Ed Wynn was a U.S. comedian known for 60 years as "The Perfect Fool." Wynn was born Isaiah Edwin Leopold on November 9, 1886, in Philadelphia of an immigrant family from Prague. His early appearances on Broadway included The Deacon and the Lady (1910); Ziegfeld Follies of 1914; Ziegfeld Follies of 1915; The Passing Show of 1916; and Sometime (1918). In 1919, when earning $1,700 weekly, he joined a choristers' strike and was then blacklisted by managements. Using his savings, Wynn wrote, staged, composed the music, and performed in the Ed Wynn Carnival (1919–21); The Perfect Fool (1921–22); and The Grab Bag (1925) on Broadway. He later performed in Manhattan Mary (1927), and wrote, staged, produced, and performed in Simple Simon (1930–31); The Laugh Parade (1932); Boys and Girls Together (1941); and Laugh, Town, Laugh (1942). During the 1930s he became one of the first radio comedy stars, creating the role of the Texaco Fire Chief.
His films roles include Follow the Leader (1930); The Chief (1933); the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (1951); The Great Man (1956); Marjorie Morningstar (1958); The Diary of Anne Frank (Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, 1959); Cinderfella (1960); The Absent-Minded Professor (1961); Babes in Toyland (1961); Son of Flubber (1963); The Patsy (1964); Mary Poppins (1964); Those Calloways (1965); The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965); The Daydreamer (1966); and The Gnome-Mobile (1967).
Wynn had many forays into television as well. He hosted the Camel Comedy Caravan variety show (1950), starred in The Ed Wynn Show sitcom (1958–59), and was a guest on dozens of panel, variety, and drama series. He appeared in the TV drama Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956) and the TV movies Meet Me in St. Louis (1959), Miracle on 34th Street (1959), The Golden Horseshoe Revue (1962), and For the Love of Willadean (1964). In 1950 he was awarded an Emmy for Most Outstanding Live Personality, and The Ed Wynn Show won an Emmy for Best Live Show. He earned Emmy nominations for three of his drama series performances (1957, 1958, and 1961).
Wynn died on June 19, 1966, in Beverly Hills California, of throat cancer at age 79.
He was the father of actor Keenan Wynn (1916–1986).
K. Wynn, Ed Wynn's Son (1959).
[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.