Van Johnson

August 25, 1916
Sun Sign
Zodiac Sign
Born Place
Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Birth Name
Charles Van Dell Johnson
6 ft 1 in or 185.5 cm
78 kg or 172 lbs
Eye Color
Hair Color
Salt and Pepper
Race / Ethnicity
Van Johnson was of Swedish descent on his father’s side and had German and Irish roots on his mother’s side.
Sexual Orientation

Van Johnson (Actor, Theatre Artist, Radio Personality)

[Van Johnson] Introduction

Charles Van Dell Johnson (August 25, 1916 – December 12, 2008) was a prominent American actor in film, television, theatre and radio whose career peaked in the 1940s and 1950s. He was admired for his "boy-next-door wholesomeness" which made him a Hollywood star, often playing "the red-haired, freckle-faced soldier, sailor, or bomber pilot who used to live down the street" in MGM films such as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, A Guy Named Joe, and The Human Comedy. Johnson continued starring in World War II films until the late 1960s and made an appearance in a military officer role in 1992. He was one of the last surviving iconic stars of the "golden age" of Hollywood and passed away in 2008.

[Van Johnson] Early life

Van Johnson was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the only child of Loretta (née Snyder) and Charles E. Johnson. His father was born in Sweden and immigrated to the US as a young child, while his mother had Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. His parents separated when Van was young, resulting in a strained relationship with his father and a largely absent mother, allegedly due to alcoholism.

[Van Johnson] Career

Van Johnson performed at social clubs in Newport while in high school, before moving to New York City after graduation in 1935. He joined the off-Broadway revue Entre Nous and toured the New England area with a theatre troupe, and eventually landed a spot in the Broadway revue New Faces of 1936. During this time, he was cast by director George Abbott in Rodgers and Hart's Too Many Girls, and provided an uncredited role in the film adaptation of the same name. This led to an introduction to MGM casting director Billy Grady at Chasen's Restaurant, which then led to screen tests by Hollywood studios and his eventual signing at Warner Brothers on a $300-weekly contract.

It was at Warner Brothers that Johnson was given his first top-billed role in the 1942 film Murder in the Big House, with his eyebrows and hair dyed black for the part. After the expiration of his six-month contract, Johnson was signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and provided classes in acting, speech, and diction. He made uncredited appearances in various films before his big break, A Guy Named Joe, starring Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne, in which Johnson was cast as a young pilot who acquires a deceased pilot as his guardian angel. Midway through the movie's production in 1943, Johnson was involved in a serious car accident, which exempted him from service in World War II and provided him many more opportunities for roles, with many other actors serving in the armed forces. MGM built up Johnson's image as the all-American boy in war dramas and musicals, and he had some of his most successful films during this time with June Allyson, Esther Williams, and Lana Turner.

The 1950s saw Johnson continuing to appear in films and making frequent television guest appearances, including an appearance on What's My Line? in 1953 and 1955, the highly rated 'spectacular' musical The Pied Piper of Hamelin in 1957, and the CBS drama Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre in 1959. Johnson was offered the chance to star as Eliot Ness in The Untouchables in 1959, but he declined the opportunity. He made The End of the Affair in 1955 alongside Jane Wyman, Miracle in the Rain and 23 Paces to Baker Street in 1956, The Bottom of the Bottle in 1956, The Pied Piper of Hamelin in 1957, The Big Hangover in 1950, Duchess of Idaho in 1951, Three Guys Named Mike in 1951, Go for Broke! in 1951, It's a Big Country in 1951, Too Young to Kiss in 1951, Battleground in 1949, Mother Is a Freshman in 1948, State of the Union in 1948, Command Decision in 1948, The Caine Mutiny in 1954, In the Good Old Summertime in 1949, Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976, Your Mine and Ours in 1968, Batman in 1966, Here's Lucy in the 1970s, Quincy, M.E., McMillan & Wife, Love, American Style, The Love Boat in 1982, The Purple Rose of Cairo in 1985, and Three Days to a Kill in 1992. Johnson also began a second career in summer stock and dinner theater in the 1970s, before playing the starring role of the musical La Cage aux Folles in 1985. At the age of 75, he toured in Show Boat as Captain Andy, and his last film appearance was in Three Days to a Kill in 1992. In 2003, he appeared with Betsy Palmer for three performances of A. R. Gurney's Love Letters at a theater in Wesley Hills, New York.

More Details


  • Always wore red socks


  • Father – Charles E. Johnson (Plumber, Real-estate Salesperson)
  • Mother – Loretta (née Snyder)
  • Siblings – None
  • Others – Charles Edward Johnson (Paternal Grandfather), Augusta Caroline Jacobsen (Paternal Grandmother), Elmer Elsworth Snyder (Maternal Grandfather), Sarah Viola “Sadie” McDonough (Maternal Grandmother)