Actor Fred Gwynne, perhaps best known for his role as the lovable ghoul Herman Munster in the 1960s TV series “The Munsters,” died at his home in Taneytown, near Baltimore, on Friday at the age of 66.
Gwynne succumbed to pancreatic cancer, according to Roger Haber, his legal representative.
Besides “The Munsters,” the 6-foot, 5-inch Gwynne appeared in another popular comedy TV series, “Car 54, Where Are You?,” which ran from 1961 to 1963. In it he played a hapless New York City police officer, Francis Muldoon, who was constantly at the mercy of his over-eager and anxious partner Gunther Toody, portrayed by Joe E. Ross.
A year later Gwynne was enlisted to don platform shoes and plugs in his neck to portray a gentle Frankenstein-type monster opposite actress Yvonne DeCarlo as his wife, Lily Munster, and character actor Al Lewis. The happy couple and their kin lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane and, like “The Addams Family,” caused unintentional havoc.
In 1966, he starred in a feature film version of the series, “Munster, Go Home,” and in 1981, appeared for the last time as Herman in “Munster’s Revenge” on TV.
Like “Car 54,””The Munsters” was only on the air for three seasons. But thanks to constant reruns, both shows have been on the air almost constantly for the past 30 years.
Gwynne is also recognized for his basso profundo voice, which lent authority to countless commercials and voiceovers in documentaries.
Though he is best known for comedy, Gwynne distinguished himself as a serious stage and screen actor and was also a writer and illustrator of children’s books , the last of which, “Easy to See Why,” will be published later this year.
In 1979 he won an Obie award for his performance in the off-Broadway production “Grand Magic.” His last film role was as a non-nonsense Southern judge in last year’s comedy hit “My Cousin Vinny.”
Frederick Hubbard Gwynne was born in New York on July 10, 1926, the son of a stockbroker. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he graduated from Harvard University in 1951 and a year later made his acting debut in a featured role in “Mrs. McThing,” starring Helen Hayes.
He subsequently appeared in such plays as “Irma la Douce,””Twelfth Night, “”Our Town” and “A Texas Trilogy.” He played Big Daddy in the 1974 revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” a stage role he listed as his favorite. His last Broadway appearance was in the 1983 production “Whodunnit.”
Throughout the 1950s, Gwynne was featured regularly on television in dramatic productions on such anthology programs as “Kraft Theater,””Studio One,””Du Pont Show of the Month,””Play of the Week” and “U.S. Steel Hour.”
His film debut came in a minor role in Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront.” He also had supporting roles in such films as “The Cotton Club,””Ironweed, “”FatalAttraction,””Pet Sematary” and “The Secret of My Success.”
As an author and illustrator, he published his first book in 1958, entitled “Best in Show.” His books over the years include “The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice: An Homeric Fable,””God’s First World,””The Story of Ick,””Ick’s ABC, “”A Chocolate Moose for Dinner” and “A Little Pigeon Toad.”
Gwynne is survived by his wife, Deborah, and four children. Funeral services will be private.