Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-12-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor


  WINDY CITY TIMES

STARRLIGHT: VAN JOHNSON
by Steve Starr
2006-08-02

This article shared 7783 times since Wed Aug 2, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


The handsome red-headed star ran off with his best friend's wife, married her on the day of her divorce and produced a daughter. He eventually left her for a chorus boy.

Charles Van Johnson was born Aug. 25, 1916, in Newport, R.I., a town known for its gorgeous mansions, tennis tournaments and yachts. His parents divorced when he was three and his father was given custody of their only child. Charles grew to be a six-foot-one, red-headed, freckled, wholesome-looking, star-struck kid who appeared in school plays. He began his career appearing as a chorus boy on Broadway in Entre Nous, and then in New Faces of 1936. Soon he landed a role as a college boy in a Rodgers and Hart musical, Too Many Girls, and was spotted by RKO Studio agents who hired him to re-create his role in the 1940 film version starring Lucille Ball, in which he became chorus boy #41.

Johnson signed a six-month contract with Warner Bros. Pictures, where he had a bit part in Murder In The Big House ( 1941 ) . While driving with passengers Keenan Wynn and wife Eve to a screening of the Kathryn Hepburn and Spencer Tracy film Keeper of the Flame ( 1942 ) , Johnson was nearly killed in a car accident that spared his passengers but left him having a metal plate inserted in his head. Spencer Tracy was his co-star in the movie he was working on and insisted that the film, A Guy Named Joe ( 1943 ) , the first of five movies he made with Esther Williams, be held up until Johnson recovered at the Wynns' home.

The crash and resulting scar that showed up in some of his films seemed to enhance his career. Now exempt from military service in World War II, he received a seven-year contract with MGM Studios, where he made musicals with the most popular stars. Johnson, a great dancer and charming singer, was also a very good actor equally at home in musical comedy or serious drama. He became a favorite of teenagers, then called bobby soxers, who inundated his studio with thousands of their fan letters. Even though he could sing well, he was often called 'The Voiceless Sinatra,' stemming from his similar popularity among the same young crowd. In 1944, he first received top billing in Two Girls and a Sailor ( 1944 ) , opposite June Allyson, with whom he made five films. For two years, Johnson was rated one of Hollywood's top 10 box-office draws, placing second in 1945 and third in 1946.

On Jan. 27, 1947, Johnson married Eve Lynn Abbot, who had divorced his best friend, actor Keenan Wynn, on that very day. Johnson's movie, The Romance of Rosy Ridge, was released that year and a year later, the Johnsons produced a daughter, who years later stated in the tabloid The Globe that her father was a cold and disinterested parent. The Johnsons separated in 1960 and divorced in 1968. Johnson's stepson, Ned Wynn, proclaimed that his father left his wife for a male dancer during a stage production of The Music Man. In 1999, a few years before her death, Eve told the press that their marriage had been arranged by MGM to cover up his sexual orientation.

In the 1950s, Johnson declared that he had been a movie star and now wanted to be an actor, stating, '… a man just gets to his beautiful period when he is forty.' His problem was that, although he was a bit heavier and had acquired a more worried expression on his face, he did not look much different at 40 than 20, and his boyishness hurt his work at sustaining belief in portrayals of maturity, even though he gave great performances, such as in The Caine Mutiny ( 1954 ) , in which his scar showed prominently. Johnson made numerous television appearances throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Some of his other films include Wine & Lovers ( 1963 ) and Yours, Mine, and Ours ( 1968 ) . In 1985, Johnson made a comeback touring with the Broadway musical La Cage Aux Folles, and appeared in the Woody Allen film The Purple Rose of Cairo.

This year, Mr. Johnson turned 90 years old—still sporting his trademark red locks.

Sources: The Stars by Richard Schickel; The Movie Stars Story, edited by Robyn Karney; Van Johnson Web sites.

Steve Starr is the author of Picture Perfect-Art Deco Photo Frames 1926-1946, published by Rizzoli International Publications. A photographer, artist, designer, and writer, he is the owner of Steve Starr Studios, specializing in original Art Deco photo frames and artifacts, celebrating its 39th anniversary in 2006. Steve Starr's personal collection of over 950 gorgeous Art Deco frames is filled with photos of Hollywood's most glamorous stars.

STARRLIGHT-Starr's column on movie stars of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, appears in various publications that include Entertainment Magazine Online, the Windy City Times, and the Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.

STARRGAZERS-Radiant Photography by Steve Starr is available privately.


