Frederick Hubbard Gwynne born July 10th 1926 New York.
His father Frederick was a successful stockbroker whose gregarious and whimsical personality
delighted his young son. His paternal grandfather was an Episcopal priest born in Camus,
near Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland, and his maternal grandfather was an immigrant from
Fred’s mum Dorothy was a strong-willed and artistic woman who created the popular comic strip
When Fred was born he became the centre of her universe.........he was sort of a miracle baby who enjoyed the benefits of a doting mother and being surrounded by the aristocracy of America.
During the winter the family would spend time at their home at Palm Beach next door was Joe Kennedy.
In 1935 8-year-old Fred’s world was shattered when his father died whilst undergoing a routine
Shattered Fred would often go into his own little world where he let out his frustration in sketches
a talent inherited from his cartoonist mother.
Suddenly whilst at school a sudden growth spurt put Fred’s height way above his fellow students.
But despite this he was still very popular with his schoolmates.
In 1939 Fred entered Groton an East coast prep school…..becoming a popular student,
he sang in the choir and excelled in the art department….studying under the well known portrait
artist R.S. Meryman.
He joined the drama society……but throughout these years a dark cloud was closing in, World War II.
Patriotic teens joined up eager to fight for their country….after Fred graduated in 1944 straight away he
enlisted in the US Navy. For 2 years six-feet-five inch Fred served aboard a sub-chaser in the pacific as
a radio operative…..the constant beep of the morse code machines proving to be a real thorn in his side.
Next up was an intellectual challenge in the form of Harvard University.
Here he discovered a place where he could show off his art and ready wit with the staff of the Harvard Lampoon……joining forces with fellow students, John Updike and George Plimpton…..By 1950 Fred had secured the post of President of this notorious magazine.
He joined the university theatre group known as the Hasty Pudding society…..................and he also sang with the a cappella group the Harvard Krokodiloes............here his legendary antics brought the campus down on many occasions.
Fred loved the attention he received from an audience and the campus clown was anxious to test
his skills on a bigger stage.
He began performing at a nearby theatre company and became enchanted with treading the
boards. After graduating from Harvard with the class of 1951, he acted in Shakespeare with a
Cambridge, Massachusetts repertory company before heading to New York City.
In 1952 romance beckoned when he met 22-year-old Jean ‘Foxy’ Reynard, a granddaughter of
New York City mayor William Jay Gaynor, at a friends wedding. Fred was love struck and pursued
Foxy with vim and vigour.
After a courtship of about a year, the couple got married on June 30th 1952.
In the Big Apple, the artistic hub of the country, the newlyweds moved into a modest apartment….
then Fred hit the streets looking for work….........
People initially said he was too tall, too thin…..lantern jawed…..then people started to discover
how talented he really was.
On February 20, 1952, at the Martin Beck Theatre, the "freshman" actor made his Broadway
debut as the character Stinker, with a supporting role in Mary Chase's Mrs. McThing.This was
opposite illustrious actress, Helen Hayes. The play ran for 320 performances.
The next year Fred was celebrating the birth of a new born son Kieron…but joy soon turned to sadness as at just over a year old, Kieron suffered a severe brain injury that left him mentally handicapped.....to escape the torment Fred threw himself into his work…he appeared on Broadway in two more productions; these were, Love's Labour's Lost and The Frogs of Spring.
1954 saw Fred get a bit part in the classic movie On the Waterfront as Lee J. Cobb’s henchman.
Also in this year Foxy gave birth to a daughter, Gaynor.
Fred loved nothing better than to spend time with his children.........
He took the role of breadwinner very seriously especially with the cost of Keiron’s special needs escalating……….he took a job as a copywriter at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency where he was credited with coming up with the slogan “the world’s most beautifully proportioned car”.
For the next five years he juggled his roles as ad man with a variety of stage and television work.