Edit
Gretchen Wyler Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (7) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA
Died in Camarillo, California, USA  (breast cancer)
Birth NameGretchen Patricia Wienecke
Nickname Auntie Gretchie

Mini Bio (1)

Lovely, sparkling blonde musical actress and dancer Gretchen Wyler was born Gretchen Weinecke in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the daughter of Louis Gustave Weinecke, a gasoline engineer, and Peggy (nee Highley) Weinecke, on February 15, 1932. She graduated from her home town high school and went on to study dance with June Runyon in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Making her debut with the St. Louis Municipal Opera in 1950 as part of the ballet ensemble, she moved to New York where she found a year-long job as a chorus dancer on Broadway in "Where's Charley?" in 1951. She then played in the chorus of "Guys and Dolls" the following season. In 1955 Gretchen earned the break she was looking for when she won the Broadway role of Janice Dayton in "Silk Stockings" and was the recipient of the ("supporting actress") Outer Critics Circle Award for her provocative, scene-stealing work. Other alluring Broadway roles in musicals followed with Lola in "Damn Yankees" and Rosie in "Bye Bye Birdie". In 1968, she made her London debut in the title role of "Sweet Charity" and stayed with the role for over a year. She has practically run the musical comedy gamut over time appearing in various stock productions, both singing and non-singing, of "Sly Fox" (Drama Desk nomination), "The Gingerbread Lady", "The Man Who Came to Dinner", "Redhead", "Annie Get Your Gun", "Kismet", "Applause", "Born Yesterday", "Call Me Madam", "A Hatful of Rain", "Bus Stop", "Annie", "Can-Can", "Mame", "42nd Street" and the musical version of "Destry Rides Again".

Making her TV debut in 1956 on "The Colgate Comedy Hour", Gretchen appeared occasionally on such light-hearted shows as "Sergeant Bilko" and in the musical variety format, notably with Bob Crosby. Gretchen did not make her film debut until middle-age with The Devil's Brigade (1968) starring William Holden, and went on to play Goldie Hawn's aunt in the film Private Benjamin (1980). She also toured extensively with her own nightclub act, in concerts and with her one-woman show "Broadway Greats and the Songs That Made Them Famous". In later years she guested more and more on TV, including the more recent "Friends" (hilarious as the skin-flint singing widow/hostess who tries to stiff Monica and Phoebe for their catering services at her husband's funeral reception). Outside of some prime-time appearances in "Judging Amy" and "Providence", she has also appeared in such daytime soaps as "Search for Tomorrow" and "Somerset". In 1997 she ended her performing career right where she began -- at the St. Louis Municipal Opera -- playing the irrepressible Dolly Levi.

Away of the limelight, she produced the off-Broadway play "The Ballad of Johnny Pot" in 1971 but, more importantly, dedicated her life's passion to animals as a noted activist. In 1968 she founded a shelter for animals in upstate New York and was on the boards of several humane and wildlife organizations, also sponsoring animal welfare legislation. Divorced since 1968, she had no children but shared her home (of course) with several animals including dogs, cats and horses.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Shepard Coleman (18 June 1956 - 1968) (divorced)

Trivia (7)

Founder of The Ark Trust, presenter of the annual Genesis Awards for animal protection.
Shared her life with one 20-year-old partially blind, white Appaloosa horse, Kate, rescued one day before she was bound for a Texas slaughterhouse; a 19-year-old Anglo-Arab horse named Zephyr who needed a good home and who was also saved from auction; four rescued cats; and a poodle mix named Mocha who was adopted from a shelter when she was 7 years old.
In 1971, she joined a coalition in New York City that was created to lobby for reforms within the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). One year later, she was invited to sit on the ASPCA's Board of Directors, the first woman to serve on the board in the organization's 106-year history. In 1975, however, Wyler filed a lawsuit against her fellow board members, charging them with corporate waste and indifference to animal suffering; as a result, she was the first person ever to be dropped from the board.
In August of 1997, she announced her retirement from the stage at the end of her week-long run at the St. Louis Municipal Opera -- where she began her career in 1950 as a member of its corps de ballet -- starring as Dolly Levi in the classic musical "Hello Dolly" before sold-out audiences of 12,000 each night.
Founder and president of The Ark Trust, Inc., which presents the annual Genesis Awards, a star-studded gala honoring members of the major news and entertainment media who have helped raise public consciousness about the vast spectrum of animal issues. Since 1986, the annual event has become the nation's premier "consciousness-raiser" on animal issues.
Wyler began her crusade for animal rights in 1966 after witnessing poor conditions at a New York shelter.
In 1986 she created the Genesis Awards, which honors the media and entertainment industry for shining a spotlight on animal cruelty. The first Gretchen Wyler Award was bestowed on Paul McCartney, for a lifetime of activism for animals.

Personal Quotes (1)

I endeavor to live a cruelty-free lifestyle.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page