Dana Wynter, best known for her role in the 1956 sci-fier “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” died Thursday of congestive heart failure in Ojai, Calif. She was 79.
In “Body Snatchers,” she had her first lead role, playing Becky Driscoll, the love interest of Kevin McCarthy’s Dr. Miles Bennell in the story of a town where the residents are being replaced by doubles grown in pods. She brought a distinctly English, elegant but wholesome quality to the role.
In 1994 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Wynter began her acting career with small roles in a number of films in the early 1950s including “The Crimson Pirate,” credited as Dagmar Wynter. “Body Snatchers” was shot in 1955 but did not come out until the next year, so her first lead performance to hit the bigscreen was in “The View From Pompey’s Head,” in 1955. In 1956 she also had the lead female role in a war film, “D Day, The Sixth of June.”
In 1957 she starred in Richard Brooks’ Africa-set racial tension drama “Something of Value” (1957), with Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier. In 1958 she gave perhaps her best performance in “Fraulein,” with Mel Ferrer. Wynter’s German character endures the harsh realities of life in the wake of WWII. The same year she starred opposite Robert Wagner in “In Love and War.”
In 1959 she had the lead female role in “Shake Hands With the Devil,” with James Cagney, about strife in Ireland.
While racking up film roles in the 1950s, Wynter was also busy in television, appearing in the episodic anthologies that ruled the day such as “Studio One in Hollywood,” “The United States Steel Hour” and “Playhouse 90.”
In 1960 she appeared in “Sink the Bismarck!” and in 1963 she was in “The List of Adrian Messenger,” but from then on she mostly did television work.
She starred with Robert Lansing in the brief series “The Man Who Never Was,” which ran for 18 episodes on ABC in 1966-67.
In 1970 returned to the bigscreen for a role as the icy socialite keen on divorcing Burt Lancaster in the movie “Airport.”
She remained a busy guest star in the 1970s and ’80s; her last credit was NBC telepic “The Return of Ironside” in 1993.
Born Dagmar Winter in Germany, she grew up in England. She pursued pre-med studies at Rhodes U. in South Africa and deciding on an acting career. Her comportment and accent meant she was often cast as an English aristocrat.
Wynter is survived by a son, Mark Bautzer.