In Memoriam: Van Johnson (1916-2008)

One of Golden Hollywood’s golden boys, Van Johnson passed away on Friday from natural causes. He was 92. Johnson—charming, good-natured and boyishly handsome—soared to fame during the War at MGM, where he became one of the studio’s most popular leading men. His roles placed him opposite the biggest names in the business: Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly,  Elizabeth Taylor & Judy Garland. Johnson continued to be a major player well into the 50s, loved best as a romantic comedy lead or war hero—A Guy Named Joe, In the Good Old Summertime, Battleground, The Last Time I Saw Paris—but was no stranger to ‘tough guy’ roles such as the excellent The Caine Mutiny

His passing now, in 2008, is a bittersweet reminder to us that the creativity and wonderment of classic Hollywood edges ever closer, with every year, into an unbridgeable dream remembered, (if I may quote Ms. Mitchell) a civilization gone with the wind.  We watch the Academy montage their memory every year with brief momentary glimpses at their careers— and every year we loose more of the men and women who once made the movies something so very magical. 

They certainly don’t make ’em like they used to. 

So here’s to you, Van. Thanks for the memories.


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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

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