Actress Dana Wynter was someone you didn’t forget. “Elegant” is how she was often described. Elegant, and then some.
She had an interesting life, born in Germany, spent her early years in England before her family relocated to Southern Rhodesia, and eventually studying medicine in at Rhoades University in South Africa. She had dabbled in theater and decided to move to England to begin her career as an actress, appearing in small parts onstage and in films, before moving to New York. There she found work in the theater and in various television programs.
Then came Hollywood and her film career. First, there was The View from Pompey’ Head (1955) where she co-starred with Richard Egan. The next year she starred with Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the classic sci-fi / horror film. On a $300,000 budget it made $3,000,000 and became one of the best sci-fi films of the era. Wynter plays Becky, the love interest of Dr. Miles Bennell, who together, attempt to be the exceptions of the rise of the sea-pod people.
In this film it was easy to see that she had something special as an actress. Aside from her dark, elegant looks, she spoke with an accent that embraced her English and South African heritage. When you saw or heard her, you thought classy and mannered.
As Wynter aged, she continued to work, mostly on television, but in roles that suited her maturity and dignity. An then she developed a narrow streak of gray in her jet-black hair. Sometimes she colored it but often not. That might have been her trademark, but she seemed to embrace her maturity. In her later years she looked as stunning as when she first graced the screen. Dark-eyed, tall and willowy, few actresses intrigued me as Dana Wynter.
Even as a young actress she carried herself with experience beyond her years. When needed, she could dial up her emotion but usually her style was a measured performance, perhaps from her English resolve. At any rate, if she didn’t speak, you still were enthralled with her. Those eyes.
In The Sink the Bismarck!, one of her best roles, Second Officer Anne Davis, whose coolness and resolve help the Chief of Naval Operations deal with the importance of tracking down and destroying the Bismarck, but also his inward grief. Her character is a steady hand, a role perfect for her calm manner.
In her career, Wynter played a wide variety of roles, many of which were beneath her talent, but television provided her work, so soap operas were not off limits. Small roles in films also gave her work, like a very small role as Burt Lancaster’s wife in Airport. The role was nothing, but it was a big-time movie and her fleeting moments were wonderful.
Born Dagmar Winter, she was known as Hollywood’s “oasis of elegance,” a complement to her respected essence. Most of us thought her name was pronounced Dana, but she pronounced it Donna.
The List of Adrian Messenger (1963) was her last quality film role. The handful of films after that were mostly forgettable. It was series television and made-for-tv films that filled the rest of her career. Mostly it was dramas, Westerns, medical shows and crime series. The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, Cannon, Ironside, The F.B.I., O’Hara, U.S. Treasury, Ellery Queen, City of Angles, Magnum, P.I., Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, McMillan and Wife, It Takes a Thief, The Name of the Game and Burke’s Law were the crime shows she guested. She co-starred as the wife of a double agent in the series The Man Who Never Was (1966-67). Occasionally, she appeared in a comedy, like Get Smart or My Three Sons. And then later, it was The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, shows that most veteran actors made an appearance or two.
While making a film in Ireland, she fell in love with the life there and bought a home, alternating her life with Southern California. Later in life she spent more time in Ireland. She took to writing, with a vast correspondence hobby with people all over the world. She used her writing skill to pen for “The Guardian”, an English newspaper, with a regular column called “Grassroots,” about life in California and County Wicklow, Ireland. She also wrote for National Review, Country Living, Image, The Irish Times and other publications.
She passed away in 2011 at age 79.