David Wayne, versatile actor who won Tony awards for his work in “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Teahouse of the August Moon,” died Feb. 9 in Los Angeles following a long bout with lung cancer. He was 81.
Wayne’s career spanned Broadway, television and films, and he played characters as diverse as the precocious ensign in the play “Mister Roberts” to the Mad Hatter in ABC’s campy “Batman” series.
Born Wayne James McMeekan in Traverse City, Mich., he joined a Shakespearean repertory company in Cleveland in 1936 – the same group in which Sam Wanamaker and Arthur Kennedy nurtured their theatrical careers. Here he made his professional debut in “As You Like It.”
Wayne joined a touring marionette company that got him to New York, but he remained quite anonymous to Broadway.
He served during World War II, and two years after his discharge, he returned to the stage, debuting on Broadway in the role of Og, the leprechaun, in the Irish fantasy “Finian’s Rainbow” in 1947 – the role for which he was awarded the Tony for best supporting actor in a musical that same year.
In 1948, he played the roustabout Ensign Pulver, sporting a crewcut that remained his signature for many years, in “Mister Roberts” starring Henry Fonda. Seven years later, he won his second Tony – for best dramatic actor – playing Sakini, a local Okinawan bent on blending cultures in “The Teahouse of the August Moon,” which played over 1,000 performances at the Martin Beck Theater.
Other stage roles included “The Ponder Heart” and “The Loud Red Patrick” (1956), tuner “Say Darling” (1958), “Send Me No Flowers” (1960) and “Too Good to Be True” (1963).
He later joined the Lincoln Center Repertory Company and had roles in “After the Fall,” “Marco Millions,” “But for Whom Charlie” and “Incident at Vichy.” His last major Broadway role was in 1968 in the musical “The Happy Time.”
His large body of film work includes: “Portrait of Jennie” (1948); the battle-of-the-sexes comedy “Adam’s Rib,” (1949) with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn; “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953) with the man-hunting trio of Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall; psychological thriller “The Three Faces of Eve” (1957), playing Ralph White, the first husband of Eve, played by Joanne Woodward; “Andromeda Strain” (1971), based on the Michael Crichton novel; “The Last Angry Man” (1959); “The Front Page” (1974); Disney’s “The Apple Dumpling Gang” with Don Knotts and Tim Conway (1975); and “The Survivalist” (1987).
On television, Wayne starred in the series “Pearson Norby” in 1955 and was Inspector Richard Queen in “The Adventures of Ellery Queen” (1975-76). He also played Willard “Digger” Barnes on “Dallas” in 1978 and had a recurring role as the Mad Hatter, a “Batman” nemesis (1966-67).
He was nominated for an Emmy in 1957 for his appearance on NBC’s “Suspicion,” a suspense anthology, and in 1960, he starred in NBC’s special “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” playing the devil with Edward G. Robinson.
His wife of 52 years, actress Jane Gordon, died in 1993. Wayne is survived by two daughters, Melinda Wayne and Susan Kearney and two grandchildren. Family requests contributions be made to AIDS Project Los Angeles. No services were announced.