Heartthrob Van Johnson Dies

Gay actor Van
Johnson, a mainstay of MGM musicals and comedies of the
1940s and '50s who also played dramatic roles, died Friday
in a senior center in Nyack, N.Y., of causes related
to old age. He was 92.

Johnson, a native
of Newport, R.I., was a chorus boy on Broadway before
coming to Hollywood and rising to stardom playing
a pilot in 1943's A Guy Named Joe, costarring
Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy. Exempt from military
service because of severe injuries sustained in a car
accident a few months before making that film, Johnson
went on to become one of the busiest and most popular
actors of the World War II years. Tall, with red hair
and freckles, he had all-American good looks and was
often cast as a boy-next-door type. His films included
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Week-End at the
Waldorf, In the Good Old Summertime, State of the
Union, Brigadoon, The Last Time I Saw Paris,
The Caine Mutiny.

He maintained a
heterosexual public image, marrying Evie Wynn in January
1947 just hours after she divorced actor Keenan Wynn, a
friend of Johnson's. The Johnsons had a daughter,
Schuyler, and divorced in 1968. However, in
recent years several biographers have reported that
Johnson was gay or bisexual. "Johnson's orientation was
probably more homosexual than heterosexual," observed
Ronald L. Davis in Van Johnson: MGM's Golden Boy,
adding that the star became particularly
attracted to younger men as he grew older.

As he grew older
Johnson also returned to the stage, not in the chorus
but in leading roles, including one major gay role: In 1985
he replaced Gene Barry in the Broadway production of
La Cage aux Folles, playing Georges, the
"plain homosexual" husband to drag queen Albin.
Johnson received good reviews and generated ticket
sales. His other latter-day stage credits include On a
Clear Day You Can See Forever
on Broadway;
The Music Man in London; and several regional
and dinner theater productions. (Trudy Ring,

Tags: World, World

Latest videos on Advocate

From our Sponsors