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Lynn in the <i><a href="/content/Four_Daughters" style="color:blue">Four Daughters</a></i> (1938)
Lynn in the Four Daughters (1938)

Jeffrey Lynn (born Ragnar Godfrey Lind; February 16, 1909 – November 24, 1995) was an American stage-screen actor and film producer who worked primarily through the Golden Age of Hollywood establishing himself as one of the premier talents of his time.[1][2] Throughout his acting career, both on stage and in film, he was typecast as "the attractive, reliable love interest of the heroine,"[3] or "the tall, stalwart hero."[2]

Born and raised in Massachusetts, he attended Bates College, before working as a teacher. He was tapped to act in his first film in 1938, which convinced him to move to Hollywood, California. His second film–Four Daughters (1938)–propelled him into national fame sparking two sequels: Four Wives (1939) and Four Mothers (1941), with Lynn reprising his role in each of them, along with Daughters Courageous (1939), which included the same cast but had a different storyline. He was at the center of the Gone with the Wind (1939) screening controversy; he was noted as the top contender to play Ashley Wilkes, however, the director eventually chose Leslie Howard instead. Lynn was asked to join James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart in The Roaring Twenties (1939), a gangster noir that garnered him critical praise. His success continued with such films as The Fighting 69th (1940) in which he portrayed poet-soldier Joyce Kilmer opposite Cagney, It All Came True (1940), All This, and Heaven Too (1940) and Million Dollar Baby (1941).

His movie career was put on hold for World War II draft, where he received a Bronze Star for his service as a in Italy and Austria as a combat intelligence captain. He returned to the screen in 1948 and was in the notably successful A Letter to Three Wives (1949), which went on to be nominated for best picture in the 1950 prime time Academy Awards. A year later he joined that cast of Home Town Story (1951) billed alongside Marilyn Monroe. His later film career credits include: BUtterfield 8 (1960) along with Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey, and Tony Rome (1967) with Frank Sinatra.

Lynn also began to act on Broadway and was featured in such plays as Any Wednesday (1966) and Dinner at Eight (1967).[4] Later on in his career he found mixed critical success television starring in hit shows such as Robert Montgomery Presents, Your Show of Shows, My Son Jeep (with young Martin Huston), and Lux Video Theatre.

He died in November 1995 in Burbank, California from natural causes and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. Actor Jeffrey Lynn "Jeff" Goldblum is named in honor of Jeffrey Lynn.

Early life and education


Ragnar Godfrey Lind was born in Auburn, Massachusetts.

He attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and graduated in 1930 with a B.A. degree in education.[5][2] While in college, he was a part of the secret society, Nova Scotia, and participated in the 1930 Penn Relays where he won the year's international two mile track & field run.[5][6] His interest in acting developed in college.

At one time he intended to go into law school but decided to enter the workplace instead. He worked for the New England Telephone Co. and later taught English, speech and drama in high school, then decided try acting as a career.[7][8]

Lynn started acting professionally at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia. He got small parts on Broadway and in road companies, supplementing his earnings with part time jobs. including department store clerk, and movie usher.[9]

Lynn was appearing in a production of Brother Rat in Chicago. He was spotted by a Warners talent scout and given a screen test. In January 1938 they signed him to a long term contract.[10]

Film career


Lynn made his film debut in short Out Where the Stars Begin (1938). He had a support role in When Were You Born (1938) with Anna May Wong and a bit part in Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938) with Dick Powell.

In April 1938 Lynn's career received a big boost when he was cast in a role originally turned down by Errol Flynn: one of the romantic male love interests in Four Daughters (1938) (first called Sister Act). Lynn appeared alongside the Lane Sisters, Claude Rains and John Garfield. The film was a huge hit.[11]

Public response was so enthusiastic that Lynn was promptly reteamed with Priscilla Lane in Yes, My Darling Daughter (1939) and then Daughters Courageous (1939), a film with the same director and stars as Four Daughters but a different storyline.

After the success of Four Daughters, Lynn was screen tested for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939). He was considered to be the front runner for the role, partly due to his physical resemblance to the character as written. Lynn was used extensively during the "Search for Scarlett" playing Ashley in the screen tests for many of the actresses who tried out for the part. David O. Selznick eventually cast the more experienced and popular Leslie Howard. It was during this time that he received typecasting as "the handsome romantic husband or boyfriend," "the attractive, reliable love interest of the heroine,"[3] and "the tall, stalwart hero."[2]

Warners gave him the third lead in Espionage Agent (1939) alongside Joel McCrea and Brenda Marshall, and a lead role in The Roaring Twenties (1939), a gangster film that reunited him with Four Daughters star Priscilla Lane, as well as James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. As one of a trio of friends, and the only one not to "go bad", Lynn won excellent reviews.

Lynn reprised his Four Daughters role in Four Wives (1939). He was the male lead in A Child Is Born (1939) co-starring with Geraldine Fitzgerald, and he was reunited with Cagney in The Fighting 69th (1940), though billed beneath Pat O'Brien and George Brent. He played poet-soldier Joyce Kilmer.[12][13]

Lynn was Ann Sheridan's love interest in It All Came True (1940), battling Humphrey Bogart, and was third billed in All This, and Heaven Too (1940) with Bette Davis and Charles Boyer. Lynn was Olivia de Havilland's leading man in My Love Came Back (1940), replacing George Brent.[14]

He was top billed in Money and the Woman (1940), a crime drama with Brenda Marshall. Lynn did a second sequel to Four Daughters, Four Mothers (1941), and was reunited with Fitzgerald in Flight from Destiny (1941).

