Rogers High School 
Alumni Association


Rogers Celebrity Dies

Published: March 2009

Charles Van Johnson born in Newport, August 25, 1916 was the only child of Loretta Snyder Johnson, a homemaker, and Charles E. Johnson, a Swedish plumber and later a real estate agent. His mother abandoned the family when he was three, the victim of alcoholism. His paternal grandmother helped raise him.

Van took singing, dancing, and violin lessons during his years at Rogers . His father wanted him to become a lawyer but, instead, he left home following his 1934 graduation from Rogers to try his luck in New York in the entertainment field.

He toured New England in a theater troupe as a sub dancer, then on to Broadway in vaudeville, then in the chorus at New York resorts. He was an understudy to Gene Kelly in "Pal Joey". This led to a screen test in Hollywood for Warner Brothers in 1939. Things went well for a while then Van became discouraged and decided to leave and head back to New York . He caught the eye of MGM where he signed a seven year contract in 1942. He was in a major road accident which left him with a metal plate in his head. Ineligible to serve during WWII, he became America's war film hero, playing the amiable guy next door sent overseas to do his part for America .

In 1947 he married Eve Wynn and had one daughter, Schuyler in 1948. Van and Eve divorced in 1968. He never married again.

His film career lasted until 1992 after more than 79 movie roles. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Van has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6600 Hollywood Boulevard.

In 2003, while living in an assisted living facility in Nyack, New York he appeared in three performances of Gurney's "Love Letters" with Betsy Palmer in Wesley Hills, New York.

Van died of natural causes on December 12, 2008 in Nyack , New York at the age of 92.

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