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David Wayne (Jan 30,1914 - Feb 9,1995)

Theatre photo of a young David Wayne


 



Length:  5' 7" (1,70 m)
Eyes: brown
Wife:
Jane Gordon Trix, (Dec 20, 1941 -  Apr 16, 1993, her dead)
Twin daughters: Susan Kearney and Melinda (1946)
Son: Timothy (1948)


His Broadway, TV and film portrayals ran a gamut of characters ranging from a scientist trying to save the world to an ingenuous Asian bent on bringing happiness to GIs in a far-off land.
As well as an actor, David, nicknamed Davey, worked in Hollywood for many years as a special effects coordinator - including work with Wes Craven.

David Wayne was born Wayne James McMeekan on January 30th , 1914 in Traverse City Michigan.  
His home life was rather sad as his mother Helen Matilda Mason died when he was four years old.  His father John David McMeekan supported the family as an insurance agent.

"I went into my first play at 6. It was in Bloomingdale, Michigan, a little town, about 500 population. We had home talent plays at the opera house and my uncle directed them. From six years on there has never been a time in my life when I have not been working in the theater."

He attended Western Michigan University were he majored in business administration, then worked as a statistician in a big paint corporation in Cleveland where he joined a Shakespearean Repertory company. "In school I was on stage with the dramatic group as often as I was in the lecture hall; and, after an eight-hour day with paint, I put on plays with a little theater group. That meant six hours work each night; two hours rehearsing the play for the coming week, a couple of hours giving the play for the current week, then back for a couple more hours rehearsal on the future play, after the performance was finished."

The chance came in 1936 when the Cleveland exposition revived the Globe theater with streamlined Shakespeare. He won the role of Touchstone in "As You Like It."  In 1938, he made his first New York stage appearance in "Escape This Night".
"Everything escaped, even the audience and I was out on the street in a week. I did commercial recordings and some radio; it kept body and soul together, but I was hungry oftener than not until I got the part of Fredric March's son in 'The American Way.' That job made me a Broadway actor."

Rejected by the army he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the British in North Africa. Two weeks before being shipped out to Europe he married Jane Gordon, daughter of Jean Gordon of the Metropolitan and actress. They had been playing in summer stock and knew each other quite a while. He was erroneously reported as being killed in action when the Germans were victorious at the Battle of Tobruk in North Africa. After the U.S joined the war he served in the US Army
In 1947 he landed the role that was to prove the sine qua non of his career. It David Wayne in Finian's Rainbow (1947)was as Og the leprechaun in the Irish fantasy "Finian's Rainbow," and its magical musical moments and satire brought him his first Tony, the first actor to do so ever. Next he introduced the world to everyone's favorite military innocent, Frank Thurlowe Pulver, the precocious ensign in "Mr. Roberts" in 1948. It was as Pulver that he first appeared opposite Henry Fonda with a crew haircut, a style that remained his signature for many years. Though Wayne's first Tony took him more than two decades, his second came more quickly. 
While all of his major stage roles went to other actors in the film versions, Wayne enjoyed a substantial movie career of his own. He co-starred with John Forsythe and the play won that year's Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Drama Critics' Circle award. After his success in "Mister Roberts," he was invited to Hollywood for parts in two highly touted films, "Portrait of Jennie" and "Adam's Rib," both in 1949.

David Wayne with his wife Jane Gordon (date unknown) David Wayne as Frank Thurlowe Pulver, the precocious ensign in "Mr. Roberts" in 1948 (second from the left)

Of motion pictures he says: "I am not at all convinced the actor has enough responsibility of creation in films. It is too much a technician's field. That is why I think the movie actor should return to the theater from time to time to enrich himself."  His motion picture roles proved as varied a blend as his stage work, from a small-town barber who ages 56 years in the 1952 underrated film "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," a hillbilly in "With a Song in My Heart" (1952) to theatrical impresario Sol Hurok in "Tonight We Sing" (1953).

Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952) puts David Wayne in the same scene as Helene Stanley and Hugh Marlowe (of Ellery Queen fame!) Not once but twice! Wayne with Marilyn Monroe in  "We're Not Married" (1952)
Who wouldn't envy David Wayne as the landlord in "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953) David Wayne and several others as jolly good crewfellows in "Hell and High Water" (1954)

He did two co-starring stints with Marilyn Monroe We're Not Married (1952), and as a landlord in  "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953).
He again won a Tony in 1954, this time as best actor in "The Teahouse of the August Moon," where he portrayed Sakini the clever Okinawan bent on melding cultures. He starred as bank vice president Pearson Norby in the TV series "Norby" in 1955, the same year where he played opposite Frank Sinatra in "The Tender Trap". Wayne plays a family man obsessed with striking gold in the low budget western "The Naked Hills" (1956)

Opposite Frank Sinatra in "The Tender Trap" (1955) Myrna Dell and David Wayne in "The Naked Hills" (1956).
In "Sad Sack" (1957) with Jerry Lewis
Wayne portrayed schizophrenic Joanne Woodward's long-suffering husband in Three Faces of Eve (1957).

