In a way, I suppose it’s a little sad that so many of us think of Keenan Wynn—full name Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn—as Alonzo Hawk. And not just because he played a couple of Disney villains of different names. However, he definitely belongs in the pantheon of Great Disney Villain Actors, even though the movies he was in are relatively minor ones. He played a man so delightfully scheming that he wanted to buy his own alma mater and knock it down, so cruel that he wanted to evict both Helen Hayes and Herbie. He is memorable for being a ton of fun.
His maternal grandfather was one of the first dramatic actors to appear in the movies. His father was, of course Ed Wynn, vaudevillian and comedic actor. Ed encouraged Keenan to act, and Keenan ended up appearing in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows. He was never the star, which didn’t bother him in the slightest. He worked steadily, appearing in no fewer than five movies that are in the National Film Registry so far. Probably why it’s easier to remember him as Alonzo Hawk than, say, Colonel “Bat” Guano is that Herbie Rides Again leaves more room for him instead of crowding the field.
He often played men who were, charitably, short of temper. Not just Alonzo Hawk and the other Disney figures. Not just Guano. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Song of the Thin Man, so I don’t actually remember his character in it, but the people in those movies aren’t famous for their restraint. He’s one of the mobsters in Kiss Me Kate. He’s The Winter Warlock in Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Honestly, I’m not sure why you’d hire Keenan Wynn if you didn’t want to listen to him rant.
One of his ex-wives alleged that Louis B. Mayer blackmailed her into divorcing Keenan and marrying their friend Van Johnson because rumours were starting to spread that Johnson was gay. She claimed Mayer threatened not to renew Keenan’s contract unless she did. If that’s true, that’s awful for him. The lives of Hollywood stars in those days were controlled by the studio to a frightening extent, and arguably it’s no worse than, say, the forced abortions and drug addiction of Judy Garland, especially since no one actually seems to have died over it. But still.
Any career as lengthy as Wynn’s is just going to include varied quality. The Long, Long Trailer and Touch of Evil. The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit and parts: the clonus horror. And while I’m not sure it’s possible to search this online, I’m left wondering what movies of Keenan Wynn’s other than Laserblast were given two and a half stars by Leonard Maltin.