David Wayne, whose Broadway, TV and film portrayals ran a gamut of characters ranging from a scientist trying to save the world to an ingenuous Asiatic bent on bringing happiness to GIs in a far-off land, is dead.
A daughter, Melinda, said her father had died Thursday after a lengthy struggle with lung cancer. He was 81.
Winner of two Tony awards and nominated for an Emmy, the actor fit comfortably into lead and character roles in films and television, be they musicals, comedies or dramas.
In 1947, he landed the role that was to prove a sine qua non to his career.
It was as the leprechaun in the Irish fantasy “Finian’s Rainbow” and its magical musical moments and satire brought him his first Tony.
Next he introduced the world to everyone’s favorite military innocent, Frank Thurlowe Pulver, the precocious ensign in “Mr. Roberts” in 1948. It was as Pulver that he first appeared opposite Henry Fonda with a crew-haircut, a style that remained his signature for many years.
While Wayne’s first Tony took him more than two decades, his second came more quickly.
He won again in 1954, this time as best actor in The Teahouse of the August Moon,” where he portrayed Sakini the clever Okinawan bent on melding cultures. He costarred with John Forsythe and the play won that year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama plus the Drama Critics’ Circle award.
After his success in “Mister Roberts,” he was invited to Hollywood for parts in two highly touted films, “Portrait of Jennie” and “Adam’s Rib,” both in 1949.
Among his other better known pictures were “The Last Angry Man,” “The Front Page,” “Three Faces of Eve,” and “The Andromeda Strain.”
In 1957 Wayne was nominated for an Emmy for an appearance in the “Heartbeat” episode of “Suspicion,” a suspense anthology.