Lynn was offered a role in Singapore (also Jinx Woman) but turned it down and was put on suspension. It was lifted in December 1940 when he agreed to make Miss Pinkerton with Fitzgerald.[15]

He starred in Million Dollar Baby (1941) with Priscilla Lane and Ronald Reagan, was top billed in the war film Underground (1941), and was Constance Bennett's leading man in Law of the Tropics (1941). He was tested for the lead in Kings Row but the studio preferredRobert Cummings.[16]

Lynn's final film before entering the army was the comedy The Body Disappears (1941), with Jane Wyman; Lynn was top billed. In 1941, Lynn was voted 7th in the "Top Ten Stars of Tomorrow" two spots behind then-actor and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan.[2]

His movie career was interrupted by service during World War II, with Lynn joining the army in February 1942.[17]

He served with a bomber unit and in May 1945 was promoted to captain.[18]

He earned a bronze star in the war as a combat intelligence captain in Italy and Austria.[19] He was discharged in 1946 as Special Intelligence Officer.[2]

While in service he often served as a bartender in his unit's Officer's Club. He legally changed his name to his stage name while in service as he noted "that he wanted to serve his country during World War II under the name that had become popular."[3][20][21]

Lynn returned to Hollywood in November 1946.[22]

In April 1947, Lynn was about to begin work on his first post-war picture when he was in a car accident with his first wife at the Donner Pass while coming back from a ski trip.[23] In 1947 he signed to make Let's Fall in Love for Columbia but it was made as Slightly French without him[24]

He returned to the screen in 1948 with Black Bart (1948) at Universal, supporting Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea, stepping into a role intended for Edmond O'Brien.[25] At the same studio he was one of Deanna Durbin's leading men in For the Love of Mary (1948) then returned to Warners for Whiplash (1948), where he was billed beneath Dane Clark, Alexis Smith and Zachary Scott.

Lynn had a decent part in A Letter to Three Wives (1949) at 20th Century Fox, playing the husband of Jeanne Crain. At RKO he was Martha Scott's leading man in Strange Bargain (1949), a role originally meant for Pat O'Brien.[26]

Lynn then supported John Payne and Gail Russell in Captain China (1950) for Pine-Thomas Productions.[27] In 1950 he was announced for the lead in Forty Notches[28] but it appears to have not been made.

Lynn made his television debut in an episode of Suspense (1949) and an adaptation of Miracle in the Rain for Studio One in Hollywood (1950) under the direction of Franklin J. Schaffner. He went on to appear in episodes of Lights Out, Faith Baldwin Romance Theatre, Cameo Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, The Clock, and Family Theatre.

Lynn had a support role in Up Front (1951) and the lead in Home Town Story (1951).

He appeared on Broadway in The Long Days (1951) which only ran three performances, and Lo and Behold! (1951–52) which ran for 38 performances despite being directed by Burgess Meredith.[29]

Lynn guest starred on episodes of Schlitz Playhouse, Tales of Tomorrow, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Checkmate (a TV movie), Goodyear Playhouse, Philip Morris Playhouse, Suspense again, The Elgin Hour, Danger, Robert Montgomery Presents, Justice, and Appointment with Adventure. He had a recurring role in a series My Son Jeep (1953) which only ran 11 episodes.[30] He worked extensively in summer stock.[31][9]

Lynn returned to features with Lost Lagoon (1957) and was in The United States Steel Hour. In 1957 he appeared in Arms and the Man in Michigan.[32]

In 1960, he starred in BUtterfield 8 (1960) along with Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey.

He was in Play of the Week and a 1961 adaptation of The Spiral Staircase. He did A Call on Kuprin (1961) on Broadway which ran for 12 performances.

In 1966 he joined the cast of the long-running Any Wednesday (1966) to mixed reception.

In 1966–67 he appeared on the TV show The Secret Storm.

In 1966 he went back to Broadway to act in Dinner at Eight (1967), directed by Tyrone Guthrie which ran for 127 performances.[1][33]

Later in the year he received a call from the director of Tony Rome (1967), asking him to star in the movie. Lynn initially declined the offer in pursuit of side projects but came around after the director brought on Frank Sinatra.

Soon after his film with Sinatra, Lynn decided to go back into television beginning with Ironside (1969) as Professor Halstead and The Bold Ones: The New Doctors (1969) as Thomas Cleary.

In 1971 he appeared on The Edge of Night.

In 1973, he appeared on Barnaby Jones as himself. In 1975, he moved to Tarzana, California to be closer to production studios.

In 1982, he played the lead role in Forbidden Love as Dr. Brinkley an appeared in The Diary of Anne Frank on stage in Los Angeles.[34]

He starred in two episodes of Simon & Simon as Perkins Oliphant in 1983. In 1985, he established himself as an actor and producer at the Los Angeles' Center Theater.[3] A year later he produced The Diary of Anne Frank at the Centre in 1986.[2]

Lynn was asked to star in an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1987, a television sequel to the feature film Strange Bargain (1949), which reunited him with his original co-star, Martha Scott. He played the character "Sam Wilson."[35]

In 1990, he played Ambrose McGee in the television series, Midnight Caller and starred in Knots Landing as Mr. Ahern.

Death and legacy


He died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, California, aged 86, from natural causes. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.[1] He was survived by his third wife, seven stepchildren, three sisters, two brothers, and 17 grandchildren.

His New York Times obituary cited him as "the handsome leading man in a string of Warner Brothers films."[1] Denis Gifford of The Independent noted that "his good looks and sincere playing won him a place in the memories of all film fans of Hollywood's golden age."[2]

Filmography


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