Here’s What Happened to Fred Gwynne Before, During and After ‘The Munsters’: The Joys and Tragedies

Every time an actor steps on stage or in front of a camera, they’re ultimately hoping to make a connection with the audience. When they do, it can be magic — but there’s also the risk of that connection being so strong that said audience can’t see them as anyone else but that character. That’s particularly true with Classic TV, where there are so many examples ranging from George Reeves as Superman to Barbara Eden as Jeannie, Henry Winkler as Fonzie, Adam West as Batman and, of course, Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster.

Usually there are stages they go through, ranging from flattery, to shock, to frustration, anger and, ultimately, either acceptance or resignation and resentment. Fred Gwynne, unfortunately, fell into the latter category. Given the success of his 1961 to 1963 sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? — and his varied roles on stage before that — he seemed ready for a diversity in roles, but Herman did him (or least his career) in. One bright spot of The Munsters, as he related to The New York Times in 1978, is that while he didn’t get rich from the show, he did make money from it.

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“I was working for Universal under what they called a minimum residual deal,” he said. “That means I got paid for the first years of reruns, but that’s all. I didn’t make money from residuals, but I invested a lot in Xerox while I was doing the show and I got out of the market at the right time, after several stock splits. So in that way The Munsters made me enough money to survive on, which made it an interesting ballgame. The money let me pursue what I wanted.”

Pursuing and achieving are two very different things as he would come to find out as it was a dilemma that he was forced to deal with through much of his career.

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