Back in the days before teen heartthrobs were photographed in front of baby penises at the local novelty store, Van Johnson was a wholesome young star America could stand behind. And now he's dead.
Johnson passed away due to natural causes today in New York; he was 92. His breakthrough came 65 years ago as Spencer Tracy's fighter-pilot protege in the World War II fantasy A Guy Named Joe, shortly after which he had half his head ripped off in an auto accident. The miracles of medicine and Hollywood prevailed: His scalp was reattached, Joe blew up and Johnson spent the next two decades as a matinee idol in hits including 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, The Caine Mutiny, Brigadoon and The Last Time I Saw Paris.
He later suffered a miserably ugly divorce, eventually settling into theater and TV with the occasional Straight-to-Flopz&™ masterpiece — Killer Crocodile, Taxi Killer, 3 Days to Kill — thrown in toward the end of his film career in the '80s. Johnson made a decent living as a painter as well, according to the AP, selling canvases for up to $10,000; he spent the last years of his life in a New York-area nursing home, where he died this morning, ever one of the good ones.