Fred Gwynne's biggest role was one that rendered him virtually unrecognizable. Wearing 50 pounds of padding, elevator shoes to add four inches to his already-considerable height of 6'5", full face makeup, and a square wig, Fred Gwynne became Herman Munster, the genial patriarch of TV’s The Munsters.
Another actor might resent being remembered as a made-up monster rather than as himself, but not Fred Gwynne. As he said of the character years later, "...I might as well tell you the truth. I love old Herman Munster. Much as I try not to, I can't stop liking that fellow."
Fred Gwynne (Wikimedia Commons)
We think it’s great that Gwynne and Munster got along… but we’re also glad he had the chance to play a variety of other parts. Even if the Frankenstein wannabe was his most famous creation, there was more to Fred Gwynne than a flattop. On what would have been his 86th birthday, here are a few other roles to remember him by.
The sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? was Gwynne’s breakout. Though the show lasted only two seasons, it got Fred Gwynne noticed… and gave him a chance to show off his singing skills.
Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, Gwynne found film success as a character actor. His turn as heavily-Maine-accented neighbor Jud Crandall was a highlight of the spooky Stephen King adaptation Pet Sematary.
In My Cousin Vinny, Gwynne brought gravitas to a courtroom beset by Joe Pesci’s northerly ways and lawyerly antics.
Fred Gwynne died of pancreatic cancer just a little more than a year after My Cousin Vinny was released. It was his final role – and it is a great one to remember him by. Of course, so is Jud Crandall… and Patrolman Francis Muldoon… and even Herman Munster.
Written by Linnea Crowther