Dana Wynter

The irish times obituary in 2011.

Elegant actor and writer of great talent

DANA WYNTER: DANA WYNTER, who has died in Ojai, California, aged 79, was an actor whose screen roles included one of the leads…

DANA WYNTER:DANA WYNTER, who has died in Ojai, California, aged 79, was an actor whose screen roles included one of the leads in the iconic Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

For the happy few, she was also and mostly a writer. A very good writer. Her memoirs, Other People, Other Places, published in 2005, and her extensive correspondence are a testimony to it. As are her letters to so many different people in so many different places in life. These ranged from Comdt Jacques Cousteau to former US president Richard Nixon, from priests all over the world to shepherds and neighbours in her narrow valley of Glenmacnass, Co Wicklow. They also included directors and actors in Hollywood to animal rights activists and from dedicated artists to charming dilettantes – all exhibit a tremendous natural talent, a perfect ear and a sharp eye, qualities that she brought to full fruition as she became a contributor for publications as diverse as the Guardian, Country Living, the National Reviewor The Irish Times, among others.

Here is her terse description of how George Sanders told Zsa-Zsa Gabor that their marriage (her third at that stage; there are nine to date) was over. “The hum of the hair dryer indicated human presence in the dressing room, and he approached his quarry who was sitting under the machine reading about herself in a glossy fan magazine. Vain attempts at attracting attention ended in a firm rap on the hood of the dryer and she did, briefly, look up, he claimed, but without lifting the hood. Sanders then raised his voice. ‘Zsa-Zsa – I’m leaving you. Forever. Sorry about the marriage. I’ll write’. Obviously not having heard any of this, Zsa-Zsa nodded, flashed a bright smile, waggled her fingers at him and returned to her reading.”

Fast, precise, pitiless. This is how stars used to divorce and it was how Dana Wynter wrote.


Her style might have been influenced by her one and only marriage to Gregson Bautzer, the most famous divorce lawyer of Los Angeles. But her irony, her impeccable sense of humour, her taste and distaste had deeper roots.

Dana Wynter was born Dagmar Winter in Berlin, the daughter of a British surgeon father and a Hungarian mother. She was raised in Scotland, England, Rhodesia and South Africa, on stage in London, on air with Orson Welles and on screen in Hollywood. She learned, at an early age, how small the outside world was. This compelled her to draw on the ground an even smaller circle around her feet with the rule, known only to her, to never cross it.

She divorced her only husband, celebrity attorney Greg Bautzer, in 1981. She and Bautzer had one child – Mark Ragan Bautzer, born in 1960.

In Hollywood, she was described as an oasis of elegance. The film Shake Hands with the Devil (starring James Cagney) brought her to Ireland, where she made a deal with herself that it would be her home for the next 30 years. A sign hung on her gate that said: “You would be more welcome if you had called first.” She often sat in her beautiful library to read Irish poets and Russian novelists.

To a visiting friend, she might say: “Tonight, we’ll have a nice dinner together and tomorrow you will be on your merry way.” The less, the merrier.

Dana Wynter had found her place and her style, and each of her sentences, spoken or written, showed that she was ready to defend them at all costs.

Her newspaper columns and letters illustrated her writing skill. A sample, in which she described an incident at her cottage in Wicklow.

“Why the pheasant chose this particular house is still not clear. Maybe he understood that we were dog-less and firm in our resolve to be free of the domination of any pet, perhaps our thatched roof reminded him of his origins. Or the answer could be more simple – that it was less of an effort to come here than to the neighbouring farmhouse under the great waterfall, an uphill march even when aided by hops, flutters and arching swoops.”

This limpid style brings forth in a flawless metaphor the simplicity of a beautiful life, where hopping and swooping are no longer considered necessary. It was one of her many lives. In an article titled St Patrick’s Angels, she wrote: “When their time as choristers is over and the voice must rest, most of the boys go on to take up another instrument . . . ”

She died from congestive heart failure having suffered from heart disease in later years. Her son Mark said she “stepped off the bus very peacefully”.

Dana Wynter: born June 8th, 1931; died May 5th, 2011

The Telegraph obituary

A dark-haired, pale-skinned beauty, Dana Wynter (playing Becky Driscoll) was more than qualified to scream and clutch the arm of her love interest, Dr Miles Bennell, as they fled (unsuccessfully, in her case) the extraterrestrial scourge. Filming got under way in 1955, at the height of Joseph McCarthy-inspired hysteria about Reds under the bed.

“It was just supposed to be a plain, thrilling kind of picture,” Dana Wynter recalled in 1999. “That was what Allied Artists thought they were making.” But after its release in 1956 it soon became clear that the plot, in which a small-town doctor learns that the population of America is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates grown in pods, was being credited with a double meaning.

Both the director, Don Siegel, and the scriptwriter, Dan Mainwaring, denied any such subtext. But Dana Wynter insisted that the cast “realised that we were making an anti-ism picture. Anti-fascism, anti-communism, all that kind of thing.” Certainly it is hard to avoid the hint of a political message when the leading man, desperately seeking to alert his fellow Americans to the looming menace, turns to camera and shouts: “They’re here already. You’re next.” Either way, the film was an instant box-office hit.

Dagmar Winter was born in Berlin on June 8 1931, the daughter of a surgeon, Peter Winter. Her family soon moved to England. A few years later her parents divorced and she moved with her father to Southern Rhodesia. Following graduation from a private school she trained in Medicine at Rhodes University in South Africa. She also tried her hand at amateur theatre there, and returned to England in the early 1950s to take up acting seriously.

During a performance at the Hammersmith Apollo she was spotted by an American agent and a few bit parts followed, including in Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), co-starring Diana Dors, and The Crimson Pirate (1952), with Burt Lancaster as the swashbuckling hero. In November 1953, having changed her name to Dana Wynter, she set out to try her luck in Hollywood.

There, despite initial disappointment in film, she stayed to carve out a career for herself in television. In March 1955 she won a Golden Globe Award for “Most Promising Newcomer”, and was placed under contract with Twentieth Century Fox, making her debut in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Despite excellent reviews Dana Wynter was unable to replicate her success, appearing mostly in war movies – such as D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) – and on television. She appeared in series including Hart to Hart, The Rockford Files and Magnum P.I., returning to the big screen for two cameo roles: in Airport, which reunited her with Burt Lancaster, and in Triangle (both 1970).

From 1978 to1980 she played Jill Daly in the soap opera Bracken, with Gabriel Byrne. It began her love affair with Ireland, where she bought a house in Co Wicklow. Her final role was as Raymond Burr’s wife in The Return of Ironside (1993).

Dana Wynter was married to the Hollywood lawyer Greg Bautzer. She is survived by her son

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