Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Memoriam: Dana Wynter



The death of actress Dana Wynter on May 5 probably got under the radar in light of other recent deaths, but I doubt the passing of a somewhat obscure performer, even one as lovely as Miss Wynter, would have gained much media coverage anyway.

She's best known for her role in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but my connection to her is through her various TV appearances, where she was often cast as a quiet and dignified (minor) member of European royalty. She was usually stoic in the face of some inner torment, playing a villainess who nonetheless gained my sympathy through her affecting vulnerability. Dana Wynter is the kind of actress groomed in a studio system who subsequently owned the small screen in her myriad television roles. Wynter may have began her career as a lovely ingenue in early '50s Hollywood, but she made her career on television.

I had a small crush on her when I was a kid, something I didn't realize until I saw those shows again as an adult. She played the vulnerable/tormented ice queen to perfection in a 1974 episode of McMillan and Wife, The Man Without a Face, where she played a former love of Rock Hudson's Stewart McMillan character. It's the role of hers that I always think of when Dana Wynter's name comes to mind. The episode in question was also an "international intrigue/cloak & dagger" story, so young me was especially interested in the show.

Years later, as an impressionable middle schooler, I saw Wynter in two episodes of Magnum, P.I., (the "official" TV show of my childhood). Wynter played two similar parts in seasons two and three of that series, both dealing with rigged devices that lead to murder. In "Foiled Again", the fiftysomething Wynter managed to entice the much-younger Tom Selleck in what proved to be the most memorable performance of her two appearances. In both episodes, Wynter demonstrated her usual flair for playing the vulnerable woman who nonethless had a quiet strength; she struck a fine balance that totally eludes most actresses--and audiences--today.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the lovely piece on Dana. I have not seen any of her television work (being here in the UK and I grew up in Ireland, where she lived part of the time) but, as per my own blog item on her, liked her in those movies. She was a lovely dignified presence, good that she got to be almost 80 - so many favourites are passing away this year ...

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  2. Wow, that's right. I totally forgot she was in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I love the original. I know it sometimes gets written off as some cheesy film, but it actually is quite good.

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  3. Nice tribute. She's very good with James Cagney in 'Shake Hands with the Devil', though I'm not sure if I've seen her in anything else. Judy

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  4. I hadn't even heard of her death. :-(

    I am a huge fan of her many television appearances. She was always awesome in everything. And so incredibly beautiful.

    This was a lovely tribute.

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  5. I am also a fan since I was a kid. Loved her because of her beauty and that kind of peace she transmited, but most of all because she was a very classy woman (like Dina Merrill). The first time I saw her was with Robert Lansing from then on I followed every performance. Do you remember her in Rockford Files in 2 episodes, Lauren Bacall was also a guest star ? RIP Miss Wynter.

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  6. I was just browsing and saw this post. I've only ever seen her in a first-season episode of The Wild, Wild West, but she's absolutely riveting even in that.

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  7. I have a collection of personal letters written by Dana Wynter and some photos. I would like to sell them. Does anyone know how i could do that?

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  8. Dana also starred in "Sink the Bismarck" with Kenneth More as Captain Shepard. Her character's name was Anne Davis.

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  9. Did you see her in the F.B.I.? She was flawless. Classic hollywood. When Hollywoods best guest on those old shows, they really shine, both the star the show.

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  10. Well, she became an absolute FAV of mine just as soon as I caught my first glimpse of her. She was a royal/elegant/dignified/ravishing/delicate beauty as far as I'm concerned. Almost any man's ideal beauty. Long live Miss Wynter and her unforgettable memory. Also, sie war so unmöglischlich hübsch, bin ich der Meinung.

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