Ed Wynn

Starting in vaudeville in the early twentieth century, later enjoyed success on stage, in films, and on TV and radio.
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Artist Biography

b. Isaiah Edwin Leopold, 9 November 1886, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 19 June 1966, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA. In showbusiness from his mid-teens, Wynn worked for some years in vaudeville building a unique comedy act. During the early years of the twentieth century he was a headliner in New York and called himself ‘The Perfect Fool’. Appearing mostly in revues, which he headlined from the age of 18, he gradually moved upwards until he appeared in shows such as The Deacon And The Lady (1910), Over The Top (1917) and The Perfect Fool (1921). He was also in the 1914 and 1915 editions of Ziegfeld Follies and the Shubert Brothers’ Gaieties Of 1919. It was in that year that Wynn formed his own touring company rather than give in to producers seeking to revenge themselves on striking members of Actor’s Equity, of which he was an active member. The actors prevailed and so did Wynn and he continued to star on Broadway, including appearing in Florenz Ziegfeld’s Simple Simon (1930), Hooray For What? (1937) and Laugh Town Laugh (1942).

Wynn was frequently on radio, having his own series between 1932 and 1937, although by the 40s his various business enterprises had failed and he suffered a financial and nervous collapse. He made a comeback to the stage and also appeared on television from the late 40s onwards, winning an Emmy award along the way. Encouraged by his son, actor Keenan Wynn (b. 27 July 1916, New York City, New York, USA, d. 14 October 1986, Los Angeles, California, USA), he then moved into films as a character actor, having previously been in some frothy productions such as Stage Door Canteen (1943). Among the films he now made are The Diary Of Anne Frank (1959, for which he received an Academy Award nomination), Cinderfella (1960), Babes In Toyland (1961), Son Of Flubber (1963), and Mary Poppins (1964, in which he sang ‘I Love To Laugh’). He was also in The Greatest Story Ever Told and That Darn Cat (both 1965), while his last film role was in The Gnome-Mobile (1967). His grandson, Tracy Keenan Wynn is a screenwriter.