Sunday, May 8, 2011
In Memoriam: Dana Wynter
The death of actress Dana Wynter on May 5 probably got under the radar in light of other recent deaths, but I doubt the passing of a somewhat obscure performer, even one as lovely as Miss Wynter, would have gained much media coverage anyway.
She's best known for her role in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but my connection to her is through her various TV appearances, where she was often cast as a quiet and dignified (minor) member of European royalty. She was usually stoic in the face of some inner torment, playing a villainess who nonetheless gained my sympathy through her affecting vulnerability. Dana Wynter is the kind of actress groomed in a studio system who subsequently owned the small screen in her myriad television roles. Wynter may have began her career as a lovely ingenue in early '50s Hollywood, but she made her career on television.
I had a small crush on her when I was a kid, something I didn't realize until I saw those shows again as an adult. She played the vulnerable/tormented ice queen to perfection in a 1974 episode of McMillan and Wife, The Man Without a Face, where she played a former love of Rock Hudson's Stewart McMillan character. It's the role of hers that I always think of when Dana Wynter's name comes to mind. The episode in question was also an "international intrigue/cloak & dagger" story, so young me was especially interested in the show.
Years later, as an impressionable middle schooler, I saw Wynter in two episodes of Magnum, P.I., (the "official" TV show of my childhood). Wynter played two similar parts in seasons two and three of that series, both dealing with rigged devices that lead to murder. In "Foiled Again", the fiftysomething Wynter managed to entice the much-younger Tom Selleck in what proved to be the most memorable performance of her two appearances. In both episodes, Wynter demonstrated her usual flair for playing the vulnerable woman who nonethless had a quiet strength; she struck a fine balance that totally eludes most actresses--and audiences--today.