Monday, December 04, 2023

Memorial Service for Edmund Gwenn

Yesterday afternoon I attended a memorial service for Academy Award winning actor Edmund Gwenn at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

A memorial service might be surprising, given that Gwenn died in 1959, but there's an interesting story behind it.

As recounted by Jessica Wahl, after Gwenn's passing he was cremated at Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles and his ashes were placed in an urn.

Then, for reasons no one knows, the urn was placed in storage at the crematory, where it was undiscovered for over six decades. It was located by chance earlier this year and relatives approved Gwenn's transfer to a more fitting public place where admirers may pay their respects.

Funds were raised for a niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The niche is located next to that of actress Helen Chandler (DRACULA), who like Gwenn was in the Chapel of the Pines Vaults for decades.

Fans were invited to a public memorial ceremony today, and there was an impressive turnout, at least a couple hundred people. Every seat in the mausoleum was taken, with an overflow crowd spilling out the front door.

For me, Gwenn is remembered not only for his unforgettable Kris Kringle in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) (seen below with Natalie Wood), he's also in several other very favorite films.

Gwenn was also Mr. Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940); an unlikely assassin in my favorite Hitchcock film, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940); the professor who gives Jeanne Crain and William Holden a home in APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948); and Ann Blyth's grandfather in SALLY AND SAINT ANNE (1952). Not to mention a scientist in THEM! (1954). It was an honor to be among those paying tribute to his life and work today.

Gwenn's urn arrived at the mausoleum in a 1962 hearse.

The urn was carried inside by Jessica Wahl, one of those who helped make the transfer to Hollywood Forever happen.

At the front of the mausoleum chapel:

A photograph taken as the audience was arriving. As a side note, the great dancer Eleanor Powell's ashes are interred here, on the lefthand side.

The short service included listening to an audio recording of Gwenn being announced as the Best Supporting Actor winner for MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. After the service concluded, we were invited to step forward and take photographs if we wished.

A look at the niche where the urn was placed after the service:

Helen Chandler's niche to the right:

It was a special day to celebrate Edmund Gwenn's wonderful life, and I'm glad I could be part of it. His work enriched our world and made it a better place.

For those who would like to explore Edmund Gwenn's work, here are links to his films which I've reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: I WAS A SPY (1933), THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (1940), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), CHEERS FOR MISS BISHOP (1941), MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947), APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948), CHALLENGE TO LASSIE (1949), A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION (1950), FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE (1950), SALLY AND SAINT ANNE (1952), THE BIGAMIST (1953), THEM! (1954).


Blogger Lynn Rutledge said...

He had a charming on-screen persona and seemed like a genuinely kind man. I always enjoyed seeing him in movies. Thanks for sharing this lovely memorial experience with us.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

It's good to know that so many people came out to remember him.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Dying must be hard, sir.”
“Dying isn’t so hard. Comedy is harder.”

7:40 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

The Youtube channel Hollywood Graveyard has a series of videos covering the search for Gwenn. (One titled Miracle on Catalina Street covers the memorial service as well as a short history of the search.)In fact, the channel is quite interesting for its graveyard tours.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot Mr. 880 (1950) Nice little comedy about a counterfeiter with Burt Lancaster & Dorthy McGuire.

5:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older