A Tribute to Van Johnson
For a guy with a metal plate in his head (the result of a serious auto accident in 1942), who survived skin cancer in 1963, Van Johnson had a pretty great career, with countless devoted fans who wanted very much to write and thank him for his work, especially during the past few years when he was in retirement. He died at the age of 92 in an assisted living center in Nyack, New York, in December, 2008.
But that was the thing about Van: All things considered, he always seemed to do pretty well, both on and off the screen. Though his singing and dancing were only passable at times, and his acting sometimes less than powerful, he was actually second only to Bing Crosby in terms of box office stardom in 1945, and was once described as “The Voiceless Sinatra” because of his impact on the bobbysoxers. While his injury kept him out of WWII, he was one of the Hollywood crew who fought the war on the silver screen, in the hearts and minds of the public. His fans loved him, and that is certainly worth a few battalions.
Born on August 25th, 1916, Van Johnson appeared in over 100 films, not to mention countless stage roles and guest shots on TV shows. After making his Broadway debut in New Faces of 1936, he landed his first screen role was as a chorus boy (and understudy) in Too Many Girls(1940), famous for the fact that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met during its filming.
In 1942 he signed a seven-year contract with MGM. He first got star billing in Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), after appearing in strong supporting roles in 1943 in Madame Curie, The Human Comedy and A Guy Named Joe. He was one of MGM’s stars for the next 15 years. He had many lead roles, but his best performances continued to be in supporting parts, including State of the Union (1948), Command Decision(1948), and Brigadoon (1954). One of his most memorable starring roles was in The Caine Mutiny (1954). His film career peaked during the 40s and 50s, and he returned to the stage after that and appeared in many TV series and sitcoms in the 1970s and 80s. In 1985 he appeared in the hit Broadway musical La Cage Aux Folles. He toured with a one-man show as recently as 1997, but later retired and lived quietly until his recent death.
Van Johnson Tributes/Pages
- Van Johnson From FanPics.net – Big collection of Van Johnson photos.
- Internet Movie Database – Biography, filmography, and more.
- All-Movie Guide
- BellaOnline Biography
Selected Reviews of Van Johnson’s Best Films
- Brigadoon (1954) – Review by Brian Koller.
- The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Review by
- Kelly and Me (1957) – Review by IMDB
- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) – Review by James Farr
Where To Find Or See Van Johnson Films
Books by or about Van Johnson
- Van Johnson: MGM’s Golden Boy – by Ronald L. Davis.