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Fredd Wayne, the veteran character actor who made a career out of portraying Benjamin Franklin on stage and on television shows including Bewitched and Simon & Simon, has died. He was 93.
Wayne died Monday at an assisted-living facility in Santa Monica, his friend Stu Shostak told The Hollywood Reporter.
Wayne created, directed and starred in the one-man show Benjamin Franklin, Citizen, taking it to local stages and colleges across the U.S. and as part of a State Department tour of Europe. Clad in spectacles and wig, he played the glass armonica — an instrument made up of water-glass chimes invented by America’s founding father — in one of the show’s many highlights.
His most well-known turn as Franklin came on a two-part episode of ABC’s Bewitched in December 1966. When Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) is having trouble with a broken lamp, her bungling Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne), looking for an electrician, inadvertently summons Franklin from the past, and he ends up getting arrested for stealing an antique firetruck. (His Bewitched episodes were the first to be shot in color.)
The Ohio native also appeared on the Twilight Zone episodes “Twenty Two” and “The Arrival,” which both aired in 1961; on four installments of Perry Mason; and on dozens of other shows including Make Room for Daddy, Wagon Train, The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, Bachelor Father, Hogan’s Heroes, Ironside, Lou Grant and Cagney & Lacey.
Frederick Wiener was born on Oct. 17, 1924, in Akron, Ohio. Just days after graduating from John R. Buchtel High School, he traveled to Hollywood to look up a cousin, Lester Cowan, a producer on W.C. Fields’ My Little Chickadee and the Marx Brothers’ Love Happy. Cowan couldn’t help him, but Wayne did find work in the Warner Bros. mailroom.
After a stint in the 63rd Infantry Division in which he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and played the title role of a woman in the long-running Army musical comedy G.I. Carmen, Wayne studied acting in New York at the American Theatre Wing, where Lee Marvin, James Whitmore and Martin Balsam were classmates.
He landed a leading role on Broadway in the 1949-50 Johnny Mercer musical comedy Texas, L’il Darlin’, then played Luther Billis (Ray Walston’s role) opposite Mary Martin in the original London production of South Pacific and appeared in Crest of the Wave (1954), starring Gene Kelly.
Wayne came up with the idea for his one-man Franklin show in 1964 and became an expert on the man, studying his papers housed at Yale University. That year, he played younger and older versions of Franklin on the Today show and The Tonight Show.
Wayne also appeared in his most famous guise on Daniel Boone, Voyagers! and Simon & Simon and on a bicentennial special hosted by Bob Hope in 1976. He recorded an audio version of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin in 1997.
Survivors include his wife, Maryanne, and his sister, Fran.
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