Eddie Bracken, the sweet, owl-faced comic actor of film, TV and the stage, best known for the movies "Hail the Conquering Hero" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," died Nov. 14 in New Jersey, his family announced.
The Astoria, Queens native was known for recent stage roles as Capt. Andy in Paper Mill Playhouse's Show Boat, seen nationally on PBS, and as Dimitri Weismann in Paper Mill's Follies, but had many Broadway, touring and stock credits on his resume.
Born in 1915, though some sources indicate 1920, Edward Vincent (Eddie) Bracken was a child actor in Hal Roach's "Kiddie Troupers" films, and got his break when director George Abbott cast him in the national tour of Brother Rat and on Broadway in What a Life. During his national tour, he met and married leading lady Constance Nickerson (Bracken), his late wife of 62 years. They moved to Hollywood in 1939 and his career blossomed. Over the next few decades his "aw-shucks" style and quirky looks got him character roles, including the title role in Preston Sturges' "Hail the Conquering Hero," in which the armed-forces reject is passed off by a group of soldiers as a hero to his hometown. He was wide-eyed in Sturges' "Miracle of Morgan's Creek," in which Betty Hutton proved incredibly fertile (she was pregnant and didn't know who the father was in the classic movie farce).
He played rural Judy Garland's nerdy love interest in the movie musical, "Summer Stock," until Gene Kelly's urbane character swept her into showbiz.
On Broadway, Mr. Bracken appeared opposite Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! in 1978; opposite Eartha Kitt in Shinbone Alley; opposite Ann Miller 1979-82. His Broadway credits include the 1940 Rodgers and Hart musical, Too Many Girls, which gave the world "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," and appeared in its movie version. He was a replacement in the original runs of The Odd Couple and The Seven Year Itch. He logged as many as 15,000 performances in his career, according to his family.
A new generation of filmgoers saw him as Mr. Wally in "National Lampoon's Vacation."
He is survived by five children, Judy, Carolyn, Michael, Susan and David, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.