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April 8, 2003
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Anne Gwynne, 84; World War II Pinup Played Spunky All-American Girl in Horror Movies

By Myrna Oliver, Times Staff Writer

Anne Gwynne, leading lady in scores of sci-fi and horror films including the 1940 serial ''Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe'' and ''Black Friday'' with Boris Karloff, has died. She was 84.

Gwynne died March 31 of a stroke following surgery at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, her family said.

Born Marguerite Gwynne Trice in Waco, Texas, she studied drama at Stephens College in Missouri and moved to Los Angeles with her family. Her father was a wealthy apparel manufacturer, and the former Miss San Antonio first gained attention as a model for Catalina swimsuits.

Billed as Anne Gwynne, she began acting in small theaters and was spotted by a talent scout who invited her to stop by Universal Studios. She was signed to a contract in 1939.

She began churning out B pictures as leading lady to such Western stars as Johnny Mack Brown and moved on to the space serial with Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, alternately titled "Perils From the Planet Mongo" and "Purple Death From Outer Space."

But Gwynne did her most memorable work in horror films, working with Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. Among those 1940s scream-fests, in addition to "Black Friday," were "The Black Cat," "House of Frankenstein," "The Strange Case of Doctor Rx," "Weird Woman," "Murder in the Blue Room" and the 1947 movie "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome."

"To fans of the Universal horror films of the 1940s, Anne was one of the best and most popular leading ladies," said Tom Weaver, an author and expert on the horror genre. "Unlike the exotic 1930s horror heroines who generally were, or at least acted English or European or 'mid-Atlantic' at best, Anne was the spunky, bubbly, very American girl-next-door type -- the stuff of instant crushes for these movies' mostly male audiences."

Among Gwynne's favorite films were "The Black Cat" and two Westerns, "Ride 'Em Cowboy" with Abbott and Costello in 1942 and "Men of Texas" with Robert Stack and Broderick Crawford the same year.

Working constantly in the years of World War II, Gwynne became a favorite pinup. She reduced her workload in 1945 when she married Hollywood attorney Max M. Gilford. He died in 1965.

The actress also worked in television, including the 1951-52 series "Public Prosecutor." She continued to appear in TV guest spots and commercials, and made her final motion picture in 1970, cast as Michael Douglas' mother in "Adam at 6 A.M."

Gwynne had been in ill health since her first stroke about 10 years ago.

She is survived by her daughter, Gwynne Pine of Los Angeles; son, Gregory Gilford of New York City; and grandchildren Katie Pine and Christopher Pine.

Services are private. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made in her name to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.



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