Which is not to say that Gwynne, who died on July 2 at the age of 66 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, was just a baggy-pants Boris Karloff. He was a first-rate character actor whose parts ranged from the bumbling Officer Francis Muldoon in NBC's Car 54, Where Are You? (1961-63) to the drawling judge in last year's movie hit My Cousin Vinny, and even to Sir Toby Belch in a 1974 stage production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Says comic Nipsey Russell, who costarred with Gwynne on Car 54: "Fred was much more of a scholar than the public realized."
Gwynne's pedigree was certainly a far cry from Mr. Munster's. The son of a self-made New York stockbroker, and housewife mother, Gwynne graduated from Groton and Harvard. He was, variously, an ad copywriter, a professional artist, either author or illustrator of more than a dozen children's books, and even a gentleman farmer, savoring his leisure on his Taneytown, Md., spread with second wife Deborah (he had four children from a first marriage).
So how did this dignified man find it in himself to play a galumphing giant? Al Lewis, who was The Munsters' Grandpa, saw no dichotomy: "Fred was very creative, very honest, very sincere, very simple." But perhaps it was more than that. Confessed Gwynne in 1982: "I love old Herman Munster."