Gretchen Wyler, Broadway Actress and Animal Activist, Is Dead at 75

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28 May 2007

Gretchen Wyler in
Gretchen Wyler in "Broadway: The Golden Age."

Gretchen Wyler, who appeared in such Broadway classics as Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees and Bye Bye Birdie, died May 27 at her home in Camarillo, CA. She was 75.

The New York Times reports that Ms. Wyler, who also had a successful television career, died of complications from breast cancer.

Ms. Wyler also crusaded for animal rights. Her passion for animals began in 1966, the Times reports, after she witnessed the harsh conditions at a New York shelter. In fact, Wyler would manage that shelter for ten years, and in 1991 she formed The Ark Trust, which a decade later, would join forces with the Humane Society. She was vice president of the Humane Society in Hollywood until last year.

The Humane Society of the United States released a statement, saying, "The humane movement has lost one of its brightest stars. Gretchen Wyler devoted 40 intense years to protecting animals, and the cause gained so much ground during that time because of her extraordinary achievements and advocacy — in the media, in law-making, and in raising public consciousness."

Gretchen Wyler was born in Bartlesville, OK, in February 1932. She made her Broadway debut in Where's Charley? and also appeared in Guys and Dolls, Silk Stockings (she created the role of Janice Dayton), Damn Yankees (she replaced Gwen Verdon as Lola), Rumple (she created the role of Kate Drew), Bye Bye Birdie (she succeeded Chita Rivera as Rose Grant) and Sly Fox, earning a Drama Desk Award nomination for her work as Miss Fancy in the latter.



Ms. Wyler also worked as a producer for the Off-Broadway show The Ballad of Johnny Pot, which starred Tony winner Betty Buckley and John Bennett Perry. During this same time, she also served as the standby for Lauren Bacall in Applause.

Ms. Wyler's television credits were numerous and include a year-long stint on "Dallas," a role on the short-lived CBS series "On Our Own" and guest appearances in "Providence," "Judging Amy," "Friends," "Designing Women," "Who's the Boss?," "Valerie," "MacGyver," "Falcon Crest," "Benson," "St. Elsewhere," "Gimme a Break" and "Hart to Hart."

Ms. Wyler was also featured in Rick McKay's documentary, "Broadway: The Golden Age." She will also be seen in McKay's sequel, "Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age." That interview marked the last time she appeared on camera.