This article shared 7783 times since Wed Aug 2, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Billy Masters: Adele, 'Pam & Tommy,' and more 2022-01-24
- "Yes, it is true—for over a year, we have been trying to film a script called My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. What is also true, we are not filming; when we get film insurance, we are going to Greece to ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'The Gay Agenda,' Elliot Page, actress dies, sports items, Rock Hudson 2022-01-23
- Netflix has launched The Gay Agenda, a podcast that looks at the lives of LGBTQ creatives at the top of their fields across different industries, NBC News noted. The goal, the streaming service said, is to ...


Gay News

WORLD Namibia ruling, crimes, LGBTQ+ film festival, blogger sentenced 2022-01-23
- Namibia's High Court ruled against two same-sex couples fighting for recognition of their marriages, with Judge Hannelie Prinsloo saying she agreed with them but was bound by the nation's prohibition of same-sex relations, Reuters reported. Daniel ...


Gay News

MOVIES Siskel films include 'The Power of the Dog,' 'Flee' 2022-01-20
- The Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., has current and upcoming movie slates that include everything from older classics to current award-festival favorites. On the more contemporary side, the Jane Campion film The Power ...


Gay News

Revry's Black History Month of LGBTQ-First Films and Series celebrates Black stories 2022-01-20
-- From a press release - Los Angeles - This Black History Month, Revry is programming LGBTQ-first Black stories with themes from the differently-abled, LGBTQ athletes, activists and the lesbian, trans and the cis-gender lesbian community. Over 35% of Revry's audience is ...


Gay News

Billy Masters: Colton Underwood, Golden Globes and more 2022-01-17
- "I was not prepared to receive death threats over a fictional character's fictional relationship choices that are fictional which means not real."—A writer on the Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That describes feedback ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Music festivals, Murray Bartlett, Reese Witherspoon, author David Sedaris 2022-01-16
- Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival revealed the lineup for this year's festival, taking place June 16-19 on the Bonnaroo Farm in Manchester, Tennessee, a press release noted. Highlights will include performances by Tool, J. Cole, Stevie ...


Gay News

SAG nominees include 'Gucci,' 'Power of the Dog,' 'Squid Game' 2022-01-12
- Nominees for the 28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards honoring outstanding individual, cast and ensemble performances for the past year were announced Jan. 12 by actors Rosario Dawson and Vanessa Hudgens via Instagram Live, according to ...


Gay News

NBJC celebrates Mj Rodriguez on Golden Globes win 2022-01-11
—From a press release - The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) congratulates Michaela Jae "Mj" Rodriguez on earning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Drama during the 2022 Golden Globe Awards. Rodriguez won for her role as Blanca ...


Gay News

Billy Masters: Andy Cohen, SJP and more 2022-01-10
- The virus hit us both like a freight train. Thankfully, we were both triple vaccinated and the vaccinations did their job, which kept us out of real danger and out of the hospital… [We're] still isolating and waiting to see until we test ...


Gay News

Trans actress Rodriguez makes history at quiet Golden Globes 2022-01-10
- On Jan. 9, Michaela Jae "Mj" Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for best actress in a TV drama for her role as Blanca on the FX show Pose, according to media reports. The awards were announced on social media, as the Globes were not broadcast or live-streamed ...


Gay News

Chicago's first-ever Festival au Cinema to take place Aug. 26-28 2022-01-07
- Haven Chicago has announced its first-ever Festival au Cinema, described as "the company's new platform for visionary and innovative filmmakers and media artists staking their claim in the future of digital storytelling." Festival au Cinema will ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ JoJo Siwa, Jeopardy! champ, director dies, Frank Ocean 2022-01-02
- TikTok fans of LGBTQ entertainer Jojo Siwa said her new teenage girlfriend, Katie Mills, is a supporter of anti-LGBTQ Republican former President Donald Trump, per LGBTQ Nation. Mills also once questioned if transgender women are "actually" ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ The film 'Licorice Pizza,' Aaron Sorkin, WNBA player, Mariah Carey 2021-12-26
- Alana Haim, who stars in the film Licorice Pizza (now out in theaters), talked with out.com about how the movie incorporates queer representation by including unsung queer political figure Joel Wachs. "Joel Wachs was such an ...


Gay News

'Real Housewife' Julia Lemigova talks about Miami Housewives, miniature cattle 2021-12-24
- The Real Housewives of Miami finally has an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ in the main cast with Julia Lemigova. (She's the franchise's second such cast member, following The Real Housewives of Orange County's ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.