Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fredd Wayne Passes On

Fredd Wayne, best known for his portrayal of Benjamin Franklin, died on August 27 2018 at the age of 93.

Fredd Wayne was born Frederick Weiner on October 17 1924 in Akron, Ohio. It was only two days after he graduated from high school that he went to Hollywood to visit his cousin Lester Cowan, who had served as a producer on You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939) and My Little Chickadee (1939). Lester Cowan could find nothing for young Fredd Wayne, but fortunately he got a job in the mailroom at Warner Bros.

Fredd Wayne was drafted into the United States Army during World War II. He served in Special Services for the 253rd Infantry Regiment of the 63rd Infantry Division. Among his duties were running movie projectors as well as writing and performing in shows for soldiers. He would eventually serve in Europe where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He later created G.I. Carmen, a comedic version of Carmen in which the female parts were all played by male soldiers. It proved to be one of the most successful G.I. shows of the war.

Following the war Fredd Wayne got a job at the offices of J.C. Penney and at night studied acting at the American Theatre Wing. Among his classmates were Lee Marvin and Martin Balsam. In 1949 he appeared on Broadway in Texas, L'il Darlin. He later appeared in London in the original British production of South Pacific and on Broadway in Not for Children. Mr. Wayne made his television debut in an episode of The Philco Television Playhouse. In the Fifties he guest starred on such shows as The Ford Television Theatre, Studio One, Kraft Television Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, Omnibus, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Matinee Theatre, Gunsmoke, Make Room for Daddy, Lux Video Theatre, General Electric Theatre, Alcoa Theatre, Richard Diamond Private Detective, Maverick, Wagon Train, M Squad, The Untouchables, and 77 Sunset Strip. He made his movie debut in Seagulls Over Sorrento in 1954. During the Fifties he appeared in the movies The Man is Armed (1956) and Torpedo Run (1958).

It was in 1964 that Fredd Wayne came up with the idea of a one-man show based on Benjamin Franklin. After considerable research he made appearances as Benjamin Franklin on Today and The Tonight Show. He then launched his one-man show Benjamin Franklin, Citizen in upstate New York. The show would lead to his 1966 guest appearance on Bewitched as Benjamin Franklin. During the Sixties Mr. Wayne also guest starred on such shows as Have Gun--Will Travel, Perry Mason, The Real McCoys, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Kildare, Bachelor Father, The Defenders, Rawhide, Hogan's Heroes, My Three Sons, Daniel Boone (once more as Benjamin Franklin), The Wonderful World of Disney, and Nanny and the Professor. He appeared in the films Twenty Plus Two (1961), The Spiral Road (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), and Chamber of Horrors (1966).

In the Seventies he guest starred on the shows The Young Lawyers, Ironside, Cade's County, Banacek, The Rockford Files, Wonder Woman, and Trapper John M.D. He played George Washington in the TV movie A Picture of Us. He appeared in the movie Hangup (1974). In the Eighties he played Benjamin Franklin in episodes of the shows Voyagers! and Simon & Simon. He guest starred on Quincy M.E., Lou Grant, One Day at a Time, It's a Living, St. Elsewhere, Matlock, and Cagney & Lacey. He voiced seven different roles in the animated film American Pop (1981). He appeared in the movies Dutch Treat  (1987) and A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation (1989--once more playing Benjamin Franklin).

In the Nineties he appeared in the film Man on the Moon (1999). He guest starred on the TV shows Cheers, The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, and Encore! Encore!.

Perhaps no other man was as convincing as Fredd Wayne was as Benjamin Franklin. In fact, I would say that for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers he was Benjamin Franklin. He played Ben Franklin many, many times. Not only did he play him on various TV shows (Bewitched, Daniel Boone, Voyagers! and Simon & Simon) and his own one-man show, but in the Bob Hope special America is 200 Years Old and at colleges and conventions across the United States. Perhaps no other actor was ever so well suited to the role. Of course, he also played many other roles through the years. He was actress Liz Powell's agent Barney in the classic Twilight Zone episode "Twenty Two".  He played corrupt saloon owner Carl Jimson in the Maverick episode "Relic of Fort Tejon". Over the years he played everything from police officers to medical doctors to lawyers. And he played all of them well.

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