project Administration initiative carried out from 1935 to 1939. At the end of the project, she published her photographs as a book entitled Changing New York. Abbott favored a straightforward, yet dynamic, style that featured strong contrasts and dramatic angles. “Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium,” Abbott said, “it has to walk alone; it has to be itself.”

Abbott became picture editor for Science Illustrated in the 1940s and continued in that role through the 1960s, expanding her subject matter to include scientific images. She moved to Maine in 1966 and continued as a science photographer, approaching the world around her methodically, as she had done with her portraits and images of New York. Abbott continued her photography until her death in 1991.

Happy Birthday Fred Gwynne

Today is the 88th birthday of Fred Gwynne.

NAME: Fred Gwynne
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor
BIRTH DATE: July 10, 1926
DEATH DATE: July 2, 1993
EDUCATION: Harvard University, New York Phoenix School of Design
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Taneytown, Maryland

BEST KNOWN FOR: Fred Gwynne was an actor known for his roles as Herman Munster on the sitcom The Munsters and as the crusty judge in the film My Cousin Vinny.

Actor. Born Frederick Hubbard Gwynne on July 10, 1926 in New York City, is perhaps best known for his roles in the 1960s sitcoms Car 54, Where Are You? and The Munsters. His father was a successful stockbroker and his mother was a former cartoonist. In 1932, the happy household changed dramatically when Fred’s father died from complications after routine surgery. After high school, the young Gwynne, who stood at a lumbering, rail-thin six-foot, five-inches, enlisted in the Navy and served on a sub chaser during World War II.

Upon his discharge from the Navy, Gwynne attended the New York Phoenix School of Design, then entered Harvard University on the G.I. Bill. There he became president of The Harvard Lampoon, and drew cartoons for the popular periodical, a talent acquired from his mother. However, after performing several of The Hasty Pudding Club‘s farcical productions, the young man with the powerful baritone voice realized his future was upon the stage. Eager to learn his craft, the Harvard graduate joined the Brattle Theater Repertory Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he played a variety of characters in numerous plays.

In 1951, Fred married Jean “Foxie” Reynard, whom he had met through friends. After a successful run as “Bottom” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the young thespian and his new companion headed to New York to pursue bigger and brighter possibilities. Although most casting directors thought he was too tall and unattractive to be a leading man, he landed a supporting role in Mrs. McThing on Broadway, starring Helen Hayes. Gwynne simultaneously worked as a copywriter at the J. Walter Thompson Advertising agency to make ends meet between assignments. For the next five years he juggled his day job with numerous stage and television roles, appearing in such prestigious productions as Studio One, Kraft Theater, and The Phil Silvers Show.

In 1954, the 28-year-old made his film debut with a bit part in On The Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando. Gwynne’s career took another surprising turn when he landed his first major Broadway role in the musical, Irma La Duce. It was during the run of the show that TV producer Nat Hiken hired Gwynne to co-star as Francis Maldoon in the NBC television series, Car 54, Where Are You?. The show was a success, though only ran from 1961-1963.

The Gwynne family now included two children: a daughter named Gaynor and a son Kieron, who was mentally handicapped and required constant care. However Fred’s schedule was demanding and he spent little time at home. He was also writing and illustrating children’s stories and in 1958, Best in Show, the first in a line of successful books, was published.

In 1963, tragedy struck when his youngest son, Dylan, drowned in the family pool, leaving Fred brokenhearted and depressed. While he was still trying to cope with the emotional devastation of his son’s death, NBC canceled Car 54.

However, Gwynne was not out of work for long. In 1964, he was cast in the CBS television series, The Munsters. Portraying Herman Munster, the towering actor (who was required to wear five-inch platform boots) transformed the traditional Frankenstein monster into a lovable and hysterically funny character that was popular with both adults and children. Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote that “there is not the slightest question that Mr. Gwynne, superbly made up as Frankenstein, is the whole show.” However, by 1966, The Munsters was losing a ratings war with the popular series, Batman. Universal Pictures fought back with a feature-length color film, Munster, Go Home, which bombed at the box office. The series was then taken off the air, to little protest.

After the demise of The Munsters, Gwynne’s career came to a screeching halt. TV and movie producers were afraid to hire him, believing audiences would only see the fumbling Herman Munster, which left Gwynne frustrated and bitter. However, he continued to find success with children’s books, which now included such classics as God’s First World, A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, and A Little Pigeon Toad. He appeared in a string of failed television pilots and a few TV movies, including The Littlest Angel and Arsenic and Old Lace.

Gwynne returned to the stage and won critical acclaim as Big Daddy in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Ashley. Other successful stage roles included Claudis in Hamlet and the stage manager in Our Town. In 1976, he won an Obie Award for his performance in the off-Broadway play, Grand Magic.

Gwynne also made a comeback to the big screen with a small role in Bernardo Bertolucci’s haunting drama, Luna, starring Jill Clayburgh. He eventually began to make appearances in such A-list films as Ironweed with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, Fatal Attraction with Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, and The Cotton Club starring Richard Gere. In 1981, he returned to the role that he had fought so hard to leave behind–Herman Munster in the TV movie, Munster’s Revenge.

Gwynne continued to appear in supporting roles, the highlight being his turn as the comic foil for Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in 1992’s My Cousin Vinny. After forty years of working non-stop, Gwynne decided to put his film career on the back burner. He and his wife, Deborah, purchased a farm in rural Maryland and the actor only accepted work as a voice-over artist in radio and television commercials.

Just one year into his tranquil, new life, Gwynne was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died on July 2, 1993, at the age of 66.