In 1957 Wayne was nominated for an Emmy for an appearance in the "Heartbeat" episode of "Suspicion," a suspense anthology. Wayne portrayed schizophrenic Joanne Woodward's long-suffering husband in Three Faces of Eve (1957). Una Merkel , who co-starred with Wayne his Fox years once said "I loved David Wayne. I think he's one of the finest actors we have. He's so good they don't know what to do with him."
In 1958 he won accolades from the critics for his performance in Say Darling with Vivian Blaine. Among his other better known pictures were "The Last Angry Man," "The Front Page," "The Apple Dumpling Gang" and "The Survivalist." 

Station advertisement for the TV series "Norby" (1955) with David Wayne "One More Mile To Go" (1957) with David Wayne was an episode of the popular "Alfred Hitchcock presents" directed by the master himself.
In the 1959 Twilight Zone episode N° 6 "Escape Clause," David played a hypochondriac who, in an effort to escape his dependence on pills and fear of his environment, made a pact with the Devil. In exchange for his soul, he won immortality. David Wayne as the Mad Hatter, in the "Batman" (1966-67) series

One place where they evidently did know what to do with Wayne was television, where he worked steadily from 1948 onward. He was a regular on the weekly series "Norby" (1955). Besides playing such prominent personages as Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain and even "Old Scratch" (with Edward G. Robinson in a 1961 telecast of "The Devil and Daniel Webster"), he TVue - December 7. 1975 David Wayneappeared in classic individual episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Twilight Zone". In episode "Escape Clause," David played a hypochondriac who, in an effort to escape his dependence on pills and fear of his environment, made a pact with the Devil. In exchange for his soul, he won immortality. Devotees of the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder could occasionally see Wayne as the Mad Hatter, a "Batman" nemesis in 1966-67. As Dr. Dutton he was trying to find a cure for the "Andromeda Strain" in 1971. He was the duke in a 1974 remake of "Huckleberry Finn". His crusty Inspector Queen in the Ellery Queen TV-series (1975-1976) must be the definitive depiction of The Old Man although Wayne lacked the moustache so often mentioned in the books.

David Wayne as Dr. Dutton in the "Andromeda Strain" in 1971 Wayne in a 1974 musical remake of "Huckleberry Finn"
Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) and Digger Barnes (David Wayne) at a Southfork BQQ in " Dallas" (1978)
Dr. Amos Weatherby (David Wayne) in House Calls (1979-1982), close to retirement and with a mean streak . The best he could do was to irritate Dr. Solomon by constantly getting his name wrong while going his own way.

In 1977 he moved to Los Angeles. In addition, Wayne appeared with New York's Lincoln Center Repertory, and was one of the hosts of the NBC weekend radio potpourri Monitor.  Most of the public now will remember him as Willard (Digger) Barnes on "Dallas" (1978). He also had a role in "House Calls" (1980).

Curtailing his activities in the late 1980s, David Wayne retired altogether in 1993, after the death of his wife of 51 years. His last on screen appearance was in the movie " The Fence" in 1994 as a Steel Mill Foreman.
His daughter said he continued to do TV movies and a few smaller films into the early 1990s but "generally just retired." Years ago, Wayne told a studio biographer he was happiest on the stage but like any other actor could not resist a good script "regardless of the commute."

He passed away in Santa Monica, California February 9, 1995 from Lung Cancer. He was 81 years old.

David Wayne made Stanislawsky's credo his own: "Love the art in yourself rather than yourself in the art.
He added "An actor can't go wrong if he sticks to it; It should be written over the door of every sound stage in Hollywood. I'm afraid most Hollywood actors will read it here for the first time. I hope they take the time to memorize it."

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References
(1) IMDb
(2) Wikipedia

(3) Looking at Hollywood with Hedda Hopper, Chicago Tribune (Jul 9, 1951)
(4) Louella O.Parsons in Hollywood (1950)

Additional video & audio sources
(1) M (Film Clip, 1951)
(2) A Couple of Swells (Ford Star Jubilee) (Clip TV special Judy Garland, 1955)
(3)
David Wayne for AMC (Video Clip, 1966)
(4) The Adventure of the Black Falcon (Clip Ellery Queen episode, 1976)
(5) Dallas (Season 2, episode 2 "Reunion, Part II") (TV Clip Sep 30, 1978)


Last updated May 27, 2016
 

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