1940s Film Star Van Johnson Dies at 92
Van Johnson, a '40s and '50s Hollywood heartthrob whose film career spanned six decades, has died. He was 92.
Johnson passed away Friday of natural causes at the Tappan Zee Manor, an assisted living facility, in Nyack, N.Y., his friend, Wendy Bleisweis, said.
Armed with all-American looks and oozing charm, Johnson was dubbed "the non-singing Sinatra" in his heyday, but he was much more than just a pretty face. Proving to be a versatile talent, Johnson flexed his skills across a plethora of genres, starring in comedies, dramas, musicals, including Thrill of a Romance and Brigadoon, and war films, such as The Caine Mutiny and 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, in which he played a real-life amputee who lost his leg in a crash.
Born Charles Van Dell Johnson on Aug. 25, 1916, in Newport, R.I., Johnson left his home state in 1934 for New York City to pursue acting. Following a gig on Broadway, he headed to L.A. for his first film role in Too Many Girls and was signed to a Warner Bros. contract. After Warner Bros. dropped him, Johnson was picked up by MGM with help from friend, Lucille Ball, and would stay with the studio for two decades, earning parts opposite Esther Williams, June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor.
In 1943, Johnson was in a car wreck that left him with a metal disc in his forehead. The accident delayed production on the World War II drama, A Guy Named Joe, which also starred Spencer Tracy.
Other film credits include Two Girls and a Sailor, Week-End at the Waldorf, The White Cliffs of Dover and Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo.
In addition to stage productions of Damn Yankees and The Music Man, Johnson also graced the small screen with guest spots on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and I Love Lucy. His last acting appearance was in 1992's Clowning Around.
Married once, Johnson eloped to Mexico in 1947 with Eve Wynn, whose divorce to Johnson's friend Keenan Wynn was finalized four hours prior. The two had a daughter, Schuyler, in 1948, and divorced in 1968.