Like many actors of his generation, he aged gracefully while availing himself of the employment opportunities open to Old Hollywood luminaries – a dinner theater gig here, a TV guest spot there – during the ‘70s and ‘80s. (I don’t have to tell you that he guest-starred on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote, do I?) Along the way, he worked for everyone from Frank Capra (State of the Union, 1948) to Woody Allen (The Purple Rose of Cairo, 1985), and comported himself with the sort of charismatic professionalism that contemporary actors might do well to study and emulate.
Was Van Johnson a great actor? Well, he gave a few great performances. And I’m sure millions of moviegoers over the years would say they had a great time with many of his movies. Chalk up his passing, at age 92, as one more melancholy severing of our ties to a time when movies were magic, and even secondary stars seemed larger the life.