Charles Van Dell "Van" Johnson (25 Aug 1916 - 12 Dec 2008), U.S. actor most well known for his roles as a boy-next-door type in movies from the '40s and '50s for MGM and Columbia Pictures.
Charles "Van" Johnson was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Loretta Snyder and her husband Charles E Johnson, a Swedish immigrant. Charles' mother, an alcoholic, left the family when Charles was a child.
Van had just signed a seven-year deal with MGM, when in 1943 he was involved in an auto accident which almost killed him. With him in the car were his closest friends Keenan Wynn (1916-1986) and Keenan's wife Eve Abbott (1914-2004). Eve was a former stage actress, and Keenan was a television and film actor at the time. (Keenan Wynn was also the son of Ed Wynn (1886-1966), the actor most famous perhaps today, as "Uncle Albert" in the film "Mary Poppins" with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.) Four years later, Eve and Keenan divorced and on the same day she married Van. Eve and Van had one child, a girl Schuyler. Van Johnson was however fundamentally gay, the marriage, according to Eve had been engineered by Louis B Meyer who refused to renew Keenan's contract unless Eve married Van Johnson, to dispel rumors that Van was gay. By this marriage, Van also became the stepfather to Edmund "Ned" Wynn and Tracy Keenan Wynn.
During the war, he starred in the film "Two Girls and a Sailor" opposite June Allyson, and Gloria DeHaven. Van left MGM to join Columbia and appeared in several pictures there. This time period saw two of his most memorable appearances, in 1954 opposite Gene Kelly in "Brigadoon" and in 1957 as the title character in the Pied Piper of Hamelin. He also appeared with Humphrey Bogart in "The Caine Mutiny". Starring vehicles for Van dried up, and he was consigned to playing sidekicks, neighbors and supporting roles, he also made sporadic appearances on television shows as a guest star for several years.
Van and Eve seperated in 1961, but would not divorce until some years later in 1968. Van would later state that, "Eve wiped me out in the ugliest divorce in Hollywood history". After some years of retirement, he made a brief comeback in the mid-1980s touring with La Cage aux Folles.
Van lived his last years in a nursing facility in the small village of Nyack, New York where he died of natural causes at the age of 92. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6600 Hollywood Boulevard.