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Fred Gwynne: Munster and More

by Legacy Staff

Fred Gwynne’s biggest role was one that rendered him virtually unrecognizable.

Character actor Fred Gwynne was born July 10, 1926. Below, we look at the roles – Munster and otherwise – that made him a star.

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 6-foot-5-inch frame, full face makeup and a square wig, Gwynne became Herman Munster, the genial patriarch of TV’s The Munsters.

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Another actor might resent being remembered primarily as a made-up monster, but not 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.”

Publicity photo from the television program The Munsters for Halloween. Pictured from left: Al Lewis (Grandpa), Beverley Owen (Marilyn), and Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster). (Wikimedia Commons/CBS Television)
The Munsters from left: Al Lewis as Grandpa, Beverley Owen as Marilyn, and Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster. (Wikimedia Commons / CBS Television)

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 Gwynne than a flattop. Here are a few other roles to remember him by.

Gwynne’s big breakout was sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? Though the show lasted only two seasons, it got Gwynne noticed – and gave him a chance to show off his singing skills.

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Gwynne found big screen success with a series of supporting roles. His turn as heavily-Maine-accented neighbor Jud Crandall was a highlight of the spooky 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.

In 1992’s My Cousin Vinny, Gwynne brought gravitas to a courtroom beset by Joe Pesci’s northerly ways and lawyerly antics.

Gwynne died July 2, 1993, 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, or Patrolman Francis Muldoon, or even Herman Munster.

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