May Wynn

May Wynn. Wikipedia.

May Wynn was born in 1928 in New York City.   Her first film was “Dreamboat” with Anne Francis and Jeffrey Hunter in 1952.   She won the lead female role in “The Caine Mutiny” in 1954.   Her other films include “They RodeWest” and “The Violent Men”.   Her last film was “Hong Kong Affair” in 1958.

Article from 2009 in “Captain’s Critic”:So I took my own advice and started rereading Herman Wouk’s “The Caine Mutiny.” Just as fabulous as I remember.

But a short ways into the book, Willie Keith meets his girlfriend — May Wynn. In my “Reeling Backward” review, that’s the name I used for the actress who appears in the movie version. I thought I’d made a mistake, and used the character’s name rather than the actress’. So I logged on here to fix it.

Wanna hear something really screwy? The actress’ name is May Wynn.

In something that could only happen in Golden Age Hollywood, her name was changed to the name of her character in the movie, which was going to be her big break-out role.

After a little digging, I learned that big-wheel producer Stanley Kramer decided that the name of Donna Lee Hickey just wasn’t going to cut it as a movie star. So he had her take the name of her character in the movie!

It does have a nice ring to it, with those two short syllables. Kramer liked it because it was impossible to mispronounce. Plus it has a positive connotation since it sounds like, “May win.”

It’s actually not the real name of the character, either. When Willie tells her he likes her name, she says, “That’s good. It took me a long time to think of it.” Turns out her real handle is Marie Minotti, and she’s using May Wynn as her stage name.

So let me just lay out this scenario again: A fictional character gives herself a stage name, an actress is hired to play her in the movie, and the studio makes her change her real name to that of the character’s made-up name. So May Wynn is a triple-fake name, or something.

Isn’t that screwy? Imagine if in 1977 Carrie Fisher was forced to change her name to Princess Leia Organa. Or if Indiana Jones was played by a guy named Han Solo.

Anyway, May Wynn made quite an impression on me in the film, even though it’s a small role. We first see her singing in a nightclub wearing this red dress that’s really va-voom for the era. She had short, dark hair — unusual for female stars of the time, long and blonde being the thing in the 1940s and ’50s. She actually resembles my mother when she was a youngster … very Freudian, I know.

Anyway, May’s showbiz career was pretty short. She did a bunch of television for a few years after “Caine Mutiny,” but lists no credits for her after 1959. She’s still alive, reportedly living quietly in California. I’d be very curious to know: Does she still go by the name bestowed on her by a studio honcho 55 years ago?

May Wynn died in 2021.

The above  article from “Captain’s Critic” can be accessed online here.

Daily Telegraph obituary in 2021:

May Wynn, actress best known as a nightclub singer in The Caine Mutiny

She changed her name to that of her Caine Mutiny chanteuse, but her career did not catch fire as she had hoped

ByTelegraph Obituaries24 May 2021 • 6:00am

May Wynn
May Wynn

May Wynn, who has died aged 93, was an actress, singer and dancer who was, perhaps, the only film star to be renamed after one of her characters.

In Edward Dmytryk’s The Caine Mutiny (1954), starring Humphrey Bogart, Donna Hickey played May Wynn, a sultry nightclub artiste (although her singing voice was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer). The studio mogul Harry Cohn was so impressed that he had her adopt her character’s name. “I finally thought I had made it in Hollywood,” she recalled. “I wanted to be the next Lana Turner.”

Donna Lee Hickey was born to vaudevillians in New York on January 8 1928. She followed her parents into show business, dancing in nightclubs across New York before being given a residence at the Copacabana Club aged 16.

“Some of the girls had a great desire to try their luck in Hollywood,” she said in 2010. “I was one of them. However, the little men who’d come by the Copacabana on the promise of something from the girls in exchange for a screen test overlooked me. I was young and awkward. In hindsight I had a lucky escape.”

She was later crowned Miss American Legion, Miss Miami Beach and Queen of the New York Press Photographers Ball.

In 1950 she was introduced by a New York talent scout to William Gordon, a casting director at 20th Century Fox, but she made her screen debut at MGM the following year in the Esther Williams musical Skirts Ahoy!

When the 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck spotted her on screen, he personally oversaw a lucrative six-month contract. But, she recalled: “I was miserable at Fox. Every week I’d hail a taxi go to the lot, pick up my salary cheque and then home again with no work to speak of aside from little bit parts.”

May Wynn in The Caine Mutiny 
May Wynn in The Caine Mutiny  CREDIT: alamy

She was tested by Columbia for the role of Lorene in From Here to Eternity (1953), but she lost out to Donna Reed, who won an Oscar for her performance. Distraught at being overlooked, Donna Hickey joined a trip to entertain the troops in Korea.

On her return, at the beginning of 1953, she received a telephone call from the producer Stanley Kramer, who thought she would be perfect as May Wynn in The Caine Mutiny.

Following its success, and now going by the name of her character in the film, she had roles on television and featured in two Westerns, They Rode West (1954) and Rough Company (1955), as well as in B-grade fare such as The White Squaw and The Man Is Armed (both 1956), the latter for the “poverty row” studio Republic.

May Wynn began dating Robert Francis, one of her Caine Mutiny co-stars, but he was killed in July 1955 when his plane crashed approaching Burbank airport. She was subsequently linked to Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra, then in 1956 she married the actor Jack Kelly. She followed him to the Far East, where he was filming Hong Kong Affair (1958), and was given the role of Chu Lan after the intended local actress turned out not to speak English.

May Wynn called it a day during the early 1960s, but not before running a film company, Majak Productions (from “May” and “Jack”), which she formed with Kelly. For 28 years she taught handwriting and public speaking at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic school in Newport Beach, and also worked in real estate.

She lived in contented obscurity until 2003, when she turned up at a Hollywood autograph show complete with a stack of 8 x 10 portrait shots which she happily sold to film fans.

May Wynn divorced Jack Kelly in 1962 and married a fellow realtor, Jack Custer, in 1968. They divorced in 1979.

May Wynn, born January 8 1928, died March 23 2021

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *